This year’s SSS HMB Race began with a Friday overnight on “NANCY” in the Sausalito berth. That meant an extra hour and a half of sleep since I didn’t have to drive down Saturday morning and got everything set up for single handing down the coast to Pillar Point at the North end of Half Moon Bay before I went to sleep. The marina was quiet and the wind calm, so I crawled into the sleeping bag early and slept like a sailor until the alarm went off at 06:30. I needed to leave the berth by 08:30, so had plenty of time to finish preparations, eat a bowl of cereal, and put on multiple layers of clothes since it was overcast, chilly, and the forecast looked much the same.
It was almost calm in the marina as I motored out, but as I headed down Richardson Bay the wind began to blow. Getting the sail up off downtown Sausalito took some effort since I was doing it myself with no help, but I did get it up and began sailing across SF Bay toward the Golden Gate Yacht Club on the Marina Green and the Start line. Other boats appeared from Richmond and from under the Bay Bridge from Alameda. It was not a large gathering, but soon about 30 boats showed up. I checked on the VHF, reporting my sail number and that there was “one soul” onboard as listed on Jibeset and heard Kristen’s sparkly voice welcome me and say I was checked in.
As I sailed across toward SF the wind built until it was a consistent 20+ knots, with gusts into the mid-20s. Coupled with the morning Ebb it was a blustery, bumpy morning and in my eagerness to get to the Starting Area on time I spent 45 minutes sailing in the chop before guns began going off. At 10:20 I crossed with Starting Line with a single competitor, a J-30 named “Geodesic,” in Division”F” and was on my way toward the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.
The boat was slow and I couldn’t figure out what wasn’t working right, but with the Ebb pushed me out I arrived under the GG Bridge in 20 minutes. I think the nasty chop created by Ebbing currents and the now how 20s knot wind was a “slowing” factor for me — but not for my competitor nor the slower boats that Started 5 minutes behind me. Tacking back and forth in the middle of the Golden Gate between the bridge and Lands End was slower than it should have been, and several of those slower boats caught up and even passed me. Not a good beginning for a 25-mile race down the coast!
Once clear of land and away from the SF Entrance, the ocean began to calm down and the wind dropped below 20 knots. That trend continued the further South I got until things really settled down about the time I was off the SF Zoo at the Southern end of SF. The first mark on the course was the Colorado Reef Buoy, 14 nm away and about 5 nm off Pt,. Montara, so I set the GPS on that buoy and sailed a direct course toward it. I managed to get back in front of and sail away from the slower boats and do some catching up my division competition, reigning him in so I only trailed him by a few hundred yards. And that’s how the middle of the race progressed.
My problem was that “Geodesic” was rated slower than “NANCY” so I “owed” him time – about 15 seconds per mile X 25 miles on the handicap. That meant I needed to Finish about 10 minutes ahead of him before the handicap was calculated. That wasn’t looking too promising since I’d do some catching up and then he’d pull away. The wind speed went down to around 10 – 12 knots, coming and going as it backed to a Westerly direction. But it oscillated, so trimming the sail was a constant activity.
As we neared the Colorado Reef Buoy “Geodesic” sailed further out since he needed to get the correct wind angle to set his spinnaker. I was able to sail lower since I didn’t have to worry about setting a chute. It seemed I also began to move faster. I passed “Geodesic” at the Colorado Reef Buoy and soon lost track of the boat as I began sailing a course for the Pillar Point #1 Entrance Buoy, the next mark on the course – about 4 nm away. And that’s where the wind began to get really slow, with the windspeed dropping below 10 knots and the boat moving along at 3 or 4 knots through the water.
It took nearly an hour to reach PP#1 and turn in toward the Pillar Pint #3 Entrance Buoy, which was the finish line. It was less than a mile. But it took a painful half an hour with the sail slatting and the boom banging before I reached the green buoy that gradually became larger larger. I took my time as I passed the buoy at 15:11:10, for an elapsed time of 04:51:10, which corrected out at 04:39:48. Now, where was “Geodesic?” Nowhere to be seen! “Geodesic” finished with a corrected time of 05:35:10. The Delta was 16 minutes corrected, a comfortable margin, and a great relief.
After finishing it was motor on, sail down, call the Pillar Point Marina Office and request a berth, and motor to the breakwater entrance and to berth C-5 for the night. Gordie and Ruth were there to help me get tied up for the night, which was very helpful. After getting the boat tidied up and secure I walked over to the HMB Yacht Club for swapping tall tales, dinner, and awards. Turns out I wasn’t only 1st in Division “F,” but 1st Overall among the singlehanded boats in the race. A nice coda to a great day of sailing. I proudly wore my “2018 SSS HMB” hat as I walked back to the boat, climbed aboard, and was in the sack sound asleep by 21:30 (9:30 land time).
Sunday I was out on the ocean at 08:15 for the delivery back to Sausalito. I motor-sailed from Pillar Point to Lands End (near the Cliff House in SF) since Sunday’s wind was light. The return photos show how flat and calm the ocean was Sunday morning. I had a great, short sail from Lands End to Sausalito as a finalé to a very nice weekend’s sail. 8:15 – 12:45 at the GG Bridge, for a 4:30 return trip.
Happy and tired! — Pat