Sunday, January 29, 2017

The J/24 “Crew You Regatta” on San Francisco Bay is a blast!

J/24 sailing San Francisco(San Francisco, CA)-  Here’s a great story from Martha Blanchfield- profiling cool stuff for yacht racing, sailing, cruising and water sports at  This one is about J/24s on the famous San Francisco Bay!

After a long season of racing on San Francisco Bay it can be fun to just goof off a bit, which is exactly what happened at the fourth annual OPBYC Crew You Regatta for J/24 and small boats held back in December. Hallmarks of the day: no wind, lots of whiskey, several pranks and concern over seagulls befriending rubber ducky marks. This competition, traditionally scheduled in late fall, differentiates itself from by focusing on multiple short-course races run back-to-back on a single day.

Volunteers Flock to a Fun Regatta  
Jasper Van Vliet is a San Francisco area sail instructor, owner of J/24 “Evil Octopus” and race director of the Crew You Regatta. Instrumental in launching a local sailing group which he calls OPBYC, he shares, “That name initially represented what we called ourselves when we were all crewing on J/24s and other boats. We figured we were the smart ones: sail for free any time on almost any boat, you just don't get to drive much.”

In 2009 Van Vliet got it into his head to create a company that would sell sailing gloves—a product he found to be drastically overpriced. He decided to name the company OPBYC, and soon thereafter stylized a ducky logo and Web site. “The gloves thing didn't really take off, but the ducky was a hit and we stayed with it,” he smiles. “In 2013 we organized a regatta based on the concept that OPBYCers are better drivers than boat owners. Ok turns out not to be true, but the concept of a single day competition whereby the crew drives (unless the owner deems it unsafe) was definitely a winner.  Crew You racers honor a no-genoa rule if the wind hits 12 knots or higher, and the race committee will shorten or halt a race if conditions get too dicey.”

Crew You Regatta volunteers started flocking round. One fleet racer stitched a ducky around an inner tube, and one skipper began collecting inflatable palm trees and duckies that he glued onto bigger floating objects. A salvage yard was raided in order to locate weighty objects that could double as anchors and marks ballast. And key to course-setting success, a local sailor offered to zip about in his Bertram 30 slinging tropical and fowl rubber marks on the course.

J24 winnersRecounts Van Vliet, “Year one was a proof of concept and it was a blast. We did not exclude any boats, but since we know mostly J/24 sailors that's what we got.” The second year he put more muscle into marketing. “The result: same number of boats showed up. We still had a hoot. The third year I did no marketing whatsoever and the same amount of boats showed up again.” He smiles, thinking about race conditions in 2015. “We did not have balmy fall weather. In fact it was downright windy. There were some MOBs, and even a mild collision, but thankfully nobody got hurt—and as a result, I got to practice my fiber glassing skills.”

Ducking Around on the Water  
Marks boat driver Bill Helvestine has supported the fun from the get-go. He recalls the December action: “It was an exciting start at 35 seconds away from the line on race one. In half knot winds “Downtown Uproar” took up “Evil Octopus,” which resulted in a little pushing off. Just behind was boat three, “Shut up and Drive,” a bit late to the line but with excellent s-p-e-e-d. We’re not sure what happened on the course to entrants four and five, but one of the boats did show at the post-race awards ceremony.” Uncharacteristically, the winds were not present on Frisco Bay that afternoon so after a first (and additional) retirement call-in, organizers deemed that just one race on a shortened course was ample for the day.

duck duck buoyThird place accolades went to “Downtown Uproar” with Robin Van Vliet at the tiller.” Boat owner Darren Cumming joked, “It’s really all me. These guys were just riding with me.” In second place was “Evil Octopus” with Jessica Ludy controlling boat direction. According to regatta PRO Hans Opsahl, the crew earned this achievement via “creative interpretation of no rule 42.” Rule 42 relates to propulsion, and how a boat shall compete by using only wind and water to increase, maintain or decrease speed. Taking line honors on an (extremely) shortened course was Valentin Lulevitch’s “Shut Up and Drive.” Either superior boat handling, or the lean all-male crew of only three, had propelled the crew to victory. Bestowed as first prize was a mildly tarnished silver ice bucket--quickly deemed “the perpetual pee bucket” by an envious competitor.

According to Van Vliet, an event like this works in San Francisco because the J/24 fleet is so interwoven. “We have all sailed on each other’s boat. We have often travelled together to race venues (Mexico, Argentina, Seattle, for example). The San Francisco Bay sailing community is a tight, but open, bunch of people. We cross-pollinate onto other boats also.”

The OPBYC Crew Your Regatta is meant to be fun. Protests are non-existent, courses are not square and sometimes there are prizes. If this appeals to you, and you find yourself in the San Francisco area next November 4, 2017, be sure to look up OPBYC. There’s always room for one more, just check the schedule here on Facebook.