Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fresh to Frightening 3BF Conditions? Not!

J/22s sailing San Francisco Bay in Three Bridge Fiasco
How a J/22 Nearly Crushed the 2015 Drift-A-Thon
(San Francisco, CA)- This year the winning formula was quite elusive for most boats; the nearly complete “glass-out” of the “Three Bridge Fiasco” (3BF) on San Francisco Bay, which kicked off Saturday morning, proved extremely frustrating for the lion’s share of sailors in this famous double/singlehanded pursuit race.  The San Francisco Bay Singlehanded Sailing Society (SSS), the race organizers, had hoped the 350 boat fleet would at least get around the course, but their luck again ran out like it did last year.

J/22 sailor Nicole Breault ready for Three Bridge Fiasco race- San Francisco BayThe “3BF” is a reverse start pursuit race which begins and ends at the Golden Gate Yacht Club, rounding marks near SF Bay’s 3 major bridges: the Golden Gate, the San Francisco-Oakland, and the Richmond-San Rafael. The marks can be rounded in any order and in any direction. The start and finish line may also be crossed in either direction.

For the racers, the seemingly simple task of starting, rounding all 3 marks and finishing is misleading. With a light morning wind and a building 3.7 knot ebbtide, how you choose to complete the course is pivotal to race success. The overall winner is the first boat back to the GGYC finish line after completing the 21.5 mile course.

According to Bruce Stone, sailing a St Francis YC J/22 double-handed with his wife Nicole Breault, “we had a northerly in the morning, so we decided to change our plan and go counter-clockwise.  After a decent start, dodging heavy PHRF traffic and boats starting in the opposite direction, we popped the kite, rounded Treasure Island to port, then had a close reach, a beat and finally a beam reach with the kite to Red Rocks at the San Rafael Bridge.

We passed smaller boats and approached the island near the front of the pack with the kite being hoisted and dropped, jibed and doused several times, when of course the wind died, and the ebbtide built!!  Aagghhh!

Numerous boats anchored to wait for the westerly to fill.  As we and over 300 other boats converged on Red Rocks (near Richmond- San Rafael Bridge), the scene was magnificent, with the larger boats that started after us finally catching up to us and then slowly running out of steam.  Few made it around.  We eventually called it quits and turned to sail for home, with Nicole pulling out the oar to paddle us to a wind line.”

J/22 sailors at Three Bridge Fiasco race- St Francis Yacht ClubBruce goes on to say that, “instead of going clockwise or counter-clockwise, our friend Chris Raab (with Dave Kelly on the bow sailing the J/22 AMERICA ONE) went up the middle to Red Rocks first off Richmond, so as to make it before the ebb was established.  They rounded to starboard, then south to Treasure Island, then riding the fast ebbtide to Blackaller buoy at the Golden Gate Bridge and then to the finish in front of Golden Gate YC.  After 7 hours or so of racing, he found himself in a duel with other PHRF competitors for line honors and managed to finish 12th, losing a few boats within the last ten minutes.  Among our pack of ten St. Francis YC J-22s, only one other finished the race, skippered by Andrew Kobylinski- sailing T-BIRD.”

Apparently, the Raab/ Kelly duo rounded the last mark, Blackaller Buoy near the south pylon of the Golden Gate Bridge, and immediately set a spinnaker.  However, with a top three finish in their sights, the merciless ebbtide kept building much stronger (up to 3.5 kts), even along the shoreline in front of Crissey Field and St Francis YC.  “Raabo” was not terribly happy with the scenario as they had worked hard all day and were soon having to fight off a big cluster of Express 27s and Moore 24s that rapidly overtook them.

Top J/Team honors instead went to the J/24 EVIL OCTOPUS sailed by Jasper Van Vliet, a long-time SF Bay veteran and an avid fan of the SSS’s 3BF race!  Their 10th place also came at Raabo’s expense.  Behind them in 13th overall and 3rd J/Boat was Val Lulevich’s J/24 infamously-named SHUT UP & DRIVE.  Behind T-BIRD in 17th place was Howard Turner’s J/111 SYMMETRY; with another mile of runway it’s likely they could’ve won the race they were closing so fast on the leaders (they were the best “big boat” finish of all 350-odd boats)!  First J/70 was Scott Sellers sailing 1FA into 22nd place.  The only other two J/70s finishing were Tyler Karaszewski’s SPITFIRE in 30th and Peter Cameron’s PRIME NUMBER in 34th.

Only 40 boats finished in the 300-boat Double Handed Monohull class, all 260 others dropped out!  25% of the top 20 is not bad for these intrepid J/Sailors, especially considering the massively mind-numbing race it must’ve been for those salty dogs!   For more Three Bridge Fiasco sailing information