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Taking the Bulls by the Horns

The start of the 2009 Bullship was in very light breeze. A butterfly actually passed us.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It was about midmorning on Saturday when the theme from Rawhide started playing in our heads: “Movin, movin, movin; Though they’re disapprovin’; Keep them dogies movin’; Rawhide!"

As the lyrics tumbled forth, whipcracks and all, from that long-forgotten ‘50s TV show, the subconscious became conscious: we were in the midst of a mighty herd of 36 El Toros charging across the Bay in the 56th annual Bullship Race. Along our flanks were a dozen or so ‘cowships’ — larger yachts assigned to keep tabs on up to three Toros apiece. Right from the start off the Horizons Restaurant in Sausalito, to the finish off the end of the San Francisco Marina breakwater, it was a seagoing cattle drive of epic nuttiness.

First there was the wind, or in this case, lack of it. A nice five-knot morning breeze turned to almost zilch shortly after the 9:10 a.m. start, leaving the herd to ‘graze’ toward the Cityfront — and quashing plans for a massive ‘starboard tack’ assault on the departing crewed Farallones boats that started half an hour later. Then there was the big tide rip that stalled the fleet in a line stretching from about Horseshoe Cove almost to Harding Rock. The group closest to the Golden Gate broke through first, only to find that the ‘dying ebb’ was in fact having a Hollywood death that involved lots of prolonged gyrations. That’s when the equivalent of a ‘stampede’ occurred, with Toros getting flushed out under the bridge — an automatic DSQ — faster than the cowships could round them up. But the ‘cowboys’ and ‘cowgirls’ did a great job of wrangling the little boats before they got too far out on the range.

One-two punch: ‘Toreadors’ Skip Shapiro (left) and John Pacholski took first and second.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A dozen boats made it to the countercurrent off the Cityfront — and thereby to the finish. First in was Skip Shapiro, a 10-time participant and first-time winner. John Pacholski was second, with Fred Paxton third. Shapiro also won the ‘Clydesdale’ division, for sailors over 200 lbs. There were also awards for longest distance traveled to compete, first maiden voyager, first woman, oldest competitor and others, all with a ‘bullish’ theme. And what about the two-boat Team Latitude? Our ‘A’ boat was in second place until the big flush. As for the ‘B’ boat, remember in those western movies when they sent cowboys back to search for lost strays . . . ?

Skip Shapiro didn’t stick around to gather up his awards. He and fellow Bullshipper John Dukat were whisked over to the Circle to climb aboard Buzz Blackett’s Express 27 New Wave in time for the second race in the Resin Regatta. New Wave won the Saturday race and, with Shapiro driving on Sunday (Buzz had a prior commitment), got a first and second. When you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll.

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