NOOD Regatta

The first race of the IRC season series took place in conjunction with Sailing World’s NOOD regatta.  WE had missed the beginning of the IRC racing season because of Timothy’s travels and our decision not to do any IRC Ocean races. So it was the first time all of us will be sailing together as a team even though most of us have sailed with each other at some point or the other, but in different roles and circumstances.  The crew consists of Chris at the bow, with Bret at the mast, Pete in pit, David Smith at mainsheet, Edda, Miha, and Joe are in the cockpit with Ted as the pit boss, Timothy as helmsman and yours truly as tactician.  After checking in and verified there’s no new amendments to the SI, we left the docks and went around the breakwater for some crew practice.  As typical when you put a new group together , it’s a little tentitive as crew work goes, it’s clear everyone knew how to do their job but the timing had to be worked out. We set the chute and practiced gybes a few times to get the crew motion choreography down.

The IRC fleet for the NOOD consists of the following seven boats:

1. Timothy Ballard
Inspired Environments 28423 IRC San Rafael, CA USA CYC
2. Brad Copper
TNT 43690 IRC Pt. Richmond, Ca. USA RYC
3. Frank Morrow
Hawkeye 50444 IRC San Francisco, CA USA US Naval Academy Sailing Squadron
4. Philippe Paturel
CIAO ! 975 IRC Halifax, NS CAN RNSYS
5. Michael (Tony) Pohl
Twisted 40046 IRC San Francisco, Ca USA ST Francis
6. Gerard Sheridan
Tupelo Honey 28908 IRC San Francisco, CA USA South Beach YC
7. Daniel Woolery
SOOZAL 60408 IRC Alamo, CA USA Richmond Yacht Club

Predicted current for the two days were:

26 June 2010 – 27 June 2010
San Francisco Bay Entrance (Golden Gate), California Current
37.8167° N, 122.4833° W
2010-06-26  05:49 PDT   Sunrise

  • 2010-06-26  11:45 PDT   4.00 knots  Max Flood
  • 2010-06-26  15:00 PDT  -0.00 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins
  • 2010-06-26  17:15 PDT  -2.07 knots  Max Ebb
  • 2010-06-27  12:21 PDT   3.88 knots  Max Flood
  • 2010-06-27  15:38 PDT  -0.01 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins
  • 2010-06-27  17:50 PDT  -2.14 knots  Max Ebb

While the number of competitors is small, nevertheless they represent formidable competition.  For instance, Soozal had competed in Key West in January of 2010 with first place finishes as well as competing in other venues.   Then again, it never hurts to have Robbie Haines as your tactician.  She also has a contingent of pro-sailors onboard like Project Manager Scott Easom and Matt Siddens trimming headsails, North Sails’ Pete McCormick on the main.  If you think about it,  Soozal is really a pro or at least a semi-pro sailed boat sailed by the owner.  The other formidable competition: TNT, a custom Tripp 43 is another well sailed boat that won the IRC division B at the 2009 Big Boat Series.  CIAO ! is a new boat, Archambault 40, campaigned by a local sailmaker Sylvain Barrielle (5 time America’s Cup crew and sails developer) to promote the boat and to create interest on the class, so we can assume they have a vested interest to get the best crew around to keep their marketing VP satisfied.  The boats that represents weekend-warrior status like us are Tupelo Honey and Hawkeye.  We generally sail a little better against Hawkeye on a consistent basis, but Tupelo Honey is a handful as Gerrard is a good windward driver and has regularly use the upwind leg to pass us despite his slower rating.  Until we can regularly beat him on the upwind leg, it’s going to keep Tupelo behind us by approximately 55 seconds each hour we sailed.

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Bananas will no longer be allowed onboard…

We recruited five unsuspecting crew for this epic down wind race from Richmond to Stockton.  The full crew list for this epic down wind race consists of Aaron, Calvin, Eugene, Janelle, Keith, Mark and Robert.  The Delta Ditch race starts in Richmond then run through the northern part of San Francisco bay, passing the Brother’s Island to San Pablo Bay, through the narrow, twisting channels of Carquinez Straits to Suisun Bay, passed the mothball fleet then snake through the meandering San Jauquin River to Stockton.  We had conceived this race as a fun (and fast) way to tour the Delta for some of the naive, wide-eyed crew that have not been “up the river without a paddle” and to take advantage of the long downwind run to imagine what it’s like to dawdle in the Delta. This was designed to be one part race, one part tour and one part adventure – our plan is to race the Delta Ditch Run then turn around and motor sail back all night back to Coyote Point Harbor.  The key to the success of this (ad)venture is to time our itinerary to transit the Carquinez Straits at optimal current going up the river as well as back down to SF bay. So plans were made to cast off at 07:00 sharp to make it to the starting line at 10:00.  Weather forecast for the weekend was a bit conflicted.  NWS predicted strong Northerly winds at 8-15 knots and hot weather (90°+) for the weekend.  However, the TV forecasters were predicting mild winds from the east and cautioned on record high temperatures. In either case, it’s really ideal sailing condition albeit a bit unusual wind direction for the Delta Ditch.

