Wednesday, February 6, 2019

J/Sailors Love Three Bridge Fiasco Race

Three Bridge Fiasco race course on San Francisco Bay (San Francisco, CA)- The 2019 edition of the infamous Three Bridge Fiasco will go down in the history books as one of the nicest and most benign races in recent memory- sunny skies, gentle northeast winds of 4 to 12 kts, warm 72 F temps!  With the event taking place in January on San Francisco Bay, anything can happen in the middle of winter with massive storms piling into the Pacific coast from the Gulf of Alaska, dumping rain and chilly temperatures on the competitors, blowing a gale.  Or, it can be lightish northerlies/ easterlies with chilly winds, a constant mist and rain, and 100% cloud cover.

The Singlehanded Sailing Society welcomed a fleet of 334 boats that were entered as singlehanded or doublehanded teams, most were sailing doublehanded. It is believed the race, a 21.0nm dash around three “marks”, is considered the largest shorthanded sailing event in the world.

The race track couldn’t be more picturesque or unique.  Starting off Golden Gate YC on the south shore of the Bay (next to St Francis YC), the sailors can choose which direction to go- clockwise or counter-clockwise.  The marks are Blackaller Buoy near the south pylon of the Golden Gate Bridge at the westward opening of the Bay, around Red Rock Island near the Richmond/ San Rafael Bridge in north Bay, and around the Bay Bridge by rounding Treasure & Yerba Buena Islands.  Since the race is a reverse start (pursuit) race, the start time for each boat is based on its PHRF rating, with slowest boats starting first at 0900 hrs and the fastest at -102 starting 2 hours later!

Eighty-eight J/Crews participated in this year’s race (26.0% of the total fleet!), a record number of J/sailors!  They sailed in one-design classes (J/22, J/24, J/70, J/105, J/120) and in PHRF handicap divisions. A LOT of pickle dishes (silverware) were collected by these intrepid adventurers!

Three Bridge Fiasco sunsetONE-DESIGN CLASSES
In the seven-boat J/22 class, it was the famous J/105 racing couple that took one-design honors- Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault sailing TOM ALLEN; crossing at 15:01:23.  Second was Owen Lahr and Connell Phillipps’ YANG at 15:07:08 and third place went to David James and Roy Haslup’s FRITZ JEWETT at 15:12:39.

The eight-boat J/24 class saw a decisive leader in their class, with Deke Klatt and Claudia Gottstein’s JADED crossing the line at 14:21:41, a solid 45 minutes ahead of the next J/24!  Taking the silver was Val Lulevich and Alex Schultink’s infamous SHUT UP AND DRIVE crossing at 15:04:03, followed in third by Randy Rasicot and Mays Dickey’s FLIGHT getting home at 15:09:35.

The five-boat J/70 class saw a runaway winner, with Peter and Drake Cameron’s PRIME NUMBER taking class honors crossing at 14:12:39, nearly an hour ahead of the next boat.  Davis King and David Sharp/s ALLONS-Y was second home at 15:06:43 and crossing third in a near dead-heat at 15:06:51 was David Fried and Paul Schroeder’s SON OF A SON.

There was an enormous turnout for the J/105s, with eighteen boats showing up on the starting line headed every which way! The winner, again, went to a CCW team.  Will and Jayden Benedict’s ADVANTAGE 3 easily won, crossing at 13:47:58. Chasing them hard on the CCW option was Chris Kim and Carl Plant’s VUJA STAR, finishing just under five minutes behind at 13:52:29.  First CW team was Morgan and Jordan Paxhia’s STILL PINCHIN with a finish time of 14:12:59- a 20-minute delta to the CCW boats!  Read about the whale of a tale collision with Adam Spiegel’s JAM SESSION below.

