Dear Sailing Friends,
Saturday’s OYRA “Wildcard #2” race completed this year’s ocean racing season, and it’s been a good year out in the Gulf of the Farallones.
Dan and I started Saturday’s race in fairly nice wind against a 2.6 knot Flood. Four other doublehanded boats completed our division for this final race. We “hit the beach” on the way down to the South Tower, tacking in and out. There was a swimming event along the immediate shoreline with several police boats and numerous committee boats with flashing blue and red lights, large red flags, and sirens to keep us from tacking into far until we were past Anita Rock. Walkers and barking dogs greeted us as we tacked close to the shore until we passed Blackaller Buoy where we jumped off for the South Tower.
The Flood pushed us back so we passed under the bridge about mid-span about 24 minutes after our start; not a bad time with such a strong flood. After the bridge we tacked in and out of the coves along the Marin Headlands, staying as close as it was safe to the rocks avoiding the flood. We tacked into Bonita Cove and found some counter current to help us out. The track shows us further from shore than we actually were. We exited Lands End on the north side and tacked north toward the Bonita Buoy.
The mid-teen wind we’d had at the start and part way out toward Lands End dropped into the single digits and we tacked several times looking for better wind. About a mile into the ocean the wind began to come back, but directly from SF Deepwater Entrance Buoy #2, our turning mark. We commenced a series of long tacks toward the buoy, about 6 miles out. The ocean was almost calm, with a slight swell and very slight wind wave action. We struggled in the light air, sailing slower and lower than our competition. It wasn’t looking too good for “NANCY”.
Entrance Buoy Red #2, our turning mark is at the outer end of the dredged deep water channel, about 9 nm from the start, so we passed buoy #s 7,8, 5,6, 3,4 on our way to the west end of the channel. We noted that large ship traffic was very light, with only one ship entering the Bay as we exited, but didn’t know what waited later in the day! We turned the mark and now faced a 2.7 knot Ebb on our way back in. Our choices were head northeast toward the Marin Headlands and plan tag with those same rocks that we passed on our way out or head east toward the Cliff House and Mile Rock on the south side of the Golden Gate.
Given the low wind and boat speed, we opted for the shorter course along the south side of the Golden Gate. It was slow going, but gradually the white Mile Rock light became distinct and grew larger. We sailed this leg in company with “Tiki Blue,” a larger, faster competitor, trading places until they gradually drew away with their large blue spinnaker filling. We entered Lands End close to Seal Rocks off the Cliff House, then sailed between Mile Rock and the shore.
We found a nice counter current and more wind as we closed in on the South Tower of the GG Bridge again. After turning Buoy #2 we observed an orange SF Pilot boat speeding out and then noticed another orange SF Pilot boat heading in from the Pilot Station. We also observed 5 large container ships silhouetted along the horizon coming up from the south. In addition several container and tanker ships began parading out from the Bay. It became a busy time on the shipping channels, where large ships have the right-of-way over sailboats and we heard several ships’ long horn blasts and at least one “five blast danger” signal. We were safely, we thought, out of the way along the shallow south side.
The wind’s speed increased the closer we got to the GG Bridge until is was in the mid 20 knot range. Our boat speed increased with the wind. With the ebb pushing us back, we passed under the bridge about mid-span, right in the center of the shipping channel with a container ship coming up fast behind us. Too much wind for a conventional jibe, so we “chicken jibed” our way out of its path and headed for the St Francis Yacht Club finish line.
“Tiki Blue” caught up and passed us with half a mile to go, but they owed us “time” on the handicap, so even if they finished ahead we’d still win when the results were calculated. We had long lost track of the other boats in our division. Along the Presidio the wind began to drop and after we crossed the finish line about a minute behind “Tiki Blue” we executed a conventional jibe and headed for Sausalito. It took us about 5 hours and 54 minutes – almost 6 hours to sail the 19 mile course. It was slow going. But our sail was not over.
As we reached across SF Bay toward Sausalito the anemometer began to climb. We saw 30 knots of wind, with short, choppy waves kicked up by the ebbing current. Several tour boats crossed our path, with one coming so close its wake buried our bow and white water broke and ran all the way back to the cockpit. And then we encountered our final outbound ship which necessitated a 180º tack and time spent sailing back toward SF until it passed. We finally reached Richardson Bay where the Sausalito Peninsula blocked most of the wind. The hardest sailing was that 2 miles across the Bay on the way home!
Turns out we corrected in 2nd Place for the race. We beat “Tiki Blue” (by 10 minutes on the handicap) were beaten by the Express 27 “Yeti, ” with two competitors reporting a Did Not Finish. We understand one of those boats generated the large ship “5 blasts” we heard, which is an automatic disqualification from the race. We were happy with the results. “NANCY” scored in 2nd Place overall among the 10 boats that raced the OYRA series this Summer.
I thank the co-skippers who shared this Summer’s OYRA series in the cockpit with me: Jennifer, Ross, Nick, Jan, Chris, Dan. I hope you enjoyed this Summer’s OYRA Races as much as I did. —Pat