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Mistress II Masters the Master Mariners Regatta

After the Master Mariners Regatta entries took their competitive tour of San Francisco Bay on Saturday, May 27, the Farallon Clipper Mistress II took home the Farallon Clipper Trophy. The trophy will reside at San Francisco Yacht Club for a year. “We also won Ocean 2, which involved our arch-nemesis, Jim Borger’s Dasher 32 Neja,” said Mistress II’s captain, Richard vonEhrenkrook.

Stephens Brothers built 19 Farallon Clippers (sometimes spelled Farallone Clipper) from 1940 to 1962 in Stockton of mahogany on oak. The yard built Mistress II, hull #11, in 1955. Aldo Alessio had commissioned her. Alessio and Myron Spaulding converted her to a masthead rig. Mistress thus has to give 3 seconds a mile to the fractional-rigged CFs to be eligible to compete for the Farallon Clipper Trophy.

Richard filed this report: “The day started early, with me driving to Sausalito at 6 a.m. to drop off parts for the traveler, then proceeding to Alameda to pick up crew who’d left cars there, then back to Sausalito. Our first duty was to tow our sistership, Jennifer Hinkel’s Ouessant, to the wind line off Yellow Bluff.” Ouessant was awaiting a new diesel re-powering. “Then the crew of the mighty Mistress II got ready to take care of business. There were four Farallon Clippers, an older Mull [Ted Hoppe’s 30-ft Lively Lady], and, starting five minutes prior, our arch-nemesis Neja.”

Ocean 2 start
Left to right: Mistress II, Hana and Lively Lady at the start. The race started in front of the St. Francis Yacht Club on the San Francisco Cityfront.
© 2023 Chris Ray

“We had to abandon our perfect set-up for the start at the last moment, as we were between the race committee and the limiting buoy. We came out in a close third, up on the weather hip of Brian Boyd’s Farallon Clipper Hana, which had Ouessant ahead and to leeward. Bill Belmont’s FC Credit came off the line low. Ouessant apparently mistook the Sausalito Entrance Mark for YRA 12 (Little Harding Buoy), and insisted on taking us all up above the layline. We held back and licked our chops, as we quietly raised our spinnaker pole. With about a mile to go, Ouessant realized their mistake. When they and Hana bore off, up went our kite. We easily rolled them down to 12, as they fumbled with their spin gear, ultimately deciding not to set.”

Farallon Clippers racing
Hana and Ouessant as seen from Mistress II.
© 2023 Rachel Porter

“All four FCs came up toward Yellow Bluff to avoid the flood before heading south to Blackaller in a tight line. Mistress II pulled away, tacking early, intending to do a later consolidation tack, rather than carrying up into the holes that sometimes leave one hanging out to dry under the Marin Headlands. And, that’s what happened.

“These 9.25-ton beasts don’t like holes, and M2 had a half-mile lead going down the Cityfront. The wind was a wiggly true south at Blossom Rock, so we jibed and carried a bit toward YRA 23 [a red-and-white buoy half a mile east of Angel Island], happy that we had rounded inside Neja. It was a good thing. When we finally doused, halfway to 23, the bitter end of the spin halyard skied to the tippy top. There was some discussion of trying to retrieve it. We had foredeck crew capable of a 35-ft climb, but I nixed the idea, not wanting an MOB drill, or worse, resulting from the bravado.

“The advantage of M2’s masthead rig and larger kite would be lost on the last leg. I wasn’t going to risk jumping the sheave in the head by using the jib halyard on a headstay reach. The workup from 23 to Harding Rock was quite blustery, with the firehose effect from burying the rail on a Clipper evident at times.

“With Neja roaring to weather, as she does, we had to be smart, and tacked right at Point Blunt [at the southern tip of Angel Island] for some flood relief, staying inside the usually obvious tide line. Neja and all the FCs but Credit went out toward Alcatraz first and paid the price. We were back to a half-mile lead at Harding, thanks to a perfect one-tack layline call. Though markedly slower wing and wing, we had more than enough separation to take the first toot at Treasure Island.” The race finishes on the east side of Treasure Island.

“The scene at Encinal Yacht Club is a big reason for all to do this event at least once, with beautiful woodies all stacked up together.” Mistress II grilled tenderloin entrées. Ouessant shared lamb and steaks at the club’s docks on the Alameda side of the Estuary.

“The real fun starts after the paid band leaves and the guitars, banjos and fiddles come out. The first set, starting around 11 p.m., was a bit chaotic. But the second set, with Hans List putting down his guitar to pick up a fiddle, me and Brian Boyd on guitar, a talented bassist, and some very nice voices, had many magical moments, finally shutting down around 4 a.m.

“The sail back to Sausalito on Sunday, after towing Ouessant to the west end of the Estuary, was relaxing. My crew drove most of the way home. Back next year for sure!”

Mistress II crew
The Mistress II crew accepts their prizes at Encinal YC following the race.
© 2023 Master Mariners Benevolent Association

Chris and Aaron Cassell, Dr. Michael Simon, Stephen Buckingham, Shannon Elms, Kris Andersen, Rachel Porter and Vince McPeek crewed on Mistress II in the Master Mariners this year. “On the big boat, it’s a ballet, cuz it takes nine to really race that boat,” says Richard. “One could do it with eight, but you would be lacking hands at certain points. I allow crew to come aboard based on their willingness to learn their position, play their position, and not complain. We do a thorough work-up of the race afterward, where all are equal, and we figure it out for the next one.”

Find complete results of the Master Mariners Regatta here,  and look for a feature on the race in the July issue of Latitude 38. The next event for the MMBA will be the Wooden Boat Show at Corinthian YC in Tiburon on Sunday, June 18.

Wooden Boat Show
Thinking of a family outing for Father’s Day? The Wooden Boat Show will take over Corinthian YC’s docks on June 18.
© 2023 MMBA

Those interested in the maritime history of Northern California can visit the Haggin Museum in Stockton. It houses a collection of Stephens Bros. documents, photographs and original drawings available to the public.

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