Bright and early at 06:30 on the fateful Saturday morning of the Delta Ditch, the crew of S/V Mist assembled at the Coyote Point Yacht Club dock with provisions for the weekend for the 10th Annual Delta Ditch Run of 2010.  As we put away the provisions, we noticed that someone had brought a bunch of bananas onboard.  After several denials, we found the culprit and teased the crew member about being ignorant on the sailing superstition that bananas onboard brings bad luck to the boat.  The crew member took the ribbing in stride and attempted to eat as many bananas as possible before departure, but after ingesting two bananas in quick succession, he left the remaining bananas in the galley for later consumption.

We pulled out of the dock and immediately noted the low tide marker at the harbor master’s dock to be  -1.5 feet – not a good sign, but we’ve managed to get out of the harbor before…  Sure enough, as we motored out to the main basin, we started to drag bottom.  As we headed out to the harbor entrance, the depth sounder showed less than three feet below our hull and then, we were firmly stuck at the harbor entrance.   We order all the crew to sit to starboard to heel the boat, but no avail, then we hoisted the main to get the morning breeze to put further pressure to heel the boat to pass the shoaling that had developed gradually at the mouth of the harbor – all to no avail.  So when the going gets tough, the tough gets going:  we call on the heavy weights to get us out of our dilemma: we put Keith on a bo’sun’s chair and cranked up the spinnaker pole to 90° starboard and with the rest of the crew putting their weight on the starboard rail and the main sail drawing from the morning breeze…

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BBS 2009 – Day 2, Race 4

Day 2, Race 4

Race 4 start was at 15:00 North Course Starting area.  At this time we are in a flood current with max flood at 15:44 PM.  The weather mark is a temporary buoy near Harding Rock, so there’s not much relief anywhere.  The only relief I can think of is to sail into the current relief behind Alcatraz.   We started on the committee boat side about mid line with Kuai just to leeward.  Tupelo was somewhat late to the line close to the pin end.  We tried to climb up on Kuai but it was slowing us down, we decided to tack to port to get clear air.  After sailing for a few minutes, our jib fairlead broke and we decided to tack back to starboard so we can repair the starboard fairlead without handicapping our speed and pointing.  In doing so, we were able to starboard tack Kuai and forced them to do an emergency tack back to starboard.  Once we had jury-rigged the starboard lead, it was a matter of finding the best time to tack back.  The opportunity presented itself when Petard was approaching on port tack.  We tacked in front of Petard, Kuai tacked with us which puts them in a covering position to Petard.  So now all the boats in the fleet is on port tack heading west towards Angel Island.  Bodacious and Hawkeye was the contrarian boats of the fleet, having started on the committee boat side and committed early towards Angel Island and is now leading the fleet as far as the GPS data is concerned.  However, these post race data does not take in account of the potential lifts and your position relative to the fleet.  I am hoping for being on the inside of the lifts we can expect as the wind bends around angel Island.  Concurrently, as soon as Bodacious and Hawkeye tacked to starboard,  their VMG fell off as their course sailed is parallel to the mark not towards it. As we converge, we moved up to the fleet and Bodacious and Hawkeye fell to the back of the fleet.  Petard in the meantime suffered some sort of breakdown and had to head down significantly for a few minutes before sailing on track.  So leading the charge to Harding are Topelo Honey, Inspired Environments, and Kuai.  Tupelo tacked early, we decided not to tack quite yet because it was too early to the layline at the same time I would like to get some separation between Tupelo and IE.  We tacked to starboard when I thought we are just shy of the mark, but I hoped there might be some favorable wind shifts that could lift us to the mark to save two tacks.  As it were, we did not get the lifts, but nor were we handicapped by that tack.


