Vallejo Wrapped

The Great Vallejo Race is truly one of the all time great sailing events and parties of the bay area. This year it was extremely difficult due to very light winds and strong currents. Over 200 boats registered, but less than 50 finished on Saturday. Sunday was no picnic either, although we had plenty of time to do that too. Here’s the blow by blow of the race where the wind just didn’t blow. We had four J24s on the line so we shared the starts with some other boats.

Saturday: After a last minute 90 degree wind shift Val and his crew got the best first leg. They footed off directly towards the rounding mark while the rest of us were still in automaton/point mode. The wind, such as it was, was mainly from the north so the usual lovely spinnaker run up San Pablo Bay was not to be. Many boats got stuck at Red Rock, one of the narrow stretches with consequently strong currents. Many also risked their hull by going inside the restricted area around Castro Rock. The next hurdle was the Richmond Bridge. We had to make about 6 tacks between two towers of the bridge but finally we got through. Others got caught in just a slightly different wind gap and spent hours there. After that there was an extremely funny Charlie Foxtrot at the piers off Pt Molate. One boat was stuck in the mud. Other boats were short tacking along the pier. Many oaths were flung. We stayed away from that melee, but it still took about two hours of tacking back and forth before we finally tossed out the anchor. At that point, many other boats had dropped their jibs and engaged their engines. Being on a J24 that was not really an option. What was especially frustrating was that you could see a nice breeze just a quarter mile ahead in San Pablo Bay past the Brothers. Eventually a little puff of wind allowed us to weigh anchor and move up the course. The lead had changed a few times already and would do so at least two more times. When we finally got through the spinnaker run was off-wind and an absolute blast. What a relief after all that light wind stuff. Once we entered the Mare Island channel the wind shut down again. Another mile or so of praying for puffs and at last the finish where TMC kept their focus and was able to pick off On Belay by 11 seconds. Seven and a half hours to complete 21 miles. Ouch. That night I heard so many similar stories. Many lead changes, anchors, being stuck in mud etc. etc. But the party at Vallejo was excellent. It was the best chance to catch up with sailing buddies and make new friends too.

Sunday: The race back was absolutely gorgeous. This is what it must be like for those lake sailors in the rest of the world. Nice warm breezes, sailing in t-shirts and shorts. We never get that in San Francisco. Our boat was able to short tack against the current on the left side of the channel. We were probably boat number ten out of the river. However TMC and Downtown were the heroes of the day. They were the first boats out into the bay. And for a long time they were the only ones to make it out. They stayed on the right hand side out of the current and just kept battling the flukey wind. This was quite a feat. Looking back up the river we could see the entire fleet of 200 plus boats stuck in a massive wind hole. Apparently more than thirty of them had dropped anchor and of course that was the moment the Vallejo ferry decided to show up. I’m sure that was the reason I saw so many red flags flying off the sterns of finishing boats.

Speaking of red flags, we learned a valuable rules lesson on Sunday. At the start there wasn’t the usual RC boat on the starboard side of an upwind start. The Race Committee was on shore on the left side with a pin on the right and the wind coming from the right too. We were on starboard tack on the layline for the right hand side pin. But another boat came in on our right. We called “leeward-boat” a few times but they refused to budge. Then the starting gun went off and our skipper decided not to push the issue. Probably a good call since the windward boat was rather big and couldn’t really move as quickly as us. But still, we ended up in their foul air and the other starters below us walked away. The team discussion afterwards revolved around the question of whether the starting pin was a regular mark and whether they had “inside” room rights. They didn’t (see Preamble to Section C of the RRS). Also we wondered if, after the starting gun, we had to go straight at the line instead of at the pin (Rule 17). We didn’t. Overlap was not established from clear astern and also ‘proper course’ is too subjective at the starting line. Lesson learned: When you can anticipate a different type of start than usual read the rules and know ‘em. Lesson two: Stay away from marshmallows.
Next up: Elite Keel. Woohooo.

2 Responses to “Vallejo Wrapped”

  1. matt_h says:

    Congratulations to those of you that made it – quite a display of commitment! We (Cry Havoc), didn’t make it past Red Rock, and retired a little after 3pm. Yes, not much staying power. The sail back to Gas House Cove was fun, with >20knots in the slot as usual – go figure.

    • admin says:

      Matt, check out the corrected times. Yes it was a horrible slog and we can’t blame you for bailin’. But the J24’s smoked the other boats just because we were (barely) able to move in the light stuff.

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