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Wind Gods Smile upon Islander 36 Nationals

Like fine grains of sand, the Islander 36 Nationals, held on October 3, slipped through our fingers as we were collecting racing tidbits for the November issue. Here’s the scoop from Richard Van Mell:

With COVID-19 keeping Golden Gate Yacht Club closed to group events, our measurer, Kit Wiegman (Cassiopeia), came up with the idea of running our own race over a simple fixed-mark course with doublehanded crews, which meet the COVID guidelines. And, picking up on our earlier Rally concept to get Islanders on the water, we offered a Rally option.

The wind and sailing gods must have approved, because we went from an unhealthy air situation on the Bay on Friday to a glorious 10- to 12-knot westerly with crisp blue skies and sparkling water. Nine Islanders signed up, and seven made it to the starting line. Zingara had a family medical situation. Our hero, Kit, had his fuel pump fail on the way to the starting line and barely limped back to his slip.

As planned, Rick and Sandy drove to Golden Gate YC, parked so the back of the car was just on the starting line between the GGYC flagpole and the X buoy, and set up shop as Race Committee, complete with a 6-ft PVC pole with an old blue-and-white commodore’s flag looking like an RC flag.

All the racers checked in on VHF channel 72. The starting signals went off as scheduled. Funny thing, another fleet somewhere on the Bay was doing the same starting sequence. Twice, also on channel 72, a female voice counted down the times to the warning and prep guns. But everyone got the message, and we had a clean start with seven glorious Islander 36s stretched along the starting line.

The Islander 36 start off GGYC on the San Francisco Cityfront.
© 2020 Rick Van Mell

Windwalker got a clean start at the weather end of the line. We had some good picture-taking opportunities as the fleet short-tacked to the A mark in front of St. Francis YC. There had to be some glorious 6- and 7-knot boatspeeds on the reach to Harding Rock Buoy, and maybe greater SOG with a 2-knot flood to sweep them along. After rounding to starboard, the tactical challenge was how to get past the leeward side of Alcatraz Island without being blanketed by a big wind shadow on the way to the Blossom Rock mark. Sailing low and away from Alcatraz gets you more wind, but also increases the distance. The rhumb line almost touches the island.

mark rounding with Golden Gate Bridge
The rounding of Mark A.
© 2020 Rick Van Mell

And then there was the great dead-upwind beat from Blossom Rock to the finish. The wind gods were most generous. The wind held steady at about 10-12 knots. A normal San Francisco Bay October day would see north of 15 or 20 knots. Bill Hackel’s Highlighter emerged the winner for the third year in a row, followed by Tom Schoenhair’s Windwalker and Dan Knox’s Luna Sea. Their finish times and the rest of the fleet times are here.

Highlighter starts
The 2020 Islander 36 National Champion, seen here maneuvering for starting position.
© 2020 Rick Van Mell
The winners
The winners, Bill Hackel and Pete Baldwin, back at the dock in South Beach Harbor.
© 2020 Patti Mangan

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