Screen shot 2009-09-11 at 9.12.15 PM

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Stone Cup, St. Francis Yacht Club, May 16, 2009

The forecast called for a heat wave and that usually means light winds unless “Sacramento sucks” – a local sailor’s insider joke that perfectly describes the wind behavior for the Bay as hot air in the Sacramento Valley rises and create the vacuum that draws the cool ocean air through the Golden Gate into the Bay.  The crew is supposed to picked up at 08:45 at St. Francis Yacht Club and then out for some practice before the race.  As I drove up the club parking lot a bit early, I walked to the water’s edge and watched the Single Handed Farallon’s racers gathering by Golden Gate Yacht Club and drifting as there were little wind to be found anywhere in the Bay.  As more and more crews gathered, we headed down to the guest dock to wait for the arrival of Inspired Environment-our ride for the weekend.  When she did, we all boarded her and headed out to the Bay for a little orientation and practice.  I had worked with most of the crew before at BBS 2008, but there are a few new faces in new positions that we had to assess and assimilate as our ultimate goals are three fold:  1. to build an effective crew for the US IRC championship series to be held concurrently with the 2009 BBS; 2. to win the 2009 SF IRC season championship while honing our boat handling; 3.  to gain experience on the courses in central bay on wind and current patterns. Read more…

An Accomplished New Years Resolution!

Happy New Year! As tradition, we went out on New Years Day for a sail. In looking at the weather forecast during the days preceding the sail, I had anticipated a cold and partly cloudy day and indeed, at 1000 hour on New Years day, it did not inspire any urgency on my part to go out on the cold and foggy bay to go sailing. But tradition demanded certain sacrifice and besides, I had invited a few folks from work to come sailing as well and didn’t want to disappoint them in any case.

So Keith and I met up at Max’s Opera Cafe for a hearty lunch at 1100 hour and fortified ourselves with a substantial sandwich and headed to the marina at Noon. Since the guests is to arrive at 1300, we visited with Luther at his dock for a bit and arranged to meet out on the water later.

010109-sail1

Just before 1300, the sun came out, burned all the fog away and we were blessed with a nice warm sun and clear skies. The only thing lacking now is the wind. Nonetheless, when our guest showed up, we prepared the boat to sail but took a sweep around the harbor and asked Torin to join us on a New Year sail.

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2008 St Francis Yacht Club BBS

On August 23, I was invited to crew on a Beneteau 40.7 called Inspired Environments as tactician for the 2008 Big Boat Series (BBS). The StFYC Big Boat Series attracts some of the top sailors from all over the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world to compete in a four day regatta in the central part of San Francisco Bay.  I decided that I would accept the invite for the opportunity to sail against some of the top sailors in the central San Francisco Bay – in part as a measure of where I stand with my own sailing skills and knowledge.  Having raced mostly in the South Bay, I am interested to compare as to how I would fare racing in the Central Bay circuit where it is far more competitive (though not always in a good way).

Starting line at day 2 of BBS

Starting line at day 2 of BBS

Being a pure tactician on a race boat at the BBS was a novel and interesting learning experience for me. While I know the racing rules and sailboat tactics as well as any body from the past nine years of racing on my boat in the South Bay and crewing on other people’s boats, I tend to be more of an intuitive sailor when I’m on the helm. It took me some time to get use to verbalizing my thoughts and keeping it succinct and to the point as well as the timing of my advice in a rapidly evolving situation such as positioning at the starting line, rounding marks, port/starboard situation or responding to close quarter maneuverings. Because of concentration required for the helmsman when on the helm, it is counter productive if there’s too much talking from the tactician.  I had to learn how to articulate impending maneuvers to the skipper in a succinct and timely manner. Although the events at the starting line are opportunistic and require mostly gut instincts and timing – in the end, it’s really more effective to let the helmsman to concentrate on driving and develop his own approach to the line rather than the tactician contributing to decision latency.  Nonetheless, it was a good learning experience for me and I enjoyed the challenges of sizing up a dynamic situation and plot for possible solutions – balancing risk and reward scenarios of the interactions of tidal currents, wind velocities and positioning of competitors. Prior to the race, I had pre-plotted all the marks into my GPS based on the description on the Sailing Instructions, but temporary inflatable buoys were particularly troublesome problem as the RC’s rarely sets them exactly where the SI’s had indicated.  I made a few mis-calls based on the prescribed versus actual position of the temporary marks.  I have to rely on visual confirmation to their location rather than completely base it on GPS on a couple of instances, which made it less precise calling for VMG or layline. Read more…

SBYRA Summer #6 – CPYC

Even at 10:30 AM, the temperature at the harbor was already in the upper 80’s and nary a breath of breeze  as we rig the boat and tweak a few “go-fast” gagets aboard. A few moments in the cabin below and you are drenched with sweat as if in a sauna.  We headed out of the harbor earlier than we would have typically, because we were eager to get some relief from the heat by going out where there’s at least some breeze — even if it is from the apparent wind of our motoring to the venue.  Indeed, as soon as we headed out the harbor, the headwind created by our motor cooled our perspiring heads and gave us a chance to chill out before the start.

