Inspired by the legendary San Francisco Bay Three Bridge Fiasco, Santa Cruz Yacht Club has come up with its own version on Monterey Bay. This year’s new and improved version of last year’s SCYC Fiasco clearly lived up to expectations for the crews who traveled from Marin, Reno, Ventura and even New Zealand. Four iconic local landmarks — the Santa Cruz Wharf, Natural Bridges, the Cement Ship and the Capitola Wharf — made it easier to navigate, but also more challenging to cross through different microclimates. All the conflicting weather forecasts for Sunday, March 13, turned out to be correct at different times on the 14-mile course. However, the biggest unexpected game changer turned out to be sailing and escaping the kelp beds.
Two invited one-design classes attracted 11 Moore 24s and 7 Santa Cruz 27s. Everyone liked that it was up to each boat to choose their order of rounding the four buoys, which made the race a genuine fiasco. Under the enthusiastic leadership of event chair Sydnie Moore and PRO Christina Shaw, by the end of the race, many felt this could be a Santa Cruz classic (maybe even twice a year), and perhaps could be opened up to all doublehanded boats with a PHRF fleet.
The Moore 24 Roadmasters
The Moore fleet started first. Everyone went to the Santa Cruz Wharf mark, then upwind to the Natural Bridges mark. The breeze was 6-8 knots from 200º, so it was not the usual trip up the coast to Natural Bridges.
Steve Bourdow and Dave Sheldon on Mooregasm won the start and led the fleet up to Natural Bridges. They continued to lead downwind to the Cement Ship buoy, favoring sailing farther outside ahead of Pegasus, Lowly Worm, Mooregawr and Tonopah Low.
However, Chris Watts and Karen Loutzenheiser on Watts Moore, then Sydnie Moore and Mackenzie Cook on Nobody’s Girl, and Tom Conerly and Ricky Garza-Giron on Wildfire chose to play closer to the shore. The boats outside never got knocked; the three boats on the inside got knocked right down to the tip of the kelp bed off Pleasure Point. As we were getting there, a fog bank rolled in with a small increase of wind velocity to 8-10 knots and a shift left to 185º. Visibility was about a half mile. After passing Pleasure Point, the outside boats jibed in and took transoms on the inside.
Pegasus, Tonopah Low and Lowly Worm kept going in and went to Capitola Wharf first. The rest of the Moores kept going to the Cement Ship mark, with Watts Moore two boatlengths ahead of Nobody’s Girl and Mooregasm just behind. When the three boats took off for the Capitola Wharf, the breeze was down to 4-5 knots. About halfway to the mark, the fog rolled back out. Going into the kelp bed between New Brighton Beach and Capitola, we were all reaching, basically dead even. While most of the boats got tangled in the kelp, Nobody’s Girl crash-tacked and managed to stay free and reach Capitola Wharf buoy first.
As the boats cleared the Capitola buoy and tacked out along Pleasure Point, the fog came back in, but this time there was 200-ft visibility and 18-20 knots of breeze. The three lead boats had a big-breeze tacking duel as we all headed out. It only took a couple of minutes sailing on opposite tacks to lose sight of one another in the fog. The three lead boats worked our way up the kelp bed, basically ‘feeling’ along the edge of the fog.
Five minutes after the fleet cleared the end of the kelp bed, the fog lifted and the breeze backed down to 16-18 knots for the race to the finish line. Mooregasm finished first. Watts Moore finished second. Nobody’s Girl was a couple of minutes behind, finishing third, with Wildfire a few minutes after that in fourth.
The rest of the fleet struggled through a transition at the Cement Ship, forcing gambles that did not pay off. Others had moments of brilliance and better luck, which made the race more interesting. All of the doublehanded crews were able to finish with a sense of accomplishment. They felt that this was the best race of the year in Santa Cruz. We hope other Moores will join us for next year’s Buoy Fiasco.
The Santa Cruz 27 Fleet
The new and improved Santa Cruz Doublehanded Fiasco certainly lived up to expectations. We had an extended course, local microclimates, and did I mention the kelp? The fleet of seven SC27s started from both sides of the line. With several weather forecasts to choose from, there was a full spectrum of jibs flying from the forestays. Water Dragon, Hanalei and Jersey Girl were neck-and-neck beating toward Natural Bridges, each sporting a different-size headsail.
With a 15-mile course, there was plenty of work for the shorthanded crews. When the deckhand’s whining got to be too much for the helmsman, we swapped. This proved to be an effective division of labor, and led to a perfect 50/50 split of duties and respite for the tired body.
After a lovely long and breezy downwind leg, we had to choose whether to round the Cement Ship or Capitola mark first. Either way, it meant going through the kelp. Jersey Girl and Hanalei chose Capitola first. Water Dragon, Good Timin’, Dynaflow and Summer Breeze went the other way, which turned out better. Water Dragon led the way out, as the real wind started to fill. Hanalei peeled the #2 to the #3, and, after some brief remorse, found the strong wind and happiness to the finish line. Water Dragon did a bareheaded sail change, giving the rest of us a chance. The whole fleet finished with small sails as the wind gods welcomed us home.
Ryan Schuyler and Frank van Diggelen finished first on Hanalei. Derek Weltz and John Neville placed second on Water Dragon, with Joe Wagster and Matt Frazeur on Jersey Girl in third. Special mention goes to Gary and Alex Mirfield (youngest skipper) on Good Timin’, who finished fourth.