Thursday, December 10, 2020


 J/145 sailing off San Diego, CA

(San Diego, CA)- So, there we were. Hot Rum race 3, watching all the weather and forecasts and guessing how the day was going to unfold. It is "local knowledge" that there is always a nice little "point effect"- light winds accelerating down the east side of Point Loma- that create some artificially significant winds. With that wind in their sails easing them along the first leg of the Hot Rum race course, racers also had the benefit of an outgoing tide (in effect all day) to get them out to Mark 2. The race committee had little confidence the race would even get that far.

J/111 sailing off San Diego, CA
Just as the first boats were rounding Mark 2 to begin their downwind sail into the Roads, those light Point Loma winds started to ripple their way east to the otherwise glassy sea that extended way past Mark 3 and Mark 4 deep in the Roads. Over the next hour and a half, boats reached and gybed their way to the bottom of the course in 3 to 5 kts of wind. From there, a two mile beat back to Mark 5 challenged the fleet. There, the RC Signal boat Corinthian sat looking east over the race course, then north, 3 miles up the bay to the course finish. Decision time.

J/120 sailing off San Diego, CA
With no certainty of the wind holding (that wasn’t forecast to be there in the first place), and 50% of a very high 5 foot-plus all-day tide ebb still making the final 3 miles to the finish an uphill effort, the RC hoisted the sierra flag (S) and anchored approx. 330 yds south of Mark 5, laying a ‘shorten course’ finish line perpendicular to the course from the previous mark. Their impression at that moment was that unless they shortened the course, up to a third of the fleet would have no hope of finishing even in the current conditions, and half or more wouldn’t make it to the charted finish if there were any deterioration.

The first six boats lined up to cross this new finishing line were predictably all ultralight sleds that can muscle their way through light air with apparent winds and boat speeds fractionally higher than the actual wind speed. The RC understands that the finish might have seemed premature. But, to the mortal seaman and mermaids aboard the other 90 boats still racing, we think it was the correct move.  

J/70 sailing off San Diego, CA
Still, no good deed goes unpunished. And, there were two uncomfortable things that the RC still needed to address. First, was to note the boats that missed the “S” finish line. You can reference your Racing Rules of Sailing book inside back cover for the picture of flag “S” (a.k.a. sierra). It identifies RRS 32.2. Reading 32.2 (a) it informs the finishing line “…shall be at a round mark, between the Mark and a staff displaying flag S.“

A few focused sailors, not seeing the S flag, and likely not hearing the Race Committee announce on the race channel VHF 69, sailed on starboard, south of and past the RC signal boat with flag S displayed. They tacked to port and their course took them completely around the signal boat and the finish line. It is frustrating to see this breakdown of understanding, but we always hope that those that were confused by what a RC does can learn from it and be better informed in the future. Trying to "save a race" for many but losing a few that aren’t familiar with flag S is always the trade-off.

J/105 sailing off San Diego, CA
Then, there is the scoring. Fun fact. A Hot Rum “shorten course” race has happened twice before, in 2008 and 2009. While rare, it is not unprecedented, and the solution is not untried. First, understand a Pursuit Start - basically boats are given a particular start time based on a formula that estimates boat’s speed around the course relative to other boats. Bigger faster boats "owe" smaller slower boats more time as the course gets longer. And the inverse – less time is owed on a shorter course. In virtual terms, everyone but the first boat to start got a late start for HR3. By shortening the race at mark 5, approx. 3.2nm was cut off the race course. We know how long it took for boats to sail around the 8.7nm course, so we refigured new ‘virtual’ start times based on 8.7nm and added the actual elapsed time to that to generate new ‘virtual’ finish times. Those are found on the Hot Rum race 3 finishes page. The boat finish order is different than you actually may have witnessed. That’s because like a regular PHRF handicap race where you adjust times after the finish, we adjusted times both before AND after.

J/145 sailing off San Diego, CA
Shortening course is not easy to do or understand, especially in a unique format like a Pursuit race with all the handicap incentive given at the start. But, it seemed like a better option than leaving 45 boats floating in the channel. Either way, there was a lot of gratitude from most finishers. The Hot Rum, to quote 1981 its creator- Herb Sinnhoffer- “is a fun race and to be able to meet afterwards and make friends”. Given COVID protocols, the "fun race" intent still holds up. It is great that some will work really hard and compete at a high level, while others will just enjoy a nice social sail around the waters of San Diego-- in December! Either way, remember the Race committee is doing its best to honor the intent race, and balance the efforts of those participating.

In the third and final race in the San Diego Yacht Club Hot Rum series, two of the J/145s finished with the same point total for Class I. After count-back, it was Rudy Hasl's PALAEMON and Ernie Pennell’s MORE MADNESS taking 3rd and 4th out of fifteen boats in Class I (the BIG boats!). They were barely beaten by a custom carbon fiber Swan 601 and Pat Disney's custom carbon Andrews 68. 

In the PHRF Overall results for 113 boats, Hasl's J/145 PALAEMON and the custom Swan 601 STARK RAVING MAD finished tied for second place at 30 points each, with the countback going to the Mad-men. Notably, taking fifth place was the other J/145 MORE MADNESS. 

J/120 sailing off San Diego, CA
The sailing conditions for Race 3 were very challenging, with winds ranging from under 5 Kts to 10 kts, with shifty winds at the start and steadier winds later in the race. As a result of the decreasing wind conditions, the race was shortened to enable most boats to finish the race.

In other classes, J/Crews faired extremely well. In PHRF 2 Class, it was Chuck Nichols' J/120 CC RIDER that won the first two races handily, but suffered in the lighter going in the third race to post a "down the mine shaft" 9th place.  As a result, the CC RIDERS had to settle for the silver in this year's series. A similar fate befell the J/111 CREATIVE sailed by Ed Sanford. After the first two races with a 5-3 tally, their finale had to count an 18th....dropping like a rock from the top three down to 9th in class. 

J/29 sailing off San Diego, CA
The twenty-seven boat PHRF 4 Class was crushed, as usual, by a slew of J-mercenaries. In fact, it was a clean sweep of the top six in class. Not surprisingly, leading the charge and sweeping the podium were top J/105 teams. Winning was Jim Dorsey's J-OK, followed by the Vieregg/ Bermann duo on ZUNI BEAR in second and Jeff Brown's SWEET KAREN in third.  Following them were Chuck Bowers' J/29 RHUMB RUNNER in fourth, George Scheel's J/105 SUN PUFFIN in fifth, and Nico Lindauer’s J/34 IOR beauty MARLEN in sixth place. Notably Lindauer’s J/34 IOR won the last two races quite handily...they suffered from having to count a 28 pt DNC for not sailing the first race. Sailing photo credits- Mark Albertazzi.  For more San Diego YC Hot Rum Series sailing information