Escape from Red Rock (aka the 3 Bridge Fiasco)

(Thanks to Darren for the post title)

10 J/24s signed up for 2015’s 3 Bridge Fiasco, all in the double-handed division, the first race in our unofficial party circuit. But, spoilers! Not all of them finished.

This year’s race had echos of last – light air and heavy current foiled many best-laid plans across the 360+ boat fleet. Two J/24s – Evil Octopus and Shut Up and Drive – made it all the way around. Kudos to Jasper, Peter, Val, and Zane for sailing fast and executing well!

A few of the boats who went out were happy to share their write-ups of the event. Happy reading!

I’ll call this one ‘optimism’

Jasper (Evil Octopus):

Well, we got a gun at 16.22.15 so we must have done something right, but with the TBF you have to have a lot of luck. We were about 20 seconds late starting on port tack but that worked out OK because we were able to miss the pileup at the pin. We flopped over immediately and were on SB aiming for Angel Island and hoping to find some residual flood to shoot us towards Berkeley. Paul, Val, Darren and one other boat all went with us in that direction. Val and Paul tacked back to port early. We waited a few for minutes. Bad idea. We found very light wind and were way behind. going between Alcatraz and Angel. Darren tacked even later and looked fast for a while then hit a hole and we never saw him again. We figured there would be a big left shift after Angel Island and so we actually took a hitch between Alcatraz and Angel to set ourselves up inside the pinwheel. That worked out brilliantly. The boats that were ahead were all still aiming for the Berkeley shore while we got lifted and were having to crack off to aim straight at Red Rock. We were feeling momentarily very smart. Then of course we found another hole while the Berkeley shore got a nice thermal. All those boats passed us to leeward. By the time we got close to RR the wind really shut down. We were kind of glad to have some boats ahead of us (Paul and Val) to see which way around would work best. We finally opted for counter clockwise. But when we drew up even with the rock it was anchor time. We stayed on anchor for less than five minutes. Then anchored again. Basically just holding our spot. After another five minutes a light zephyr came in from the west and we were able to spinnaker around outside of Val who had been sucked in too close to the rock. We never saw Paul again and wondered what happened to them. Found out later that night.
The rest of the race was pretty simple. Close reach on SB until the slot. Kite up broad reach until the bridge. Clockwise around TI. No real hole behind TI to deal with. Then riding the current up to Blackaller. Set the kite there and almost got sucked back into the gate. But found just enough wind to get us home. Still don’t really know overall rseults, but we had the radio on for the last half hour and didn’t hear too many boats coming through the finish line. Three or four Moores and thre or four other boats.
We were pretty stoked to have finished the thing.
Val was right behind us and towed us into Brickyard when the wind died. Our motor mount had broken off again. Anybody know where to get a good one? Only four beers consumed each. Oh and a few sips from a flask. Good times.

(Looking south from our anchorage at Red Rock somewhere around oh, 2:30pm)

Melissa (Downtown Uproar):

That hole south of Angel just sealed the deal for us. Once we escaped that we had some really nice breeze on the east side of the shipping lane, maybe a down vector of some sort off Angel, that looked a bit faster than the breeze in the flats – really gorgeous sailing for a while. But because of that hole we got to Red Rock too late, and anchored in the current relief of the rock for .. at least an hour? Long enough to see the other 100+ boats closing under spinnaker. Pete Trachy and a J/22 anchored with us for a while and then Pete got bored (or nervous, with the almost-but-not-quite-there fleet), launched again, and veered off towards the fuel dock. We watched him gybe in place for a long time – he stayed way east until close to 3, at which point he finally took our (still anchored) transom, then headed back to catch something to the east again. After watching him make a bit of headway we launched around 3:30, sailed up to our anchor, and finally made it around CW. Watching the fleet try to make it up to RR was really entertaining – kinda like Zeno’s paradox where you cover half the remaining distance but never actually get there… Anyway we had enough breeze to get around outside of a bunch of parked (or aground) boats and start heading south – we saw Evil Octopus around 5pm? We hit the south side of TI around 6:15 and the wind shut down – we wanted to see how far we’d get since TI is home for us anyways. At 6:30 we retired and headed back, and some poor sod in a Wabbit asked if we were motoring back to Richmond – sucked to be him.

