Being back in the Bay Area for a short visit, I got a chance to race CalCup. Like all CalCup races, the location was announced the afternoon before; the RC makes a decision based on weather conditions to ensure good raceable conditions, and they usually do a great job on that. This day was no exception to that as we raced in the waters of Pt. Isabel (but launching off Marina Bay in Richmond - a much nicer path to the water without all those barnacle-encrusted rocks and the dog turds you'd find at Isabel). Jason Voss ran a clinic before the skippers' meeting which was very well received (just witnessing the tail end of it, I must say he does a great job of picking apart technique and complex movement in digestible form on land).
Mike Percey, usually the driving force behind the CalCup, was not there, and neither were perennial top dogs Mike Zajicek and Steve Sylvester. Conditions were great - starting out perfect for the 9.9 and my big fin. I figured I'd switch down a fin size later if it picked up, forgetting about the way CalCup races are run (a fair bit offshore, and back to back unless there's a huge change in conditions so that the whole fleet will go in and change gear).
The course was WW/LW - WW mark rounded to port, LW gate consisting of the start pin on one side of the committee boat and the finish pin on the other. It looked to me like there'd be an advantage starting on port (a bit of a lift on that side of the course, plus one fewer tack), but that it was offset by the risk of shooting for the corner and trying to guess a long-distance layline for a barely visible WW mark. As the RC pulled the boat to WW a bit to make the line more SB favored, I chose to go on Starboard. Steve Bodner and Ben Bamer started port and ducked only a handful of board (me among them).
My plan paid off, as both Steve and Ben way overshot the layline and had to play catchup. I got to the windward mark just ahead of Jean and Eric, then held on to that off the breeze. At the gate, I decided to go around the start pin, go up a little ways, then tack over onto port to avoid being too far out when trying to hit the layline. That worked OK, and I got to the WW mark with a comfortable lead over Jean and Eric (Ben and Steve were in 4 and 5 at this point). And this is where I made a bad call, going way too far down on starboard looking for the finish in the hazy conditions instead of playing it safe down the middle of the course. I way overstood the layline to the boat and ended up in a photofinish with Eric and Jean, giving me a third.
Second race, Steve had apparently decided that port was a risky proposition (he also ended up being called OCS in the first heat), and he started just below me on the line. I had good angle and speed off the line, and was climbing on him when I had to slow it down and duck Ben who came on port but couldn't avoid me without running into another port starter below him - so we all avoided a collision (Ben exonerated himself with spins), but this pushed me just far enough down that I was now getting gassed by Steve. I tacked away as quickly as I could and ended up rounding the WW mark just behind him - the rest of the race was me trying to reel him in and him doing a flawless job of covering me, and we came in 1 and 2.
In the third race, I started feeling the big fin as the breeze picked up. Even though I had dropped the boom down a bit, I was just a bit overpowered and inefficient - all that lift didn't buy me better angle upwind anymore as I was having control issues, and certainly cost me off the breeze. Ben, on the other hand, was now ready to redeem himself with a vengeance. He, Steve, and Soheil started on port and this time they all called the layline right. Steve took the race, with Ben in second and Soheil in third; I followed in fourth.
Race 4 saw conditions pick up a bit more. I again stayed on starboard, this time because I was having control issues with the big fin and didn't want to risk threading through the fleet with my kit going all over the place. Ben really kicked it in this time and got a rockstar port start, followed by Steve. Again they made a perfect call on the lay line and held on to the lead - finishing Ben, Steve, me, Eric, and Soheil.
Race 5 now had a larger number of port starters. I stayed on starboard with the same rationale as before, not noticing that the breeze on top of the course had backed a bit more, making the right side of the course even more favored. Ben again took the race, followed by Steve and Soheil, with me in fourth.
Overall, Steve took the day ahead of Ben, I came in third. Jane Morson ran a tight RC, with clockwork starts and a nicely laid-out course allowing for good tactical variety. Oh, and the RC supplied water - welcome relief since I had neglected to bring my Camelbak and there was no time to go to shore between races (we do get kind of spoiled at the Event Site...).
As always CalCup was fun. The fleet is friendly and had several strata of very tight competition. No matter where you are in the fleet, you'll always have someone to compete with. And at the top, the fleet is pretty dense - no room for small mistakes.
Check for pictures in the gallery and for results at the CalCup site (click on the little trophy next to the August 19 date, or follow the results link in the left hand side frame off the homepage).