Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Crissy Friday Night Racing

At the end of my week in the Bay Area, I got to do the Friday night race at the St. Francis Yacht Club. If you've never done one of these - they're something special. The St. Francis is a rather well-appointed, big-time racing yacht club, but throughout the season, they let in both kiters (who have a Thursday night series) and windsurfers. I believe one of the reasons there's so much depth in the SF Bay Area fleet is that they get to race every other week. Note that half of the top ten formula racers at the 07 Nationals were racing on Friday.

The logistics on these events are pretty smooth - show up, pay your $15 drop-in fee, race. Start/finish is run from the deck of the St. Francis around stationary marks, and they run something like 5 quick WW/LW courses (sometimes with jibes required right off the deck to entertain the RC) in about an hour. The whole thing is then capped off with being able to use the club's facilities (showers and sauna - always welcome after a cold evening on the bay) and dinner in the grill room.

It had been a while since I'd raced one of these, and it was windy - the locals were all on 9.0's (except Ben Bamer, who at 230+ used a 10). Since I don't have anything smaller than my 9.9, I had to go down a fin size to my 68 to keep any semblance of control (it got a little wild at times...). Jay, by the way, decided to run his 7.2 slalom sail on his formula board since he, too, didn't have a 9.0 - this from the guy Pepi used to call "the Manimal", so it's safe to say it was windy... Several times, I had the whole board out of the water, holding on for dear life, and I was counting my blessings at the end of the night for only bobbled one jibe and having dropped my sail once.

The combo of a too-big sail with a too-small fin had the expected effect - I was going pretty fast, but couldn't point all that well. For the Friday night races, there's a big premium on getting an inside lane on port (everyone starts on port due to the geometry of the line) due to the lift on shore; footing off for speed is costly. I managed to compound that with being less-than-brilliant in my pre-start maneuvering (there's a lot of current there, and a lot of sailors milling about, and I was trying hard not to hit anyone).

I managed to pull out a fourth overall - mostly because of really good speed upwind (enough to make up my pointing deficit), pretty reasonable tacks, decent tactics, and pretty solid downwind performance (good speed and angle, and I managed not to blow up and take aggressive lines in several jibing duels). Overall, it was great fun and good racing. Of the three guys who beat me, two had done so in last year's Nationals (Seth had been 1st and Eric 3rd), and I managed to beat Ben and Al , who had both beaten me in the Nats (they placed 5th and 7th then, respectively) - so I'm pretty happy with where I am this early in the season.

Full results at the CalCup site (I was driving back home the next day when the locals were duking it out in their first CalCup of the year). Thanks to the St. Francis for hosting, the locals for being welcoming and competitive, and those who volunteered for RC duty (which surely had nothing to do with them wanting to sit out a windy one this early in the season, right?).

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