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A trio of singlehanders approach Red Rock and emerge from fog into sunshine in Saturday's Vallejo 1. ©2012 norcalsailing.com
October 6-7, 2012
This weekend's Vallejo 1-2, the final two races in the Singlehanded Sailing Society's 2012, featured a little bit of fog, a lot of sun, and mostly light to moderate breezes, with prominent parking lots during Saturday's singlehanded race from the Berkeley Circle to Vallejo YC, and a drift down Mare Island Strait for Sunday's doublehanded race back to Richmond YC.
On Saturday, Steen Moller's X-Dream served as the starting line boat, and an inflatable mark was set in place of the still missing GOC. The start goes off northbound, toward the race's destination, regardless of the wind angle. As is often the case, a 5-knot (at best) southwesterly prevailed. Gordie Nash on Arcadia went off the line on starboard tack, headed for shore, and set his spinnaker just before the committee boat. The current was flooding all day, so despite the light air and the wind holes ahead, everyone at least kept moving in the right direction. The conditions were so pleasant, power boaters commented both days on the race's VHF channel about how nice and flat the water was on San Pablo Bay. The sailors thought, "Uh-oh."
Greg Nelsen, sailing his Azzura 310 Outsider in the Sportboat division said he found numerous holes. Others described one major parking lot at Point Pinole. "You could see it from miles away, so I knew I was going to run into it. Staying to the right helped – everyone on that side kept moving."
The trimaran, Mark Eastham's F-31 Ma's Rover, started in the first division with the non-spinnaker boats, instead of in the multihull division, which had the last start. "I pulled ahead of it between the Brothers and Point Pinole," said Greg Nelsen. "I had only Timber Wolf and the Thompson 650 left to pass after the Richmond Bridge."
He had been way ahead of friend and rival Dan Alvarez's JS9000 JetStream by the Brothers, but then the race restarted in the big wind hole at Point Pinole, which would factor out against Greg's favor on corrected time. "JetStream traded one jibe ahead of me the whole day. Then he carried his spinnaker 5-10 boatlengths longer at the turn out of Carquinez Strait into Mare Island Strait, so I only finished about 30 seconds ahead of him." The errant trimaran passed Outsider again in the homestretch, but would be disqualified, so Outsider was the first official finisher. "I was the first monoslug, anyway," said Greg.
Ben Mewes on the Black Soo Mirage, also a sportboat, said, "I'm not even sure I had fun. Another 3-4-5 knots would have made it fun." Another racer joked that, "The only time you got wet today was if you spilled beer on yourself." A non-spinnaker racer confessed to catching a little snooze on his foredeck.
Dave Morris of the Wylie 31 Moonshadow described one of the trademarks of singlehanded spinnaker racing: "I couldn't see my cockpit floor because of the all the ropes." When asked about that funny extra sail, he explained, "I gained a quarter-knot aid from flying a blooper and caught up with the Wyliecats. It's an old chute and it might have died if the wind had gotten to 10 knots."
Jennifer McKenna won the non-spinnaker division in her Santana 22 Zingaro for the second year in a row in only her second singlehanded race. She beat everyone her division boat for boat. When asked her secret, she replied, "I just followed Gordie." But she worked for the win too. "The fluky, light winds made it hard. The wind was constantly shifting, all day." For 5:40 hours she checked her Windex. "I looked up a lot today. My neck is going to be sore tomorrow." When she crossed the finish line she wondered, "Why are they shooting that gun off?"
Pat Broderick, sailing on the Wyliecat 30 Nancy, described the shifts as "very localized." A competitor a few boatlengths away would be in different wind. He followed Dave Hodges on the Farr 38 Timber Wolf. "But it didn't work for me."
First place overall on corrected time would go to another Santana 22, Garth Copenhaver's Oreo, which sailed in the "slow" spinnaker division. He described the last leg up the river. "There were so many wind shifts in the strait, I was working hard. I kept adjusting the main and jib. Santana 22s do really good in the five-knot range, comparable to the ultralights, which start blowing by when the wind gets to seven knots. Upwind, it's good to have strong wind, but downwind, you're not dealing with hull speed. I used a lightweight spinnaker and ultra light sheets." Garth added, "The meditative aspect of being in the zone should be acknowledged."
Once all the boats were safely rafted up in yacht club's harbor, the racers were relaxing with drinks and comparing notes, and the sun was low on the yardarm, a brisk westerly picked up. Overnight, the fog blew in and the wind shut down again. Sunday's start would be a windless drift down the river across the startline under a shroud of gray. Garth on Oreo was over early and had to make his way back to the line against the ebb, in almost zero pressure, but he made, cleared himself, and was off. Spinnaker racers set their kites. Now sailing doublehanded, they at least had someone to talk to and keep them awake.
As they emerged into Carquinez Strait, the fog vanished and the light southwesterly reappeared. Kites were doused and the upwind race began. The wind never really cranked up, but nor did any big parking lots form. Darren Doud's Corsair 31R trimaran Roshambo made it to the finish line off the RYC race platform first, and corrected out to first overall as well. Trophies for the Vallejo 1-2 and the 2012 season will be handed out at Oakland YC on the evening Wednesday, October 17. Everyone is welcome to come and celebrate and hear the winners' stories. Preliminary results are online at www.sfbaysss.org.
PS: On September 24, we posted this on our home page: " Accuweather was calling for rain the busy weekend of October 6-7. Can anyone really predict rain that far in advance? We'll just have to wait and see if they're right." Apparently not.