Thursday, April 14, 2016

2016 St. Francis YC Spring Dinghy Reports - Eric Coburn and Jeff Miller

For the 2016 Spring Dinghy, we have dual reports: one from the back half and one from the winners. Of course, both had much more fun than those who didn't make it.

All photos copyright and courtesy of Chris Ray (

Eric Coburn Report:

It was a GREAT TIME!  My first Spring Dinghy and I hadn't sailed at St. Francis since college too many years ago.  Aaron Ross needed a crew because his regular guy Rob Waterman had some foot surgery to deal with.  Since my weight loss program hasn't been working so well lately, weighing in at 180 just barely qualified me for the Crew's Union for the weekend.  I have crewed for Aaron once before but he reminded me it was 14 years ago at the NAs in Long Beach.  It was great sailing with Aaron.  We both bought 505s right out of college and it was fun sharing some wild rides and good laughs this weekend.

Saturday was mostly sunny and warm and a westerly filled in ranging from 12-16 knots.  But there was a fairly raging 3 knot ebb.  The game was to get out to the right away from the club to get better wind and positive current.  Everybody played the starting line well enough to not get swept over early.  Downwind most chose to wire out and the trick was to find the balance between better wind but not bucking too much current, though many seemed to go pretty far out.

First race was a one lapper and then two two lappers.  Lasagna and beer at the club went down well.

Sunday had varying forecasts, but most put the wind at SSW.  So the start line was down by Alcatraz really close to the leeward mark.  The variability in the forecast was in the strength.  As it turns out, we spent a fair amount of time sailing downwind in light to moderate and shifty winds just to stay up current of the start line.  RC started an F18 race but held everyone else.

Finally it filled in stronger than the day before and out of the SW.  Fronts came through bringing some nice gusts maybe around 20.  With our 330# on board we were raked to -6 at times, but still just could not hang with the bigger teams (also they were just better teams as well!)  The fleet really spread out on this day due to the conditions and the long windward leg.  The RC has to set the mark out of the shipping channel and so it was pretty far away up by the club.

There were definitely some rivers to ride and I'm sure the top guys were playing that and the wind a bit, but we were mostly hanging on, trying to keep the boat flat as possible and minimize mistakes, which we did a good job of.  No capsizes for us the whole weekend and we sailed away from every gybe.  Plenty of people pitched it though over the weekend and we had some crazy near misses, and abandoned one attempt to get boat speed up before trying again.

There was a little bit of commercial traffic to deal with but not too bad.  We did actually have to douse the chute once and sail astern of a huge container ship that we just did not want to mess with.  Probably a good call.

The downwind rides on day two were AWESOME!!!  To get to the mark you had to sail through this crazy cabbage patch of churning water with some big waves.  For us, at that point in the race on the second lap we were safely ahead of the guys behind us and the guys ahead of us were long gone so we just played it very conservatively.  Also probably a good call because one boat got tangled in the leeward mark and dragged it upwind, down current.  Getting around that mark was tricky.  We actually pulled a 5 and a 7 on Sunday, the windier day.

Only two races Sunday due to the postponements but everyone was totally worked by then.

Jeff Miller with his 40+ years of 505 experience got 3 bullets the first day and sailed well enough the second day to win.  He even sailed to the wrong weather mark the first race Sunday (it was a little bit confusing) and still did well enough to win.  I can't tell you what else was happening in the front because honestly, we weren't close enough to see.  PVG and Parker did pretty well pulling a 5th overall.

All in all, the competition was top notch but the racing was great throughout the fleet.  After some beers and Mexican food at the club a number of us headed back to the airport for the trip home.  I ran into Katherine Long, Mike Powell, and Josh Dyck at the airport for some celebratory libations and food before we boarded our respective flights.  I had a blast crewing and have about fifty bruises to show for my flailing around the boat.  It might not have been the prettiest crew work but - hey - we didn't pitch it.