The big boys sailing in the six-boat J/120 class saw one boat dominate by nearly an hour over their not-so-lucky classmates. Steve Madeira and Jeff Lawson sailed the big green MR MAGOO over the horizon, finishing at 14:16:15 off GGYC. Second home at 15:02:42 was Timo Bruck and Rich Hudnut’s TWIST and third on the podium was Tom Grennan and Herb Kleekamp’s KOOKABURRA crossing the line at 15:06:37.

J/24 sailing Three Bridge FiascoPHRF CLASSES
Class 2- Singlehanded Spin PHRF 108 and Under class- was won in convincing fashion by Jim Hopp’s J/88 WHITE SHADOW, finishing at 14:36:41, 23 minutes ahead of the next boat in class!

Class 6- Doublehanded Non-Spin PHRF class- saw two J/Duos do well.  Taking the silver was William Mohr and Mark Townsend’s J/124 SPIRIT OF FREEDOM, crossing at 14:49:19.  Meanwhile, Steve and Eli Gordon’s J/88 INCONCEIVABLE placed sixth, finishing at 15:05:47.

Class 8- Doublehanded Spin PHRF 111-159 class- saw Gregg Wrisley and Craig Collins’ J/80 PK take fifth place, crossing at 14:50:04.

Class 20- Doublehanded SF Bay 30 class- was nearly swept by J/Sailors.  Winning was Alex Huang and Jeff Bruton’s J/29 L20, crossing at 13:55:59.  Second was Luther Izmirian and Ken Brown’s J/32 PARADIGM finishing at 14:58:29 and then fourth was John Riley and Larry Weinhoff’s J/32 LA DOLCE VITA crossing at 15:05:55.

Class 21- Singlehanded Spin class- saw Ralph Morganstern’s J/30 GEODESIC take fourth place, finishing at 15:46:35.

A Clockwise Perspective- from Robert Johnston
“After studying the wind forecast and currents, several of us singlehanders planned to go CCW (partly to avoid traffic).

But, on my way to the course and right up until my approach to the start, I kept looking over towards Treasure Island/ Yerba Buena Island and it looked very light. I also observed the majority of the Moore 24's and Express 27's (where many of the best sailors are) going “clockwise” to Blackaller first, so that's what I did. Of course, my friends, who went CCW, probably beat me- I know at least one that did, by a half-hour!

I got a good start and had a nice close reach down to Blackaller, finding a decent gap to get around the mark. Then, I made my second mistake. Lots of boats risked the remaining ebb and sailed towards the north tower of Golden Gate Bridge. Many had been swept out the Gate last year. But, it must have been flooding well at the north end.

I took a more conservative route and headed towards Angel Island. Going south of the island looked like light air, so I planned to tack across to the entrance to Raccoon Strait - the pressure looked good up the west side of Angel Island. This worked out well but I got caught in a huge hole near Pt. Stuart. I'd beaten the boats that sailed the farther distance, but then I had to watch most of them pass by while I was stuck in the wind hole. Once I got moving again, I had a decent sail through the Strait and up to Red Rock.

The NE wind was strange up there. Boats to the east were on starboard tack in good breeze, sailing high enough to round from the east side. The boats to the west were on port tack in lighter breeze. Trying to cross over to the east was disastrous - there was a transition zone in the middle (probably from the island's wind shadow) that trapped many boats, including me. So I lost a few more boats before getting across into the better breeze and getting around. Then many of us got trapped again trying to get away from the island. It was also still ebbing up there, which wasn't in the forecast. We've seen this in other years due to runoff.

I hoisted right away and enjoyed a tight spinnaker reach all the way down and around Treasure/ Yerba Buena Islands. The puffs put the boat on the edge and I actually dialed up once near SH Shoal light. The boat was pressed pretty hard just then, with the main a bit over-sheeted. I wanted to see where the edge was, and there was just enough breeze to find out.

Rounding Yerba Buena Island was tricky. Many boats took a wide lane to avoid its wind shadow but there was a narrow band of breeze up closer to the island. I saw a couple boats with spinnys still up, moving right on through. I followed them and passed a bunch of boats.

