Friday, June 24, 2016

Beautiful, Benign Farallones Race

the Farallones rock (Belvedere, CA)- Amazingly, the 2016 edition of the fully-crewed Farallones Race hosted by San Francisco YC will go down in the books as not the fastest nor the must brutal.  Instead, it will go down as one of the most beautiful experiences of sailing offshore of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, past the infamous Potato Patch and around the foreboding pile of stinky rock islands known as “the Farallones”.  The race is 58nm from inside the San Francisco Bay, around the rocks and back into the Bay.

The forecast was a bit frightening and, in fact, convinced some sailors to abandon the start.  The original forecast was for 30 mph wind at 1500 hrs - about the time many boats would be reaching the Island. Combined with high swells, this is a gear-busting forecast. Although there's danger on any sail around the Farallones, conditions like this make it even more so.

Farallones IslandsAccording to one veteran Farallones racer, the strategies for rounding the rocks are fairly sensible, “the counterclockwise route takes you along the North side of the island. You need to watch for the large break on the NW corner. If conditions are rough, you can see it from far away. Stay North of anything that looks like breaking water- that means staying away from the island (North) on the approach and until you are past the breaking seas. It's hard to get North of the off-island break if you're too close. Sometimes it looks like there's a calm path between the open water break and where the swells are breaking 60 feet up on the Island's cliffs, but that choice cost multiple lives a few years ago. In rough conditions, if you're not frightened when you round the NW corner, then I don't think you should be out there.

Once you are clear of the island and the breaking seas, you need to decide where to jibe. Jibe too early and you can't clear the South side. Consider how to jibe in high wind and sometimes breaking seas. If the wind is NW you won't be able to get into the lee of the Island for the jibe.”

J/109 Junkyard Dog sailing Farallones RaceThe crew on the J/109 JUNKYARD DOG said, “It was near perfect conditions, such a great day! We had decent position in the fleet rounding the island, saw a boat ahead of us round up, saw Javelin blow up a kite behind us which threw me into a cold sweat since we just blew up 2 kites during the Spinnaker Cup a couple weeks ago. Although we knew there would be a lift closer to SF we weren't convinced it would be enough so we held high for a while with white sails on the way back before setting the kite. One of those things where it seemed like a great idea until it turned into a terrible idea! You guys all really smoked us by going south, congrats and very well done! Live and learn I guess. We'll be back next year and, hopefully, give everyone a little more competition then. Post mortem autopsy of the Dog Pound's Farallones race on Junkyard Dog here if you're interested.”   J/109 JUNKYARD DOG sailing video recap of the Farallones Race.

According to another J/crew member, “The race around the stinky rocks was a great one! We kept a wary eye out for big wind and/or swell but none of it materialized for the Adrenalin Junkies. We even used the Middle Farallones as a sneaker wave indicator.  We saw whales (who, thankfully, did not do a "Horizon job" on us), silly sunfish, sea lions, sea birds, and sunshine. It was definitely feeding time out there.  The biggest swell we saw was around 8 feet and the wind hit around 15 knots.  Smiles were had by all.”

A report from one of the southern-tracking sailors was, “that race was fun! Thankfully the forecast of 20-30 kts with big seas was a bit over blown (no pun intended).  We clocked a 29-knot gust at some point during the day, probably just after we rounded the island and put up the 3/4 kite, and probably while we were falling off a swell that could have tainted the speed. When we put up the relatively light kite we were instantly doing 11's and about a minute later dropped the kite bald headed and went for a 1.5 shy kite which we carried all the way to mile rock on a head stay reach, where the lift we expected was actually in force. There was a weird wind shift near Bonita/mile rock and we did a peel back to the 3/4. A jibe on the Marin side and back on a head stay reach on the other side with wind in the mid teens all the way to the finish. 9-hour race, in the car in Berkeley by sunset, it does not get much better than that. We guessed the biggest seas we saw were 10-12 ft combined and as expected was right by the island. We took a very conservative line with a minimum depth of about 75'.  All in all a delightful day, I'm glad the brochure (forecast) was wrong.”

The various J/teams enjoyed the race and collected some silverware along the way.  In PHRF 1A class, the J/125 CANT TOUCH THIS skippered by Rich Pipkin took third in class with Graham Ellis’ J/124 ALBION in seventh and Bill Williams’ J/44 VIAJANTE in ninth.

In PHRF 1B class, Trig Liljestrand’s J/90 RAGTIME took second place, missing the class win by a mere 31 seconds!  Ah, to think of having to surf just one faster wave on that rip-roaring slender rocketship!

Finally, in PHRF 1C class, the J/105s cleaned house with Doug Bailey’s AKULA winning class and classmate Sergei Podshivalov’s JAVELIN in second just 2 minutes behind on corrected time. Jim Goldberg’s J/109 JUNKYARD DOG took sixth in class.   For more Farallones Race sailing information