Sunday, February 1, 2015

The West Coast’s Wackiest Race?!

J/22s sailing San Francisco Bay (San Francisco, CA)- If the mission of an event is to maximize participation, the first step might be to throw out the highly refined race management manual. Setting perfect start lines for perfect windward-leeward courses is fine for the hard-core racers, but not as much for the casual competitor.

One race that has hit on a winning formula is the “Three Bridge Fiasco” (3BF) on San Francisco Bay, which kicks off at 0900 on Saturday, January 31. According to the San Francisco Bay Singlehanded Sailing Society (SSS), the race organizers, over 350 boats are expected.

The “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.

With 5-second intervals between starting times, there are often several dozen boats attempting to start, in both directions, at the same time. Mix in late starters and the race committee has its hands full keeping track of who is starting.

For the racers, the seemingly simple task of starting, rounding all 3 marks and finishing is misleading. With light morning wind and a building 3.7 knot ebb, how you choose to complete the course is pivotal to race success. Also, the demolition of the old San Francisco-Bay Bridge with its extended safety zone forcing boats into the shallows near the Oakland end will add additional interest- - - if they make it that far!

The overall winner is the first boat back to the GGYC finish line after completing the 21.5 mile course. In addition, many one-design and PHRF division awards are handed out at the Awards Party.

The race attracts large one-design divisions and several hundred PHRF boats. Registered so far are large numbers of J/105s, J/22s, J/24s and J/70s. According to Bruce Stone, a local J/105 sailor from St Francis YC, “We’ve organized into two five boat J/22 teams for bragging rights, TEAM LOVE and TEAM WAR with some notable characters aboard each boat that some of you might be familiar with:

TEAM WAR skippers- Kurt Wessels, Andrea Cabito, Nolan Van Dine, Ethan Doyle, and Chris Raab
TEAM LOVE skippers- Mike Rutledge, John Collins, Craig Fletcher, Bruce Stone, and Russ Silvestri.”

According to Bruce, “Of course, wind will trump tide. Starting after the flood ends, at slack.  My read of the tide is that I want to grab the early ebb on the shore and head west to Blackaller, then reach across the bay trying to find some late flood and get through Raccoon Straits toward Red Rocks, rounding to starboard, then take the ebb going north to round Yerba Buena Island to starboard and some leftover ebb to get back to the Golden Gate YC finish line.  Will be fighting some ebb getting to Red Rocks, and later on will face the ebb from Berkeley Circle to Yerba Buena but I think that is way better than going the other way.  It all depends on the wind, naturally!!”

But whatever happens, at the end of the day nearly 350 boats will head for their berths with another “Fiasco” inextricably tattooed into their sailing memories.  For more Three Bridge Fiasco sailing information