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Scenes from the Three Bridge Fiasco

The 168-raters start
The 168-raters start at the 2022 Three Bridge Fiasco. This group included 11 Alerion Express 28s and nine J/24s. Their appointed start time for the pursuit race was 9:33:36. Only one Alerion 28, Allegro non Troppo, sailed by James Titus and Rex Malott, was able to finish.
© 2022 Jennifer McKenna

The Three Bridge Fiasco, with 303 boats entered, started and finished off Golden Gate Yacht Club on the San Francisco Cityfront Saturday morning. It’s a puzzle for participants and a spectacle for watchers on shore.

J/105 start
Eeep! How will the J/105s keep from hitting one another at their start? Adam Spiegel and Christos Zalidis on Jam Session were the only J/105 sailors to finish.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The puzzle part: Racers choose the direction of their start, mark roundings and finish. And they can take the three course marks in any order. The three marks correspond to three Bay Area bridges: Blackaller Buoy, east of the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge; Yerba Buena Island, which bisects the Bay Bridge; and Red Rock, just south of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Sea Star
A greeting from the tutu-clad Bob Walden and Amber Moffat on the Cal 39 Sea Star before their start.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris
RS21 at Bay Bridge
One of two of SFYC’s RS21s crosses under the Bay Bridge, flying a spinnaker in the northerly. Stephen Fentress and Tim Russell are sailing this one.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Maybe the organizers, the Singlehanded Sailing Society, should call it the Four Bridge Fiasco. After all, the Bay Bridge is not one but two bridges, and each presents its own challenge.

Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island
A large group of racers makes it under Bay Bridge #1. It would not be so easy to escape the wind shadow of Yerba Buena Island and make it to Bay Bridge #2.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris
Wylie Wabbit
Erik Menzel and Michele Sumpton on the Wylie Wabbit Bad Hare Day, sailing on a long port-tack beat from the Bay Bridge to Richmond. Erik would not remain on the wire for much longer. The wind died in the North Bay.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris
Margie Woods and Brendan Huffman aboard the Santa Cruz 33 Siren in the North Bay. The couple lives in Los Angeles, but they’re keeping Siren in the Bay Area in order to sail in the SSS season. Both are veterans of the Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race, Brendan in 2021 and Margie in 2016.
© 2022 Margie Woods
Addison Mercer on the tiller
Addison Mercer, 13, steers Tenacious Cuttlefish while the Jeanneau SunFast 3600 Invictus catches up (this is why it’s called a pursuit race). This J/24 and one other, Water Rat, were the only boats in finish in their division.
© 2022 Brandon Mercer

“My daughter was the secret weapon,” writes Brendan Mercer of Tenacious Cuttlefish. “When we thought about the currents and the wind dying in the afternoon, we knew the only way to finish was Red Rock first. What really made it work was that she was afraid of the current in Raccoon Strait because she hates the washing machine. And I saw the wind direction might give us plenty of breeze east of Angel Island. So we stayed on the right side of Angel Island and had strong breeze upwind. We did Red Rock in two hours, then it was just playing the currents to drift to Blackaller. Addison saw a wisp of a westerly at 4 p.m., so we raised the anchor and got into it and creeped across the finish.

“We would have won, but a big boat came up behind us and took our wind as we were hunting Water Rat. Good reminder to always watch behind you too. After leapfrogging with them for 7.5 hours they beat us by 2 seconds!”

Blackaller buoy
Rounding Blackaller Buoy and heading for the finish line in the late afternoon.
© 2022 Jeff Berman

Out of 30 singlehanded starters, only three finished. Out of 232 doublehanded starters, 60 finished. Who were they? Find out on Jibeset. We’ll have much more in the March issue of Latitude 38.

Which way did you go? Feel free to tell us about your TBF in the Comments section below. Please be sure to identify the boat on which you sailed.


  1. Michael Berndt 2 years ago

    We went clockwise,

    Olson 30 Flying Fish

  2. Mark Werder 2 years ago

    We were sailing the Islander Bahama 30 Strange Magic. Stacy and I were the second boat to reach TI in the group that went TI first (early starters). Snafu, just ahead of us got around first and we made it around just as the ebb started pushing which locked the boats behind us out of rounding the island. We blasted across the Berkeley flats and reached Potrero as the fleet at Red rock started to stack up in the ebb. We managed to crab across towards the West but ended up anchored near the 580 bridge west of Red Rock. We gave it till 4:30pm before pulling the hook and trying to make the island. With little wind, retirement came around 5:30pm with a very short motor back to our slip at RYC. No finish but still a fun day on the water.

  3. Addison Mercer 2 years ago

    I was on Tenacious Cuttlefish with my dad, we went straight to Red Rock making sure not to go through raccoon straight then we headed over to TI and rounded by starboard then finally went to Blackaller had to let the wind over tack us and anchor, then get our wind stolen twice and come in second with our fleet.

    • Mary Ann Mercer 2 years ago

      Outstanding Addison! Congratulations!!! You are going to be a sensation when you get to high school! Keep it up and have fun!!!

  4. Anja Bog 2 years ago

    Neither clock nor counter-clock 😉 – Red Rock first, followed by TI, followed by Blackaller. We followed the wind, fled the building ebb at the Gate and used it where we could and got lucky. Team FEROX.

  5. Christine Weaver 2 years ago

    I’ve received lots of great photos, from photographers, spectators and racers. However, the picture posted above from Jeff Berman is the only one I’ve received of Blackaller Buoy. If anyone has some good ones from that mark, particularly from early in the day, please drop me a line at [email protected]. Thanks!

  6. Sarah Deeds 1 year ago

    I recognize the cluster of boats in the photo with yerba buena and bay bridge. They were rounding TI/yerba clockwise and the wind was still mostly out of the south..It just got really light and there was a flood tide pushing them back under the west span of the bridge. We passed some of them as the westerly finally filled not too long after this photo.

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