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Smokin’ on the South Bay

In January, Mark Bettis bought sailing legend Don Trask’s old J/29, hull #233 Smokin’ J, and moved her to Coyote Point Marina in San Mateo. On Saturday, Smokin’ J sailed in the last race of Sequoia YC’s Winter Series.

Proud new boat owner, Mark Bettis, aboard his J/29 Smokin’ J.

© Douglas Baer

Bettis described a fabulous delivery, with 10-15 knots of breeze, down the South Bay to the start. "We sailed in the company of Sweet Grapes, an Ericson 36 owned by Alan Orr and Mark Green. I crewed with them for the last two years before buying Smokin’ J. We set the chute and had a great run down to Redwood City. The wind dropped to five knots right before start time."

The light air start. Pictured here left to right: Smokin’ J, the Farr 30 Frequent Flyer, Yellow Brick Road, and Sweet Grapes.

© 2013 Tim Petersen

At the start, Smokin’ J gave up some position in the interest of avoiding contact. "We ended up starting the race completely covered by the huge sails of the Jeanneau 40 Yellow Brick Road," said Mark. The J/29 was eventually able to tack away for clear air, and headed east across the channel along with several other boats.

"On the windward leg we tacked early right up the middle of the channel. This proved to be a good choice, because a favorable wind shift put us well ahead of the boats that went further east." They rounded the windward mark and, with some heroics by bowman Tom Forrester, set the chute. "A mislead of the guy had to be corrected and, when Tom popped the shackle, the tack pulled completely free and started flapping in the now-15-knot breeze. I headed the boat downwind to blanket the chute, and Tom managed to grab the flailing tack and get it hooked back up — amazing. Off we went on a broad reach toward the next mark."

The end of the race would turn into an exciting battle with Mark’s former ride. "The wind continued to build to 22+ knots apparent as we approached the San Mateo Bridge for our final tack. We waited until Sweet Grapes tacked, and then followed her line toward the last mark, rapidly closing the gap. We approached the mark a little above Sweet Grapes, and the two boats rounded together, side by side, with Sweet Grapes on the inside. Just after rounding, as we fell off, we caught a wave and surfed past Sweet Grapes, about 20 feet away from her starboard side. Our friends on Sweet Grapes cheered us on. What a moment! The last leg was a boat-for-boat reaching duel, with Sweet Grapes and her big headsail right on our transom. We made it to the finish line just ahead, with Sweet Grapes finishing three seconds behind us."

But Smokin’ J now had to return up the South Bay to Coyote Point. "A quick jibe around channel marker #3 and we began the upwind trek home. This was quite a sail, with the wind reaching 30+ knots. We reefed the main, and punched through a chop that built to 3-5 feet. Once we were all fully soaked, we took turns going below to don foul weather gear. One crewman tossed his cookies on the last tack. We were very happy to be back in the slip." Bettis was also pleased to take third place out of 11 boats in the spinnaker division, less than a minute out of first.

Sweet Grapes demonstrates the conditions for the return delivery.

© Jim Manishin

For complete results, see We’ll have more on this and several other midwinter series that wrapped up this month in the April issue of Latitude 38.


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Jim Jessie welcomed us aboard Nalu last weekend at Clipper Cove. latitude/LaDonna
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC In another installment of ‘You Never Know Who You’ll Bump into at Clipper Cove’, we ran into circumnavigator and Oakland YC Historian Jim Jessie on his classic wooden Grand Banks Alaskan 53 Nalu last weekend.