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Makaira blasted down the East Bay carried by a stiff northwesterly. ©2013
Three Bridge Fiasco on Makaira

January 28, 2013

Skip Shapiro and his brother-in-law, Malcolm Park, sailed Skip's new Audi Melges 20 Makaira in the Three Bridge Fiasco on Saturday. What follows are his observations about the race.

We sailed a clockwise course, rounding Blackaller buoy, sailing through Raccoon Strait and around Red Rock, then on to Treasure Island/Yerba Buena and finally the finish. We sailed the race in roughly 3.5 hours, which is very quick in my brief TBF experience; it helped to have solid wind for most of the race.

We stuck to our pre-start plan to sail the clockwise course based on the expected wind and current conditions. Many boats that started close to our time did the same, with a few opting to sail around Point Blunt (taking Angel Island to port) when they weren't able to carry a spinnaker to Raccoon Strait or saw little wind there.

Many of the earlier starters, and it appears some of the boats that started after we did, went to TI first, opting for the counter-clockwise course, presumably focusing too much on the benefit of flood early in the race.
The most challenging part of the course for us was between Sausalito's Yellow Bluff and the east end of Raccoon Strait. The wind that got us to Blackaller disappeared for about 30 minutes with occasional short puffs. Finally, a northwest breeze filled in from Richardson Bay to carry us into the Strait, where the wind again became spotty for 10-15 minutes. We chose a course down the center of the Strait for the best current and to stay out of the Tiburon wind shadow. The wind was light enough for us to carry the asymmetrical kite with apparent wind ahead of the beam, and that allowed us to catch up to a big group of boats that started ahead of us, and pass many of the heavier, slower boats before we exited Raccoon.

As we escaped the Strait, a northwesterly built from 8 to 18 knots as we fetched Red Rock on a tight reach with a good 1-1.5 knot flood behind us.
As we approached Red Rock, we were pleased to see very few boats rounding counterclockwise and not that many boats ahead of us on our course.

We briefly got caught in the wind shadow behind Red Rock after rounding and setting the chute, but then had a great reach all the way to TI, averaging 11 knots of boat speed. We left most of the monohull boats sailing the clockwise course well behind us by the mid-point of the reach and caught two Moore 24s who we think were the lead boats when we reached the north end of TI.

After dousing the chute and approaching the two eastern spans of the Bay Bridge, we had to tack away to avoid a small tug and barge that silently overtook us. That resulted in losing ground to one of the Moores. When we went under the old span of the bridge we lost a little to the Moores as we hit a wind hole, and then lost a minute or two to them because we held too close to the island and sat waiting for a puff while they sailed through to leeward. We were upset that we lost our lead and so much distance to boats in our division but later realized the two Moores still needed to round Blackaller (they sailed a Red Rock-TI-Blackaller course).

On the beat from TI to the finish, the wind gusted to 20-22 knots with a steady 16-18 and considerable ebb chop. Those conditions are difficult for the Melges 20 upwind with the weight of a full crew of three, and thus more challenging for just two of us. The one blessing was that we had 2-2.5 knots of ebb behind us, assuring that the beat would be shorter.

During the beat to the finish, we were passed by California Condor, War Pony and Intruder, all of which are much larger monohulls. We think we were the fourth monohull and second sportboat to finish. Perhaps if we'd avoided the hole behind Yerba Buena we might have been able to beat Intruder.

Makaira's finish
Makaira's finish. ©2013 BAMA

It was the most enjoyable TBF race I've done, but then it was only my third one. The best part, besides finishing well, was that it only took 3.5 hours and we were able to haul and put the boat away before the sun got low in the sky and the temperature dropped.

- Skip Shapiro, Audi Melges 20, Makaira

See also our Three Bridge Fiasco wrap-up story and photo gallery, and preliminary results now posted at If you finished but your score reads "DNF," let the race committee know.

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