Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Three Bridge Fiasco A J/Fest!

J/105s sailing San Francisco Bay Three Bridge FiascoJ/92 RAGTIME Wins Class
(San Francisco, CA)- With a record number of entries for the 2011 Single Handed Sailing Society’s annual 3 Bridge Fiasco, numbers became an interesting part of the 21 nautical mile "pursuit-style" tour of San Francisco Bay.

The 368 paid entries was certainly a record number for this midwinter short handed classic which allows only single handed and double handed entries. Working with a reverse handicap, the highest rater (PHRF 264 and over) started at 9:30 AM.  2 hrs:8 min:6 sec later, the lowest rater, Peter Stoneberg's Formula 40 catamaran crossed the start line. All boats have until 7:00 PM to finish. A classic "pursuit" race like Nantucket's infamous FIGAWI, your finish position is your division and overall finish order. The course begins off the Golden Gate Yacht Club and has 3 marks to round-- Blackaller buoy just to the West and in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, Red Rocks just below the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and Yerba Buena Island which anchors the Oakland Bay Bridge. Any direction and order you wish. It’s a Fiasco after all!

The forecast for light winds from the west at 5-8 knots and the 7:21 AM high tide was going to be a challenge; with about 6 feet of water slipping out the gate, at a 4.4 knot ebb during the heat of the event, plus an extra push from snow melt runoff from an unusual mid-January warm spell and you have a recipe for a ginormous ebb flow-- a.k.a. the infamous "monster Bay flush"!

162 boats managed to make it around the course in the allotted time, 139 boats failed to do so. Not that they were not trying, even calling the Race Deck as the 7:00 PM witching hour approached.  The majority of boats seemed to go with a Counter-Clockwise attempt at the course, but found themselves in suspended animation just off Aquatic Park and by Alcatraz where the rushing ebb provided just enough current to remove any SMG from boats sailing to their potential.  The smart money went clockwise and got around Red Rocks early then rode the magic carpet to the Berkeley Flat and squeezed around Yerba Buena later as the counter-clockwise fleet found out just a tad too late. Boats in the counter-clockwise group that did fetch a ride to Treasure Island, ended up in a maddening cluster seeking relief along the Island western edge. Bumper boats, anchor setting and even some short period groundings ensued.

Mother Nature threw the fleet a bit of a curve ball this year. The predicted front which was forecasted to arrive late Saturday night rolled through mid afternoon and brought with it the usual SW winds, but also managed to roll out a thick fog bank which enveloped the bay by early afternoon, reducing visibility to one-quarter mile.  Along with it, a damp cold heavy drizzle followed, just in case you were doubting your commitment. Add to that some period of little to no wind and pulling the plug became an easy choice for those not really liking their position or chances to finish in time.

Frank Slootman, owner of J/111 INVISIBLE HAND, had this to say about his first double-handed adventure: "3BF was actually quite good for us with a second in division and 15th overall. That said, there were two well-sailed J/105s that we didn't catch, but we caught all the other J Boats! Key thing is to keep the boat moving and take what it gives you. The 111 is quite easy to keep moving for its size, not sticky at all. I am super pleased with the boat's performance. Most impressive thing is that she is well-rounded and balanced on a variety of conditions and points of sail, no glaring weaknesses in performance I can see. I think you're going to be in the hunt every time with this boat!"

Amongst the leading J's was Bob Johnston's J/92 RAGTIME.  A long-time competitor of the 3BF and member of SSS, Bob was amongst the "smart" boats going clockwise (like the two J/105s and the J/111) and managed to win Division 3 Singlehanded Spinnaker and 9th overall of all 34 boats racing singlehanded!.

In Division 11 Doublehanded Spinnaker, the J/111 INVISIBLE HAND sailed by Frank ended up 2nd in division and 11th keelboat overall in the largest 3BF class (49 entrants).  Behind him in 8th was Andy Costello sailing the well-known red rocketship, the J/125 DOUBLE TROUBLE, and 9th was another J/92, Tracy Rogers' RELENTLESS.

In the J/105 One-Design Division 19 class, Rich Pipkin sailed RACER X to 1st in class and 5th keelboat overall out of 267 boats!  Just behind him was Doug Bailey's AKULA in 2nd and 10th keelboat overall!  Third was Richard Butts in MELILANI, 4th Richard Craig in LIGHTWAVE and 5th Adam Spiegel in JAM SESSION.

Not to be outdone by their "younger" stablemates, Tony Castruccio sailed his venerable J/30 VENT VITESSE in 2nd in Division 22 Doublehanded SF Bay 30!  And, the 30s "soul brothers" in the J/24 Division 27 One-Design class saw Don Taylor win with ON BELAY, Darren Cumming get 2nd on DOWNTOWN UPROAR and Raymond Lynch finish 3rd on ANOTHER WHITE BOAT.  Article contributed by Erik Simonson at  For more Three Bridge Fiasco sailing results.   For more info on the race and Singlehanded Sailing Society.