This year I was fortunate to sail on board the Morrelli & Melvin designed SL33 “BridgeRunner” with fellow American Youth Sailing Force member Mikey ‘Polish’ Radziejowski.
I can’t begin to describe how awesome the boat is, not only to sail on but to do short course buoy racing off the San Francisco City Front similar to what the America’s Cup and the RedBull Youth America’s Cup will be like. We were fortunate to have the best crew possible on board with Owner/Driver Urs Rothacher bringing his calm, collected, Swiss disposition to the helm. We had Jonny ’Velociraptor’ Goldsberry on main trim and tactics keeping a cool head and running the boat efficiently, myself on Jib/Kite trim, Mikey running the dagger boards, sail furling and everything else that required brute strength. And then of course Chad Freitas on bow using his intense Portuguese attitude to run the whole forward end, keeping the boat in one piece around the race track, and just being a total beast on the boat. He also put out a fire at the buffet table inside St. Francis Yacht Club during the awards ceremony with a giant bowl of sour cream. Just another example of how this guy saves the day.
The lead up to the event started late for us. Due to conflicting schedules we weren’t able to have our first complete team practice until the day before the regatta started. We rigged up that morning but as we were heading out from the slip and started trying to hoist our new North 3Di main, we realized that the bolt-rope was too big and it wouldn’t go up the mast. So with a quick turn around, we were able to off load the sail to the local loft to get it sorted while we put up the old main and went out again. We had a good sail, everyone starting to get comfortable in their positions and figuring out how we will be getting around the race course. After a couple laps we sailed in the “AC Cove” off the marina green where we moored up similar to the AC45s a couple weeks previously.
Day 1 was pretty solid, the breeze was up and we scored a 2, 4, which we considered acceptable as we were still learning the boat and how to sail it best. We were unfortunate also on day one to lose the Rocket 88, one of our main competitors, after they suffered severe structural damage to the hull near the forward cross beam and had to drop out for the entire event.
Day 2 was a little more tame. The breeze took longer to fill in then the previous day, which gave us a leg up as the boat likes lighter air with its extremely over powered setup. We scored a 1,2, which reflected the amount of effort and exertion we put into both races. This put us in second overall and 3 points out of first. We were hungry to chase down the overall leaders on board ‘’Shadow”.
Day 3 started well, the first race we hit all the right shifts and had mostly good maneuvers but couldn’t quite get the time we owed to “Shadow”. Race two was a bit more of a shocker. We were in a pretty tight battle at the first windward mark rounding when we snagged the buoy. Thanks to quick action by Chad, we were able to cut loose, do our spins and continue on with the race. Unfortunately we were never really able to gain back what we lost and took a demeaning 4th place.
Day 4 was the final day with only one long race scheduled. It’s called the Bay Tour, which took us on a 31 Nautical Mile slalom to all corners of the bay and back. The race was postponed initially due to light air, while everyone was drifting around we decided to take advantage of some free time to play with the lifting foils and see how high we could get the boat out of the water. It provided good entertainment for both the crew and everyone else on the water watching our shenanigans.
The race finally started at noon and we got of the line really fast in a moderate 10-12 knots of breeze. We took full advantage of our favored conditions an d put a healthy lead on the rest of the fleet. The rest of the race involved steadily building breeze and slightly out of control angles that were required to get o our almost randomly placed marks of the course. By the final windward mark rounding the breeze was up in the low to mid twenties as we were screaming towards our downwind finish in front of St. Francis Yacht Club. Right before we crossed the line we were hit by a pretty large gust and nearly pitch-poled the boat. But thanks to good crew work we were able to burb out the sheets, unload the boat and finish the race in style. We won that race by four minutes on corrected time, which absolutely reflects how much we all pulled it together on that final race. Though we didn’t win overall, we had some serious satisfaction in winning the final race. We couldn’t have asked for better competition for a U.S. multihull fleet with Phillipe Kahn and Team Pegasus on the LightSpeed 32 and Peter Stoneberg on the Prosail 40 who won the event decidedly.
So looking back now on the event and all that happened, I find it hard to describe everything I learned. I would say the one biggest things I will take away is that these type of larger high performance multi-hulls are dangerous. It takes serious preparation and teamwork to not just go for a leisurely day sail, but to push the limits on the race course in heated short course action. The loads on these boats are enormous and one mistake could cause serious injury. The point of saying this is not to sound worried or scared but to let everyone know that we as a team understand what it’s going to take and incorporate all of this into all our training.
I would like to thank Urs for giving us the opportunity to sail on his amazing boat and to Gino Morrelli for taking time to talk to us about multihull sailing. I would also like to thank St. Francis Yacht Club and Rolex for putting on another great Big Boat Series. I look forward to doing it again next year.
AYSF Team Captain