The race committee wasted no time and started the race promptly at 12:00 in very light condition with a spotty mix of 3-5 knots of wind.  We were away from the line a little too far at the start, so we were in the second wave of boats heading for the start about 10-15 seconds late, behind Wired, Lucky Duck and Nessie.  I was somewhat glad that we were not quite on the line as we watched a cluster of boat at the committee end all jockeying to get the windward position apparently with Nessie barging on the line.  We had momentum built from not having to jockey for position and dodging bad air as with the first group of starters, as a result, we were able to catch up to them within 10 boat-length after the start.  It also helped when several boats decided to tack to port to get clear air and be lured by the prospect of a stronger patch of breeze to the right. The thought to sail towards the breeze had certainly crossed our minds as we looked around for tactical options. But the prospect of two tacks in light air on our displacement hull meant probably at least a four boat length loss from the tack itself coupled with the fact that it takes a very looong time for us to build up the speed after each tack. Furthermore, it just doesn’t seem a good idea to sail away from the mark and into more current just for a temporary gain in speed – particularly when it’s so spotty.  We decided there’s more down sides than upsides that we chose to stayed on course focusing on building boat speed instead. Read more…

Stillwater Cove

On an unusually bright and clear summer morning for San Francisco Bay, we arrived at the boat at 0715 to finish the last remaining tasks of preparing to set sail for Stillwater Cove.  Onboard, Mist’s crew consists of: Ashley (Keith’s daughter), Joan, Jim Hoffman, Keith and Robert.  After loading several cart loads of provisions, (enough for a TransPac with a crew of 10) we cast off the dock lines and headed out the marina at 0845 on a building ebb.  With a mild 5-10 knot breeze from the West, we set the main and continued with motoring in order to make time to the Golden Gate Bridge before the ebb turns.  Our ETA: 1130 to the bridge. 

As we reached the central bay, we saw a number of tall ships meandering about the bay, and realized the Tall Ships Parade was scheduled to start at the bridge at 1200 and we will be in the thick of it.  Keith mentioned that there was a notice to mariner regarding an exclusion zone around the parade and we’d like to be out of the gate before we were confined to the bay due to this gala.  But still, what a way to send us off to our sail to Stillwater Cove – fellas, you shouldn’t have…  We were on parallel track with the Lynx by Pier 39, crossed the stern of Brigadoon and HMCS Oriole as we made our way towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Once to the west of the bridge, we traded tacks with the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, Kaisei, Bounty, Seaward, Californian, and the USCGC Eagle.  No matter where we tacked to avoid a right-of-way boat, we invariably cross tack with yet another vessel – not that we were complaining.  It lead to numerous photo opps for Ashley and Jim to take photos of these magnificent sail boats in the process of lowering sails.  Just looking at the lines they have to pull, I can almost feel for the people who complain about too many lines on my boat. Read more…

SBYRA Summer #1 041208

Friday morning, we changed the athwartship tune of the mast to starboard a bit as our photo analysis indicated that the mast is leaned to the port side by about a mast width.  We used the caliper to measure the delta and record our actions for future reference as we didn’t have time to conduct our “ISO-9000” check after the mast tune.  

On Saturday, we arrived early at 9:30 AM to finish up the last of the tune: to rake the mast another 2/5 of an inch and sent Calvin up the mast to straighten out the reference tab on the Windex indicator on top of the mast head.  After all the nagging chores have been completed, we depart the harbor at around 10:45 and headed for the racing venue only to find no wind at the starting area and the RC was not even on station at T minus fifteen minutes!  So we took the time to swing by the weather mark just so we can have a GPS reading of the weather mark while the RC get their act together.   Read more…

sbyra #3 at oyster point yc 010508

The weather on Friday was stormy with winds gusting to 35 knots and rain pouring down, I got an email questioning if it was wise to go out Saturday.  My response is that the front is scheduled to move to the east and we should let each skipper determine whether they want to take the boat out.  So on Saturday morning, we gathered aboard Mist, donned on our foul weather gear and headed out to Oyster Point for SBYRA race.  We motored most of the way in light fog, but not much precipitation until about 30 minutes before the race and a squall came by with 30 knots wind.  Wouldn’t you know it, the Race Committee decides that it’s too windy for them to be out.  We made the best of it by having an informal race with Paradigm back to the harbor. Aside from that squall, it was rather light wind so that our 125% jib was not able to keep up with Paradigm and they beat us handily…