This year’s fleet eclipsed the previous record of 368 boats signed up in 2011, but considering it’s an El Niño year with epic rain totals already measured, attracting a crowd of this size is a big accomplishment. Long live the counter culture!
With starts strung out from 0900 to 1112 hours for PHRF ratings ranging from 264 to -102, the 21.7 nm reverse pursuit course has become a must-do for sailors from all walks of life and all areas of the country. For many, it might be the only race they may sail shorthanded all year. For others, it’s another one of the fun runs combined with long distance and offshore events fulfilling a busy competition schedule.
The start and finish off the Golden Gate Yacht Club can be done in either direction and the marks of the course – the Blackaller Buoy representing the Golden Gate Bridge, Red Rock Island representing the Richmond San Rafael Bridge, and Yerba Buena Island representing the Oakland /SF Bay Bridge – can be rounded in any direction and any order. Playing the currents, the wind, and out foxing you competitors is the name of the game. Along with a little luck.
This year’s winner, Bill Erkelens, agrees wholeheartedly on the luck aspect. Start times for the 3BF can also play into your luck card, and this year Bill admitted they hit the jackpot. Starting somewhere in the middle of the fleet, just behind a large contingent of Express 27’s and Moore 24’s, Bill saw enough pressure left in the dying northerly to get to Blackaller, staying in the stronger breeze and current and away from the masses which went to the beach and wallowed.
Catching a lucky puff, Erkelens was able to round Blackaller and get to better breeze and ride the current up to Raccoon Strait where a gaggle of boats had stalled at the entrance. They were able to use the bad luck of others and navigate around them, catching a couple additional puffs in the process, laying the eddies up to Hospital Cove before heading into the Richmond Channel.
Watching the boats ahead, mainly keel boats which were sailing close-hauled towards Red Rocks in a 5-6 knot northerly, Erkelens was forced to crack off a bit to maintain VMG, which as luck had it put them into the cone behind Red Rock and they were able to slingshot past a horde of boat riding the back eddie up to the western shore. The ebb was still in force at the island at the time, and with the breeze easing, many boats found themselves on a treadmill, attempting to round the rock. Another lucky break came in the form of a puff that gave Erkelens just enough pressure to slide up and over and into favorable current again.
Just after Erkelens began riding the Richmond Channel Current back south, the now transitioning breeze began to die, leaving many boats sputtering in its wake. Riding the remaining ebb for all it was worth, Erkelens slid slowly toward Point Blunt, noticing many of the boat ahead had sailed much lower to avoid the opposite ebb on the Berkeley Flats. Now higher than most other boats, Erkelens was in position to set the kite again as the new breeze from the south west filled.
“The timing was pretty spot on, as far the forecasts predicted,” Bill said “And we were just lucky to get to where we could take advantage of the transition.”
Bearing down around Treasure Island and Yerba Buena, Erkelens chose a tad closer route than some of the other boats, then tacked up the City Front in 10-12 knots and were then able to lay the cone behind Alcatraz before tacking back to Gas House Cove for more current relief and to lay the X buoy with just one tack.
Overall, J/Teams sailed well in these challenging conditions.
In PHRF 2 Singlehanded Class, the J/92’s had a good day. The J/92 RAGTIME sailed by Bob Johnston took 3rd while the J/92S WINDTRIP INFINITY took 4th skippered by Todd Olsen. Then, in 5th not far off the mark was the J/88 WHITE SHADOW helmed by Jim Hopp.
The PHRF 10 Class doublehanded saw the J/88 INCONCEIVABLE place 9th led by Steven Gordon & Eli Gordon. There were a number of J/111s sailing in PHRF 11 Class doublehanded. Top boat was the J/111 SWIFT NESS skippered by Reuben Rocci & Nesirin Basoz in 5th place. The J/44 ACEY DUCEY broke the 111 train, with the team of Richard Leute & Luis Echevarria taking 11th. Just behind them in 12th was the J/111 SYMMETRY sailed by Howard Turner & Jay Crum.
