Strong Winds and a Ripping Ebb Tide Make for Sporty Conditions for the First OYRA Race of the Season

Average wind speeds into the mid 20s and short, steep chop made for difficult driving conditions for Saturday’s full-crew Lightship race in San Francisco.

There was no shortage of wind for the first full-crew OYRA race of the season to the Lightship. The first fleet got underway right on time at 9:45, with strong winds out of the west. By the time the boats got under the gate, wind speeds were in the low to mid 20s, with a few puffs even into the 30s.

The ebb tide created choppy confused waters with very short, steep waves. Many boats reported having difficulty driving through them, and a few of the smaller, lighter boats even turned around.

“We started with the #3, but we should have had the #4 up,” said Quantum’s Jeff Thorpe, who was sailing on Jay Bradford’s Farr 40 Bright Hour. “We were leading going out past Point Bonita, but we had way too much sail area; we had the jib leads twisted out and we were barely able to keep the main from luffing. We were really struggling the last four miles to the Lightbucket.”

With shifty winds from the northwest, it was a race designed for reaching boats on the downwind leg and boats with a good inventory of reaching sails were rewarded.

“We have big masthead symmetricals on Bright Hour, so we weren’t able to set until half-way back,” said Thorpe. “California Condor—the race winner—was able to put 15 minutes on us on the way back carrying an asymmetrical kite. We didn’t have a small reaching kite, so we were at a big disadvantage.”

“We were all worried about not having much wind because it had been raining the night before. We got out there and we had good wind in the Bay, and then it got pretty windy and wavy once we got out. The waves were really close together, we were really jumping off of them but we were making great time. We were there and back before we knew it,” said Bradford. Bright Hour finished second in the big boat fleet.

Also sailing in the big boat fleet was Adrenalin, the newest Santa Cruz 50 on the Bay. The boat was purchased by a consortium of local and long-distance owners, with the purpose of sailing to Hawaii. The Lightship race was the Adrenaline crew’s first taste of really big conditions, and the first ocean race since it was purchased.

“We were going against some people who’ve had a lot of hours out there,” said Adrenalin owner and captain Del Olsen. “We kind of held our own and rounded overlapped with one of our competition, Deception, and then we made a rookie mistake and went the wrong way too long because we weren’t set up in time. But we made up for it, and reeled them back in; they finished about two minutes ahead of us instead of 15.”

Adrenalin features a short, fixed bowsprit for flying asymmetrical kites with a dip pole for flying deeper angles, but especially with the snafu at the top of the course, was forced to sail the first portion of the downwind leg with the jib top. Once they were able to get a reaching kite up, the boat really took off.


Adrenalin is the newest Santa Cruz 50 on the Bay. Photography by

We hit some pretty high speeds. Our new I14-driver-turned-big-boat-driver now holds the top five speeds on the boat. We were regularly in the high teens; the top I saw was about 23 kts. Performance wise, the boat is doing what we expect it to. If we can get better from more hours in the boat, we’ll be right there with them,” said Olsen, who is himself an International Canoe sailor.

Wayne Koide’s Sydney 36 Encore, sailing with a partial Quantum inventory, took the bullet for the second fleet. “It was pretty wild out there—winds blowing in the low 20s the whole way and a maximum ebb tide made for very sporty conditions,” said Quantum’s Will Paxton who sailed on Encore. “There was a lot of spray flying and it took pretty aggressive driving to keep the boat moving upwind well. The tide is strongest on the north side when the ebb is ripping, so we took one hitch over toward the north tower and then went straight. We laid the mark fairly easily.”

Paxton said they held off the set briefly at the top mark, and then went with the fractional reaching kite. “Those short waves that were punishing us upwind were pretty fun to surf downwind. The Sydney 36 isn’t really a planing boat but we got surfing into the high teens several times.”

As always, safety came first, and the race committee was randomly selecting boats to check for lifejackets, leg straps, tethers, EPIRBs, and other required safety gear. “I’m glad that everybody takes safety so seriously because it was definitely the kind of day that you could get in trouble out there,” said Paxton. “Sitting on the rail going up wind I warned everybody that there could be some breaking waves on the deck so everybody clipped in.”

Nicolas Popp’s Sun Fest 3200 Dare Dare took 3rd in the second fleet behind Encore and Michael Radcliffe’s Kilo.

For full results, click here.

By Jenn Virškus for Quantum Sail Design Group

Posted in PHRF Racing, Racing | Leave a comment

Lessons for Success: Tips from 2014 Winners by Wally Cross

The BYC Port Huron to Mackinac race starts July 19. The best way to prepare is to gather information and find out what’s worked well in the past. I talked to last year’s winners in search of tips that could help you get your boat and crew ready for this year’s race. Here’s what the winners had to say, as well as some of my own tips.

  • Congratulation on last year’s finish. Was your finish more luck or good preparation?

The majority of owners and skippers felt they were well prepared for the race. The teams that did well made their own luck by setting themselves up for fortunate outcomes. Good race plans and the willingness to adjust strategies provided enough luck to help these teams win.

  • Can you list specific things that contributed to your finish?

Reaching sails, good watch systems, changes in strategy, experience, routing, speed, wind shift, and luck were just a few of the answers I received. There are many combinations of these that add up to a great finish. 

  • How did you research weather?

