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Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Fleet Foils Across the Bay

If you were out cruising the Bay or walking the shoreline last Thursday between 5:30 and 6  p.m., you may have seen an array of kites and foils tearing across the Bay from the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge. The colors belonged to the fleet of windsurfers, kites, and wings that made up the annual Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race. Local foiler Paul Heineken sent us the following report of this short but exciting race, hosted by the St Francis Yacht Club (StFYC).

Mike Martin describes this event as “the best race in the world, ever.” Certainly, that description is up for argument, but who could complain about a downwind blast in 20+ knots of breeze between the iconic Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay bridges? What started 25 years ago, on a bet between windsurfers and Aussie 18s as to which craft was faster downwind, has now evolved into a test of the fastest hydrofoils, powered by windsurfers, wings, kites, and this year, electric-powered boats (for demonstration only).

The race fleet provided colorful entertainment for spectators.
© 2023 Abner Kingman

The major challenge of this race is choosing the right size sail, wing, or kite to power the rider, because the wind varies over the course. There is no substitute for a big sail for the downwind flight, if you can hang on to it. And then there’s the problem of sailing back to StFYC after the race.

This year, fog rolled in at the Golden Gate Bridge starting line, which diminished the early breeze for the start of the race at 1730 on August 24. Then it increased to its usual 20 knots in the middle, and as is typical, nearly shut off at the Bay Bridge finish line. While a couple of competitors swam the last few meters across the line, nearly half of the wing fleet never made it. At least this year it wasn’t a kite graveyard — many fewer rescues and RIB Uber rides were required than in past years to get the competitors back to the club.

Results? No new record was set. The winner was kiter Adam Keaton, who sailed the course in 11 minutes and 2 seconds. The 5O5 team of Mike Martin and Adam Lowry cross-trained effectively for the upcoming 5O5 World Championships, coming in fifth and seventh, respectively. The first windsurfer was Max Rosenblad with a time of 16:20, followed by Al Mirel in second. The leading winger was Jacob Rosenberg, with a time of 17:01. Other results include Henry Vare, second, Joey Pasquali in fifth, Erika Heineken in 14th and the first woman, and Dominic Bove, 15th.

Ronstan Bridge to Bridge winner
It may not have been a new record, but Adam Keaton’s winning time of 11 minutes and 2 seconds was still impressive.
© 2023 Abner Kingman

The Candela and Navier electric foiling boats, given a one-minute head start, were passed midway by the kites, and then after the finish helped provide Uber rides back to the club for a few competitors. This was a truly unique San Francisco Bay event! Thanks again to Ronstan for supporting this one-of-a-kind event!

They foiled, but they didn’t beat the power of the wind.
© 2023 Abner Kingman

See the full results here.

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The Sounds of Sailing
Alli has sailed four Transpacs and is on the board of the Transpacific Yacht Club, the San Diego Yacht Club, and the Cruising Club of America. Hear her thoughts on everything from Transpacs to life lessons.
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