Wow, what a regatta. I cannot even begin to describe how incredible this past week of 18 foot skiff sailing has been. Writing this now a little while since the final race and I feel as if I’m still out on the water, three stringing with the kite up, the boat leaping out of the water as we make our way down San Francisco Bay. The residual effects from racing this type of boat aggressively in conditions that warrant extreme conservation will linger for quite some time. So on to more details about racing.
It all started on Monday in a pretty mellow fashion. The first race wasn’t scheduled until 4pm, which gave us plenty of time to tow our 18 from its home on Point Richmond out to Crissy field near St. Francis YC. We rigged up fast, and after a quick photo shoot for our sponsors; we suited up and went out. The breeze was up but tolerable and we did a couple practice laps before the start to warm up a bit and shake out any pre race jitters. The start was awesome; we came in on a port approach holding almost the whole fleet above us as the gun went off. We were feeling fast with a solid position heading into shore for current relief when our self-tacking jib track ripped off the deck. We had a good reaction time and Evan immediately started lashing the jib block to what remained of the track and we got back underway again. Unfortunately we found our angles were pretty terrible up wind and we couldn’t get much speed with the jib shape now heavily distorted. We decided as a team that our best choice to make was to sail in before it got dark and repair the track properly so we can continue on with the rest of the week. So we made it in, found a new track in the Skiff Sailing Foundation’s big red box and glued, lashed and bolted it on. The repair went well and ended up lasting the entire event without a problem.
Big Tuesday. Well that’s what everyone seems to be calling it. It was windy. All the weather stations were calling for big wind and for whatever reason, they were right. The first start was at 1pm and we got off the beach in good time. As we went for the bare-away though, we ended up sending it hard in one of the better pitch-poles I’ve ever been a part of. In all our misery of capsizing before the start, we were lucky enough to get a photo sequence of that entire wipeout from Howie Hamlin’s helicopter. After our recovery, we made it down just in time for the start. We were roughly mid fleet on the first up wind leg when the clew board on the jib ripped off the sail. I can’t tell you how frustrated we all were from having race ending Jib issues, two days in a row. We were lucky that the second race of the day was called off as only about 5 boats were even able to complete it.
Wednesday was better, the wind was a little more tolerable then the day before and the team was ready to get some finishes under our belt. We pulled it off getting decent results in all three races that day. It was an amazing feeling to get out there and have the boat perform the way its supposed and have the team work come together and get us around the course in good fashion.
Thursday was a lay-day for the event. Some of the team including myself went for hike/rock climb, which turned into quite an adventure. Otherwise we took things easy and prepared ourselves for racing again the next day.
Saturday was mellow, the wind took a while to fill in and we ended up getting our first start off at 2pm in about 12-15 knots of breeze. We took an ultra conservative start on the boat end and went with the majority of the fleet over to the beach side of the first windward leg. We found ourselves feeling a bit under-powered as we had been so used to sailing in bigger breeze at this point. We finished the race in good fashion with no breakages or wipeouts. The team was stoked. By the second race, the breeze had built a bit more and we were finally in the range that our sail plan was set for. We started a lot more aggressively at the boat end pulling a “Waikiki Special” which paid off big. We held the entire fleet out on port towards the beach until we felt solid to tack and lead everyone back out to the left into stronger breeze and better current. By the time we got to the windward mark we held a solid fifth place, right behind the regatta leaders, C-Tech. Down wind was awesome, we nailed all our lay-lines and jibes and only lost one place to a newer, lighter and faster boat so there was no hard feelings there. We did one more lap in that race and held strong finishing in a respectable 10th place.
For us, with an older boat and setup, we couldn’t have asked for more. We sailed our hearts out all week and truly held nothing back. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the guys I’m sailing with and the effort everyone put in to make this a reality. So with the 18 foot skiff program winding down for the week and everyone’s Big Boat Series programs winding up, we are all left with a strange desire to get back out on the 18 and go blast around. The plan now is for the team to start working on getting to Sydney, Australia this winter for the JJ’s, which is the premier 18 foot skiff regatta in the world. So I would really like to thank Samson Ropes for the financial support in making this regatta happen as well as WestCoast Sailing and Zhik for the awesome team gear. I would also like to thank St. Francis Yacht Club for putting on the best regatta in North America.
Aloha, Ian Andrewes
~AYSF Team Captain