Regatta Report by USA 4:
The SF Classic and UN Challenge is an endurance race like no other. It is the longest long distance windsurfing race in the U.S. and the world. It takes windsurfers, and this year kite-boarders, on a wild ride outside the Golden Gate Bridge, then criss-crossing the central San Francisco Bay; down to Berkeley; and then back up to a finish line in front of the St. Francis Yacht Club. Below is a regatta report from the race on Saturday. More info can be found on my website at www.stevebodner.com
Enjoy the ride…I know I did!
I went into Saturday's race with a positive attitude- thinking I had a good chance at the top 3 or 4 places. I had the board speed, the tactics and the endurance for the long distance race ahead of me.
First big decision was what to rig. I had sailed the 9.0 for the first time this season the day before and it was just a great sail-perfectly balanced on the Mikes Lab 06 Formula board and 65 cm kashy fin. The SF Classic course has a lot of reaching so I decided on the 9.0 as it's been getting big the last few afternoons and conditions can change so much across the bay. Normally for formula windward leeward racing I would choose a 10.0 as my small sail as you want to be prepared for the lulls. I just wanted to survive this race!
The starting line was set just off of Crissy Field on the San Francisco city front. The breeze was still lighter on the inside near the shore so I decided to start on port tack near the boat to get out to the wind line first. I came down the line, ducking most of the starboard tackers and shot up getting a clear lane. As the fleet progressed up to windward, I was closing the angle on the guys who started above me on port. At the top mark, it was Steve Sylvester, Bill Weir, and Chris Radkowski, all local formula windsurfers, in front of me.
The first reach down was light so we all gybed early and came into the boat at the north tower with speed. I was able to pass 'C-Rad' here but knew I had to keep the leaders in sight. As we shot across the bay to the Presidio shoal, I knew the 9.0 was a good decision as it was a solid 18-22 knots already.
Unfortunately at the shoal marker we all came to stand still for several minutes as we sailed into a wind shadow below Fort Point. The rest of the fleet caught up like they were being dumped from an escalator. The top 3 exited just as they arrived and we were on to lap 2 of the top triangle. I overstood the red nun, just outside the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge as to come in with speed and tack around as close to the mark as possible. There was a strong flood up at the top of the course making it difficult to get around the mark.
As we sailed downwind again, it was evident Weir with his 9.8 sail was going deeper than Sylvester and I on our 9.0s. Sylvester went high and had to double gybe to make the boat stationed just inside the north tower. I stayed as deep as I could but was well high of the mark and gybed with Mike Zajicek on my hip at the mark.
As we reached across the bay towards Anita Rock, I felt Zajicek putting on the pressure. I was in control on the 9.0 but certainly not pushing the envelope as there was some San Francisco voodoo chop to deal with. I had enough speed to keep Zajicek off my tail and rounded Anita Rock in 3rd behind Weir and Sylvester. Weir went low on the next leg and I stayed in the outside strap for more speed and rolled over the top of him. With Sylvester 20 seconds ahead I found my pace for the rest of the race.
Once we rounded Harding Rock, just west of Angel Island, there was some commotion on the water as there was a capsized yacht nearby. I didn't think twice as there was another sailboat on station helping out. It's a split second decision you make and since Sylvester didn't show any signs of stopping, I kept going strong in route to Blossom on the other side of the Bay. I was just concentrated on the gnarly chop 10' in front of me. Several guys in our fleet, just behind the leaders, stopped to assist the situation as they saw several kids in the water and sailboat sinking!
Once below Alcatraz on the reaches, the 9.0 was still a handful but I was doing everything to stay sheeting in with power and control. I looked behind several times and saw David Wells pushing Zajicek but not closing the gap any one me. With each rounding (and there are several down there) I counted the seconds between Sylvester 's rounding in front of me and my rounding. I tried to knock off a few seconds each rounding but the old man never let up! Sylvester is nearly double my age at 58 years old and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. It got really ugly in the middle of the bay once we rounded the R4 buoy and headed deep downwind towards the end of the Berkeley Pier. I was just hoping to survive with my foot in the leeward strap, straddling the 3' wide formula board, and surfing down some decent 4' chop and swell.
Once around the Berkeley pier it was smooth sailing on a beam to broad reach to the Olympic circle mark X. I'm glad I had Sylvester in front or I would have never found that mark! One more reach to the finish! I was able to hold off Zajicek and Wells from behind and finished 2nd about 1 minute behind Sylvester for a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 7 seconds.
Going back upwind proved to be another endurance marathon. With no required roundings, the Ultra Nectar Challenge is an open course back to the St. Francis Yacht Club where we started the race. I was certainly glad I had a 9.0 at this point, as it was an uphill battle through the chop and swell. With Sylvester leading the way out, we sailed through a lot of weeds just south west of the end of the Berkeley Pier. Sylvester got caught up in some of them and went down to clear his fin. I motored past him and was in the lead! At this point I had lost track of Zajicek, as his dark sail was just too hard to see on the water from across the Bay. I made my way over to Angel Island with Sylvester in tow and crossed the bay again back to the San Francisco city front where Zajicek crossed me. He had tacked back early to stay out of the stronger winds and in the favorable ebb tide up the city front. I knew at that point he had made up at least 30 seconds on my time so catching him on time would be difficult. I sailed back to the middle of the bay hoping to stay powered but overstood the finish line and came reaching in with speed only to have Zajicek finish 1 minute and change in front of me to take gun. Sylvester finished just behind me in 3rd but Weir beat him as he had a better overall time coming back up wind for the Challenge. Behind us, the rest of the fleet came one by one, spread across the 45 minutes.
More amazing were the kite boarders who attempted this course for the first time this year. Several made it all the way around and logged over 50 miles on their gps. It was certainly a pleasure to share the course with them take part in a history in the making for our two sports.
Lots of thanks to the volunteers doing race committee this w-end, the StFYC, Longboard vineyards, and Ultra Nectar for their support.