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.”
“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.
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