One boat had the ability to download GRIBB files from a satellite phone while others used local internet providers. Only a few boats downloaded weather information prior to the race, and the rest took notes. The online services used include:

  1. Sail flow
  2. Windfinder
  3. Lake Erie WX
  4. NOAA Buoy

Some of the winners looked at the weather a week prior, while others waited until race day.

  • What watch system did you use?

Most skippers agreed: a watch system is most important near the end of the race. There was no question that the teams that were well-rested performed better than the boats that tried to sail without rest. The majority of owners liked sailing with two teams rotating four hours on, four hours off. Others liked bringing up one or two crew each hour, or two around-the-clock to not disrupt the boat. One consistent class winner believes he has a team that works well from midnight to 4 a.m. while others like to change the rotation each day.

A system that encourages rest early in the race is much better than no system at all. Regardless of your system, you need a good helmsman, trimmer, and bow person on each watch.

  • Was there a particular sail that helped?

The majority of the teams agreed that there was not a secret weapon, but having a good sail that can reach was necessary. A code 0 was a nice sail to have not only reaching, but also when the wind turned light.

  • Do you have a cross over chart?

Only one team had a sail cross over chart. All agreed that sail changes were based on past experience and a gut feel.

(I was surprised to hear this because I feel a cross over chart eliminates loss discussion time.)

  • Do you sail polar angles and speed?

Two boats had information on polar angles and speeds, but none of them said they used that information. All agreed that sailing by the seat-of-their-pants worked. All the boats have sailed numerous Mackinac races and felt they understood the proper angle and speed to sail. 

(This is more the exception than the mean. I encourage all boats to understand your polar angle and speed in offshore races, as well as target speed and angle around the buoys.)

  • Did you follow an early strategy? Did you have to change your strategy during the race?

All of the boats admit to having a strategy based on weather and past experience. Half the boats stuck to their strategies while others adjusted based on early tactical decisions. The time of day also had an impact on the decisions made during the race: all the shore-course winners made gains sailing close to shore during the day. It’s great to have a sound strategy, but weather and timing sometimes make it necessary to alter the strategy up the course. 

  • What do you do at night to stay fast?

All the boats took pride in sailing well at night. The majority claim it was the most important time of the race because others were sailing slowly. Three things to consider when sailing at night are:

  1. Are you sailing the favored board?
  2. Do you have the proper sail up?
  3. Are you steering and trimming optimally?

Most of the boats used flash lights to illuminate telltales to help with trim and steering. Some of the winners relied on the instruments to help steer and trim.

  • Do you look at Yellow Brick Tracking? If so, how often?

They all tracked their progress against their competitors with Yellow Brick, which has changed the sport of long distance sailing by allowing sailors to track the competition. It’s something all boats should do to see if your strategy is working. The only problem for the Cove Island course boats was the lack of internet coverage – one boat spent $4000 on satellite service to use Yellow Brick. 


  • Do you clean the bottom of your boat prior to the race?

All the boats are cleaned either the day before or before the start, minus one. One skipper uses a paint that does not need cleaning prior to any race throughout the entire year – sounds too good to be true!

  • How many crew do you race with?

Most of the boats race with 8-14 crew members depending on the size of the boat. The talent of the crew was more important than the number though. Many of the teams made sure there were at least two good helmsmen per watch.

  • What will you do better this year?

Most of the skippers were secretive regarding this year’s improvements, but I know each of the owners I spoke to will make sure their boats, sails, electronics, and crew are ready.

There are no secrets to sailing, and there are no absolute answers either. After speaking with each skipper it’s clear that each winner had a system they have perfected over years of sailing. It is the individual belief of each team that good things will happen when they use their system.   

Posted in Bell's Beer Bayview Mackinac Race 2014, Racing | Leave a comment

Winning Weekend For Quantum’s Melges Teams

Quantum-powered Melges teams enjoyed victories in the US and Europe last weekend, winning in Italy and at Charleston.

In Loano, Italy, Alessandro Rombelli and tactician Francesco Bruni won the Melges 32 Audi-Tron Sailing Series on STIG. Cut short by 40 knot winds on the last day, sailors completed six races during the event. With five top-five finishes – including two firsts – STIG was named 2015 Melges 32 Audi-Tron Sailing Series Loano Champions with 11 points.

On the other side of the ocean, Jason Michas on Midnight Blue won the 2015 Melges 20 US National Championship at Sperry Charleston Race Week. Quantum sails dominated the division, finishing 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 in a 22-boat fleet.

Also winning were Paul Currie on Wild Deuces, taking first place in the Melges 20 Corinthian division, and Jens Altern Wathne on Party Girl in the Melges 24 Corinthian division.

Congratulations to everyone on a great weekend!

Melges 32 Audi-Tron Sailing Series Loano Championship
1 – Alessandro Rombelli, STIG

Melges 20 US National Championship
1 – Jason Michas, Midnight Blue
2 – Richard Davies, Section 16
3 – Tom Kassberg, Flygfisk
4 – Cesar Gomes Neto, Portobello
5 – Bruce Golison, Midlife Crisis
6 – Drew Wierda, Peshmerga
7 – Wes Whitmyer, Jr., Slingshot

Melges 20 US National Championship – Corinthian Division
1 – Paul Currie, Wild Deuces

Melges 24 US National Championship – Corinthian Division
1 – Jens Altern Wathne, Party Girl

For full results from the Melges 32 Audi-Tron Sailing Series Loano Championship, click here

For full results from the Melges 20 US National championship, click here

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