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The Great San Francisco Schooner Race

Bily Martinelli’s Gaslight and Jeff Hawkins’race-winning Jakatan grind through a breeze-on Saturday on the Cityfront.

© John Skoriak

Whenever ol’ salts get together, they waste no time launching into highly animated storytelling. That was certainly true in the aftermath of last Saturday’s Great San Francisco Schooner Race, as everyone had plenty of colorful anecdotes to relay. We’re just beginning to gather them for our full report in the magazine, but we can tell you from personal experience that due to sustained winds in the mid-30s, with gusts up to 40, the 18-boat fleet had a rough and rowdy trip through the Central Bay that produced tattered sails, broken gear, bruised bodies and untold amounts of adreniline coursing through the veins of the crews.

Paul Dines at the helm of his gaff division runner-up Freda B, the most recent arrival to the Bay’s schooner scene.

© John Skoriak

I had the privilege of sailing aboard Bill and Grace Bodle’s 115-ft (LOA) schooner Eros — the largest boat in the fleet — and if my experience is any indicator, it was a wild day of sailing for all involved that won’t soon be forgotten. After rounding the windward mark — the Blackaller buoy off Chrissy Field — the fleet blasted down the Cityfront to the St. Francis YC, broad-reaching on an incoming tide.

No pedestals here . . . Freda B’s crew sweatin’ a sheet.

© John Skoriak

Just about the time that I was thinking to myself, "How the heck are we going to jibe this two-ton main boom with this much breeze?" I looked up to notice that we were freight-training on a line that would take us in-shore of a yellow buoy which lay just below the plate glass windows of the club. As we roared past it — seemingly spittin’ distance from the club’s bar — I read the marking "B" on the buoy. We were supposed to have rounded "A" which lay in safer water, about 50 yards deeper into the Bay. Hopefully we didn’t give any St. Francis patrons heart failure.

Paul Kaplan’s Marconi-winning Santana powers off the Cityfront

© John Skoriak

From St. Francis the fleet zig-zagged back and forth across the Central Bay, then finally back to the finish near the sponsoring club, Tiburon’s San Francisco YC. Despite all sorts of gear-related carnage, there were no major injuries — and when you’re jibing a traditional rig with running backs in 40 knots, that’s an impressive testament to the skills of these salty sailors. Look for a full report in the October edition.

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