Even though I was crewing and I normally drive, I feel like I gained some good experience.  Even though the best teams were so far ahead of us I still feel there is some benefit to sailing against the toughest teams you can.  Bottom line though is it was FUN!

Jeff Miller Report:

StFYC delivered another fine event, with weather fronts complicating the normal sea breeze pattern and strong currents throwing another layer of complexity into the mix.  Saturday started off with a postponement while we wondered if the wind would fill.  But this is the City Front and the sea breeze would not be denied.  We got going in a comfy 10 knots on a race course set fairly close to shore, with a strong ebb dictating we head out to the middle of the bay.  Pat and I were doing fine upwind until I messed up the layline and had to jibe around behind the pack at the weather mark.  But look!

The whole fleet jibe set out to the middle to catch more breeze, while we stayed inshore for the current relief.  Well, heading outside despite the current was the winning tactic in last year’s Fall Regatta, but not today.  We sneaked down the shore and in front at the bottom mark, just ahead of Brian Haines/Evan Diola (Pat’s brother) and JB/Skip, and with a short beat to the finish we tucked away our first bullet in a long time.

With the breeze building we set off on a two lap course with everybody heading out to catch the ebb. We managed a decent top mark rounding and headed for current relief inshore.  While others were still looking for the breeze outside, we played a nice zone between the shore relief and the wind outside to get to the bottom mark in front with Howie/Reeve and Harrison/Jackson behind.  We held those guys off for another lap and ended up with another bullet.  The strategy for the day seemed to be all on downwind moves; upwind was nothing more than a drag race out to the ebb.

The third race looked to be a replay of the first two, but this time we started poorly and got pinned heading to the shore, while Howie/Reeve started on port below the pack, hit the ebb first and were launched.  We rounded the top mark deep, followed the pack down the shore, and then rounded the bottom mark outside a pair of boats.  We tried footing out to the ebb, which did not pay, but at the top mark we noticed something; a fog line under the bridge.  Parker/PVG noticed it first and jibe-set.  We followed, as did JB/Skip, and sure enough there was good pressure.  Parker/PVG went a little too far, and as JB/Skip tried to roll us, we jibed to stay in the pressure.  The pack in front on the shore looked slow, so we worked the middle and--- I’ll be damned--- we rounded the bottom mark in front, with JB/Skip and Parker/PVG behind.  Three bullets in one day; a rare feat for team Jeff/Pat!

The weather front moved in on Sunday, with a southerly breeze competing with the westerly.  The RC set up the course ready for the southerly, with the starting line way out past Alcatraz.  But then the westerly took over.  The catamarans started in front of us in the westerly, but our start was quickly postponed as strong southerly puffs disrupted the plans.  When things got going again, we didn’t realize a new weather mark had been set, and four boats set off with us heading for the old weather mark that the cats were still using.  The rest of the fleet laid the new weather mark on starboard (due to strong ebb), and by the time we realized what was going on we were half a mile behind.  Due to the wild 20+ knot puffs there was some carnage in front of us and so we managed a sixth.  I have no idea what happened in front of us, but the results show JB/Skip winning with the newly reunited Ted/Brian next.

The fifth and final race got underway in a strong southerly, 15-25+ knots.  We were caught on the outside of the first shift off the line, and never really recovered.  The southerly at StFYC means lots of tricky shifts near the top mark, causing lots of place changes.  Ted/Brian showed their world-class form by taking the final gun, with JB/Skip almost stealing the event with a second.  We managed a fifth place which was good enough to tie JB/Skip on points but win on the tie-breaker.

It was an exciting event beginning to end, with StFYC handling things well despite the challenging conditions on Sunday.  For several visitors from the Northwest, it was their first taste of the City Front, but given the 505-worthy conditions, I think it won’t be their last.  Overall, I think everybody agreed that the event was an extremely fair test of sailing skill and ability. ;-)



1 comment:

  1. i must say,it's a nice planing at all. What do you think about cabled weather stations for safety? As per my opinion, it can be life saving in some cases and since people can have anticipation about upcoming weather,yeah it's life saving then.