Then, the spinny came down and we all fought the flood as we tacked back up towards Pier 39. There were lots of boats doing this and frequent crossing issues. As a singlehander, I chose to duck several times when I could have pressed my rights- it just wasn't worth all the angst, possible crash tacks, extra grinding etc. This is where the Three Bridge is getting old for me: Far too many double-handers who are better able to play that game.

Once around Pier 39, it was a fast close reach to the finish with the jib on a rail lead. I finished just after 1500.

Conclusion: We were racing sailboats on a sunny day, with breeze, in January, on San Francisco Bay! What's not to like? I never put on a jacket. I finished the race and there were still quite a few boats behind me!!”

Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault- J/22 winners
“We had a reverse order start at Golden Gate YC in either direction. Nicole and I chartered a J/22 from St. Francis YC.

We decided that based on tide, we would go clockwise. We won our fleet. However, Will Benedict in his dad’s J/105 ADVANTAGE 3 went counter-clockwise and crushed; they finished way ahead of everyone!

Course length was 21 miles, winds were light, around 6-8 kts from the Northeast. We started late in the ebb tide, which then turned into a light flood tide, making it hard to get around Treasure Island. Some boats, like Scott Sellers in his J/70 1FA, reported losing 70 places there! We passed at least that many boats by cutting inside them along the southeast corner. But, then we lost around 20 of those as the big boats caught up and passed us. The winning move there for us on the J/22 was to get to the city front near the ferry building and short tack the docks in a substantial early ebb, hugging the shore all the way back to the finish line at Golden Gate YC.”

J/105 hits whale in Three Bridge FiascoA Whale of a Tale
A pair of racers in the Bay Area's popular Three Bridge Fiasco race were left rudderless after a collision with a whale in the middle of the San Francisco Bay on Saturday.

Adam Spiegel, a technology CFO in San Francisco, and his partner had been roughly an hour into the 334-boat race around the Bay's three central bridges before the incident occurred. They'd rounded one the race's marks up by Fort Point and were heading across Bay toward the Richmond-San Rafael bridge when JAM SESSION, their J/105 sailboat, abruptly came to a stop.

"All of a sudden it felt like we'd ran aground," Spiegel told SFGATE.

A second or two later, Spiegel said, there was another thud, followed by another thud. Then, the pair heard a loud, cracking noise and what sounded like a splintering sound.

After that, a gray whale, which Spiegel estimated to be at least 25 feet long, surfaced next to them. Spiegel couldn't see any blood in the water or damage to the whale, but they wondered if the whale was going to "come after" them like Moby Dick!

Then, they wondered if their boat was going to sink. They figured out they'd lost partial steerage and couldn't get back safely on their own.

Spiegel and his partner contacted the dockmaster of the St. Francis Yacht Club, they came out in a powerboat to rescue the pair and tow them back safely.

The boat's rudder was dislodged and the underside of the boat was scraped up by the whale, Spiegel said.

It's still not clear what injuries the whale sustained. Ship collisions are a frequent cause of death for whales along the California coast.  Here is the story on

J/24s sailing Three Bridge FiascoBrandon Mercer- new J/24 sailor
“It was a first for the Three Bridge Fiasco for me! First time on WOOF. First time doublehanding a J/24 in a race. First time meeting the skipper. We clicked! Awesome stuff!

We finished fourth in our fleet!  22 nautical miles in 5 hours 43 minutes!

The crazy part? Like over 300 boats and you can start in any direction and round the bridges in any direction. Huge fleets sailing head on into one another, with just 1-2 people on boats to look at the traffic. Lots of fiberglass touching some years. This year less of a fiasco because we had solid wind and WOOF’s team planned a smart route taking into account tides by each hour.

Sailed from before dawn, finished at incredible time of 3:14 PM in the afternoon, and back at dock and buttoned up before sunset!”  For more Three Bridge Fiasco sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.