Darren (Downtown Uproar):

I’d only add the awesome sandwiches and and snacks, really enhanced our anchored picnic entertainment. We definitely suffered early on for getting too close to AI, probably leading to us not making it to RR in time. Maybe the should change the name to “Escape from Red Rock”, or at least that is the way it felt this year.

No matter how far you made it (or didn’t), the views were gorgeous.

Randall (Flight):

“You are going the wrong way”, rang in my ears on Flight most of the day. They were Jasper’s words as he and Peter came passed us on Evil Octopus going the opposite direction across the 3 Bridge Fiasco start line. Don Ford and I had decided to gamble on the breeze holding long enough for clockwise to work this year. If we could get across the gate and through Raccoon Straights ahead of the 4 knot max ebb we would sail the shortest distance to Red Rock and be golden from there. That plan worked all the way past Yellow Bluff when the NE breeze shut off in the building ebb. As we were being flushed back towards the Gate with Woof, they too questioned why they had opted to follow us the wrong way. We were almost out the gate, when I looked back at all the boats who had been outside the gate to see they were setting their kites. We set ours and when it got to us we had enough solid breeze form there to get all the way through the straits. As we were following Gordie Nash through the current relief off Tiburon, again it came to me “you are going the wrong way”. Then, it was just 3 hours of exchanging jibes in a fleet of 200 friends on 100 boats inching our way to Red Rock against the ebb. We exchanged positions with Fly By Night and our identical kite several times and as we were finally getting towards the rock, Downtown came passed having rounded in the other direction. Again, it come to me “you are going the wrong way”.
The “plan” for rounding Red Rock CCL was to give it a wide berth and stay in better air up towards the bridge. The reality was that on the first jibe back from the bridge we were sucked all the way back next to the rock. After our next jibe, we could hear the water lapping on the beach 10 feet astern. On our next jibe though, we were now out of the current had a good shot to get across in front the rock. That’s when the big boat ahead of us called back that they were aground. Don then asked them best question of the day. “How much do you draw?” When the answer was 2 feet more than a J24, I opted to go between them and the rock rather then getting stuck outside in their wind shadow.
That gamble paid off but at around 5:00 the wind had shut off in the north bay. There was no time left to continue our wrong way crusade back to finish before 7:00. Besides we were passing Richmond Yacht Club and cold beer. Motoring in we found SUAD towing Evil Octopus home with a broken motor mount. They had both finished very well going “the right way”.

Val (Shut Up and Drive):

We didn’t get a gun but were really LUCKY to finish at 4:24. 15 min before start wind died everywhere except Berkeley circle so we decided to sail where wind was less likely to die – towards Red Rock via Berkeley circle (going through Raccoon straight was too dangerous due to building ebb). Plus we thought that if we can make around Red Rock in northerly wind in the morning then we can get around TI and Blackaller in afternoon westerly. Start was crazy with starboard boats coming down at you in the row but finally we made it though. Tacked early on port and sailed into windhole in the lee of Alcatraz where spent next 20 min (lesson number 1 – do not sail too close to islands). Finally got to Berkeley circle and slowly converged with Paul, he finally tacked towards Angel and got inside huge lift, we felt so stupid not to follow him.
Arrived to Red Rock around 12 pm, about 100 yards to the island wind died. 20 more min of breeze and we would be golden! Had to drop anchor twice, raised/lower spinnaker 4 times, finally sailed too close to the rock and got stuck in classical Red Rock windhole on Richmond side (lesson number 2 – do not sail too close to islands! do we really need to do it twice to learn?). Couple gybes, and 6 beers later we finally rounded it, by that time Jasper passed us sailing just outside of our personal windhole. Rest of the race we were chasing Jasper, TI was pice of cake with steady breeze all around it. Around Yerba Buena picked up wicked ebb (GPS said we were going 8 kt!), only 4 tacks on the city front got us to Blackaller. Quick set, immediate gybe to avoid windhole towards shore with genoa up (how come with works with crew of 2 but aways fails with crew of 5?) and adverse current took us to the finish line. One more beer to celebrate the end of the race and then casual sail to Richmond where we saw that majority of boats are still around Red Rock. Well they wouldn’t call it Fiasco for no reason!

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