Thursday, May 15, 2014

Vallejo Race- J/Dreaming!

(Vallejo, CA)- With their “playground” at the mouth of the Napa River and the Carquinez Straits “venturi” at the top of the Bay, it’s not uncommon to encounter 2-3 current changes during the course of a 2 hour race. The Spring and early summer races typically find sailors battling closely spaced 4-6 ft rollers pushed up by a stiff 20-25 knot westerly over San Pablo Bay opposing a strong ebb out of the strait. Sailors can often expect some wet & wild rides! Short tacking up the rock wall is every bit as challenging as a beat up the San Francisco City Front in a flood. Even heavier boats can catch a few surf rides if their willing to brave the spinnaker set on the run back to the leeward mark. Perhaps Jack London described it best in his book, “Tales of the Fish Patrol”:

“Here the Vallejo Straits and the Carquinez Straits rushed directly at each other. Through the first flowed all the water from the Napa River and the great tide-land; through the second flowed all the water of Suisun Bay and the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. And where such immense bodies of water, flowing swiftly, clashed together, a terrible tide-rip was produced. To make it worse, the wind howled up San Pablo Bay for fifteen miles and drove in a tremendous sea upon the tide-rip. Conflicting currents tore about in all directions, colliding, forming whirlpools, sucks, and boils, and shooting up spitefully into hollow waves which fell aboard us as often from leeward as from windward. And through it all, confused, driven into a madness of motion, thundered the great smoking seas from San Pablo Bay. I was wildly as excited as the water. The boat was behaving splendidly, leaping and lurching through the welter like a racehorse. I could hardly contain myself with the joy of it. The huge sail, the howling wind, the driving seas, the plunging boat – I, a pygmy, a mere speck in the midst of it, was mastering the elemental strife, flying through it and over it, triumphant and victorious.”

As the local sailing season officially got underway this weekend, it seemed that every San Francisco Bay sailor was out racing somewhere. Cherie Sogsti sailed in the Great Vallejo Race with some old friends. She summed up the weekend: "The Great Vallejo Race started like a lamb with no wind and postponements and went out like a lion with big winds and and waves. This race is about so much more than sailing," she added. "It's about sharing the love of the sea with fellow sailors; it's about dedicating time to something you are passionate about; it's about surfing ebb tide waves in San Francisco Bay, and it's about simply being happy on a boat. Nothing forces you to be in the moment like the sport of sailing."

A perfect Great Vallejo Race would be a fast drag race run to Vallejo Yacht Club and a nice gentle tactical beat back on the next day. Speed on Saturday and Brains on Sunday. In the 115 years it's been run it's had a variety of conditions, but this year may have been one of the best to meet that criteria. On Friday the weather forecasters called for a strong northwest breeze for Saturday and many racers were looking forward to a fun romp up San Pablo Bay to Vallejo. But when Saturday's starting sequence went off at 1000 in the Berkeley Circle, the weather didn't look very promising for the 149 boats that showed up to race.

After a short postponement and with a fickle, light southwest breeze, the race committee sent the first two divisions off to fight a building ebb for the long 21 miles to Vallejo. Then the wind died. It was looking dire for the RC and the boats waiting for the promised northwest wind to arrive. The clock ticked and after another two hours of postponement just enough breeze filtered in to try starting the divisions again.

Once half of the divisions were started, the northwesterly finally arrived at 1330, as wall of wind hit the boats, and within seconds they were off. Once around the windward turning mark they had a one tack beat to get into San Pablo Bay for the real fun to begin. After Point San Pablo the boats turned down just enough that some chose to set the chute. A building breeze, ebb and big waves created surf city all the way to Mare Island.

The buzz of adrenalin wore off as the rum was kicking in, and Vallejo YC hosted the Saturday night party amid discussion of lighter winds and maybe even some rain for Sunday's race back.

The racers woke up Sunday morning under gray skies, and some drizzle fell before the sun came out. At noon the starts were off with a bang in plenty of wind to get out of the Napa River and into San Pablo Bay.

The weather forecasters were right about the lighter breeze, and although it was building as the day wore on it was nothing like Saturday's 25 knots. It was a tactician's dream, and if you played the wind shifts and current right you were rewarded with glory. And if you got it wrong, well it was a nice sunny day for a sail. And that's what it should be in the Great Vallejo Race. Brawn and brains and just about perfect.

On Saturday’s 21.5nm race down the bayou, the J/111s sailed a one-design start.  Winning by just 24 seconds was Rob Theis on AEOLUS over the hard-charging MADMEN skippered by Dorian Mckelvy.  Third was Dick Swanson on BAD DOG.  In Sportboat 1 Class, the J/90 RAGTIME sailed by Trig Liljestra took fourth while the J/70 DFZ sailed by Eric Kownacki and Tom Jenkins won the Sportboat 2 Class- fellow classmate Alex Knox on SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY took fifth.  PHRF 3 was won by the J/105 RACER X sailed by Mary Mcgrath with the J/35 JARLEN skippered by Robert Bloom in third.  In the one-design J/105 class, the top three were ARBITRAGE (Bruce Stone), GODOT (Phil Laby), and ADVANTAGE 3 (Pat Benedict).  In PHRF 5, the J/32 STRATOCASTER helmed by Lewis Lanier took fifth.  In PHRF 7, two J/24s took the top of the podium, including Val Lulevich’s SHUT UP & DRIVE and Jasper Van Vliet’s EVIL OCTOPUS.  Finally, in the Short-handed Division, it was Marc Sykes’s J/35 PEGASUS that took second in their 21.5nm race.

On Sunday’s 14.5nm race back, the J/111’s didn’t sail.  In Sportboat 1 Class, the J/90 RAGTIME led by Trig Liljestra won their class quite handily, easily beating a Melges 32, Henderson 30 and a Flying Tiger 10 on both elapsed time and also corrected time!  The dynamic duo on the J/70 DFZ (Kownacki/ Jenkins) again repeated their performance of the day before and took another first to win their weekend, too!  Bob Jarlen’s J/35 JARLEN did the same, taking 2nd in PHRF 3 class.  Bruce Stone’s ARBITRAGE continued their winning ways, bulleting the race and winning class overall.  The two J/24s ended up taking 2nd and 3rd, so Lulevich’s SHUT UP & DRIVE took class honors with Van Vliet’s EVIL OCTOPUS in 2nd.  Sykes’s J/35 PEGASUS again took 2nd to finish in that same position for the weekend.  For more Great Vallejo Race sailing information