The PHRF 12 double division saw a battle of the J/32’s. Top banana was PARADIGM led by Luther & Robert Izmirian in 7th place. Second J/32 was LA DOLCE VITA sailed by John Riley & Laurence Weinhoff; taking 11th in class.
PHRF 16 class for double sportboats saw the lightning fast J/90 RAGTIME sailed by Trig Liljestra & Corey Lynch take 2nd in class.
PHRF 31 Class was comprised of DH San Francisco 30s; J/Teams dominated the top ten. Winning was the J/30 WIND SPEED skippered by the women family team of Meghan & Maureen Castruccio. In fact, they may have been the top women duo in the entire event! Not to be outdone by them, yet another women double team took 3rd in the J/30 FRICTION LOSS, sailed by Jenny Thompson & Evelyn Hull. Then, some more J/32s were sailing in this class! Taking 8th was STRATOCASTER (Lewis Lanier & Dan Byrne), just ahead of their colleagues on RHAPSODY (Chris Boome & Molly Morris). Yet another J/30 crew on IONE (Peter Jermyn & Curt Brown) took 10th place.
The PHRF 32 class- singlehanded with spinnaker- had the lone J/80 representative sail nicely to grab 5th place- Eric Patterson’s PAINKILLER.
There was an enormous turnout for the one-design fleets overall in the regatta. The most numerous were the five J fleets- the 22s, 24s, 70s, 105s & 120s. The J/22 class had 11 boats. The winners were SAMBA PA TI skippered by Gerard Sheridan & Halsey Richartz. Second was TOM ALLEN sailed by the team of Russ Silvestri & John Bonds Jr. Third was T-BIRD (Mike Bishop & Amand Farrelly), 4th SF22 (Elizabeth Weiler & Tim Stark), and 5th WILDMAN (Bill Adams & Harry O’Reilly).
The grande dame of the fleet was the J/24 class with 7 boats in the lineup. Taking 1st was none other than DOWNTOWN UPROAR (Darren Cumming & Loren Moore). Second was EVIL OCTOPUS (Jasper Van Vliet & Steve Meyers), third FLIGHT (Randall Rasicot & Jessica Ludy), fourth SHUT UP & DRIVE (Val Lulevich & Calvin Patmond), and fifth LITTLE WING (Luther Strayer & Ryan Admiral Nelson).
The J/70s had a competitive turnout. Taking the class win was 1FA (Scott Sellers & Adam Lowry). Just off the pace in second place was PRIME NUMBER (Peter Cameron & Mike Herlihy). Third was CHRISTINE ROBIN (a family affair with Tracy & Christy Usher), taking fourth was SCILLA (Fabio Maino & Felice Bonardi), and fifth was another family affair- PENNY PINCHER (Morgan & Jordan Paxhia).
The J/105 class saw its fleet nearly double in size with eleven boats on the line this year! Taking class honors was PERSEVERANCE (Steve & Gregg Kent), followed by the legendary MASQUERADE (Steve Marsh & Ben Wells) in second place. The balance of the top five was MOJO (Jeff Litfin & Brendan Bradley) in third place, LIGHTWAVE (John Robison & Simon James) in fourth, and MAMALUC (Scott Lamson & Paul Kaplan) in fifth.
The J/120 class also turned out in spades, providing very stiff competition for the crews as they wound their way around the convoluted race course. Winning class was the Mighty MR MAGOO sailed by Steve Madeira & John Clark. Second by a whisker was the family duo sailing SAETTA (Ludovic & Delphine Millin), third was KOOKABURRA (Tom Grennan & Herb Kleekamp), fourth was TWIST (Timo Bruck & Rich Hudnut) and fifth was ALCHERA (Bruce Ladd & Joe Wells).
The 20163 Bridge Fiasco provided yet another legendary day of fun, challenges, camaraderie and variety of weather for all participants, the majority of which completed the course before the daylight faded, and enjoyed a robust breeze for their final legs and ride home. And for a day on the bay in the middle of an El Niño winter, that makes us all lucky! Thanks for photos and story contribution from Erik Simonson. Sailing photo credits & story- Erik Simonson/ h2Oshots.com/ pressuredrop.us