by Trevor Baylis, 04/04/05
This years BAMA Double Handed Farallones Race was just great.
We, Mike Holt and I, started about a boat length down from X, with Enzo (turbo-ed Hobie 33,) up on our hip, they tacked immediately and we carried on a bit to cover the rest of the fleet as well as make sure Enzo couldn’t pinch up and get us on the long tack across the bay. With our 155% #1 up, and the wind expected to shift some fifty degrees from the start at GGYC to Point Bonita it was a drag race across the bay to the North shore. When we got there both Serena (Thompson 1150) and White Caps (Santa Cruz 50) both crossed us, but let us take up position to their right where we were able to capitalize on the shifts to pass them back. I think the key here was to keep a close eye on your SOG (speed over ground) which let you know how far you could push into the shore without dropping out of the ebb tide current.
With both of them abeam to leeward, we gained a lot when the expected wind shift came though as we poked our bow out from under Pt. Bonita. At this point we got hit by the first major puff, from the steady twelve knots we’d had, we got staggered by an eighteen knot blast, time to change down to the #3…by the time we had to boat de-powered enough to sail, the #3 on deck, and the new sheet led, we decided that it actually looked like #4 weather and went for that instead. After an UGLY in-line change, big waves straight on the bow, no one on the rail, outside set, etc, we were pointed above the islands in 24 to 26 knots of breeze.
During the change we got passed for the first time by an F-24 tri. They crossed us by about two hundred feet, tacked up on our hip, put the bow down and rolled us. They still had their regular sails up and looked very happy in the conditions. White Caps had sagged a lot to leeward while they changed down and reefed, and Serena may have broken something on their mainsail, they flogged it for a LONG time, loosing about a mile in the process. By the time we were sorted the breeze had eased a bit, down to 18 to 22.
We sailed above the Lightship with about three knots of ebb tide behind us, and large confused seas. Still comfortably laying the Islands, we had the #4 on the middle jib lead, (we’ve got three fore and aft tracks for the #3 and #4,) eased a bit and going fast. About this time we crossed a North-South current line, the water flattened out, the wind eased some more and our COG started to look a little shaky. As long as the breeze lifted another 10 degrees like we expected, we would be fine. To be safe we trimmed in a little to our “fat” upwind settings. The little F-24 tacked and crossed us again, tacked back and then rolled us again…impressive, but a bit irritating. They did it again just before the Island- those little things go upwind just fine in twenty knots and big waves.
Now that we where essentially on the wind, Serena started to really move up from their position dead astern, seeming to get bigger by the second until by the time we were within a few miles of the Island, it was looking like they’d be long gone by the time we got there. Then the wind started to go left, not what it was supposed to do, White Caps came over onto port and passed just behind us, and just ahead of Serena. We tacked across Serena, not having any faith that the wind would stay there, and tacked back on a short layline. Serena crossed us and carried on a ways. The wind came back right and we had a comfortable layline across the face of the Island, with Serena, White Caps, and the F-24 all falling in astern since they’d over stood.
We changed to the Jib Top as we bore away, jibed and headed home with Serena about a hundred yards dead astern. Last year we had set early and had felt that it cost us a bunch of time. This time the conditions were a little strange, the wind was only about 20 knots, and our boat wouldn’t really light up at the tighter angles we needed to sail to be powered up, when we were surfing we were actually low of course, so we had to do a lot of steering and trimming to get the most out of the boat. Serena gradually ground us down, going faster when we were just sailing a long, going the same speed when we could surf and link the waves together. They finally got past us just before the lightship, and it was just a while later that we set our “little” reaching spinnaker.
The trouble was that once it was up and drawing we were off, cruising over and through any wave in our path. Sweet Jane is lacking in the freeboard department, and we couldn’t figure out how to get the jibtop down without shrimping it. Once we saw that it was working alright inside the spinnaker, while well eased, coupled with the fact that we were not actually pointing above Mile Rock very much of the time, and thought we might be taking down the kite anyway, we just decided to leave it up.
It was a very wild, and very wet, ride in. Big waves, lots of wind (22 to 30,) and a mandate to keep it upright. Lots and lots of fun. We made Mile Rock by about a hundred yards, we missed making the South Tower by about a hundred feet, flogging the kite and sailing under jibtop for the last quarter mile to scrape by the south tower. Speeds were very rarely under twelve knots, with some massive accelerations from there.
Once around the tower, we took the jibtop down before the jibe. In the flat water before the turn we hit 17.6 knots…yikes. Made the jibe without crashing and zoomed right on home. Two and a half hours from the lee of the Islands to the finish.
We ended up third boat to finish behind a couple of thirty foot tris, fourth on corrected time, (very thankful for T-on-T,) eight minutes behind the amazing Moore 24 Fish Food.
- We threaded the needle between no wind too much current and escaped early on.
- We had good upwind speed.
- We sailed a conservative race and were safe. We made decisions that kept us tethered even if it made for slower racing.
- We had beautiful weather, got a wonderful view of the islands, and came home with a great story to tell.
- After the start, I was trying to get my big hiking stick set up to drive from the tramp and lost focus numerous times, squandering considerable height to windward vs the Falcon. I ended up ditching the big stick and went with a smaller one that was easier to control.
- It is unclear to me that changing to the genoa actually got us anywhere. While we definitely were faster for a while, I believe that we probably lost it all in the sail change, plus some. Also, I got really beat up on the pulpit changing the sail and lost my favorite hat to boot.
- While our reefs were done safely, they were really slow, we need to work on our reefing speed.
- Heading home I had the jib over-trimmed for much of the way. It was just a lapse of focus, we were so happy to not be bashing through waves anymore! However, it really slowed us down as Comfortably Mumm just walked away from us.
- After surviving the channel, we just kept pointing down the center of the channel, completely forgetting about the ebb. We were focused on bodily functions, eating, and being happy to be done with breaking waves. So, we were very slow in comparison to Dragonsong who made up probably 2 miles by going down the south edge by mile rock.
- We chose not to launch the spinnaker at the end and therefore gave up the last 13 minutes to Dragonsong, who did (we crossed one last time at the bridge).