Three Bridge Fiasco

The 362 entries in the Singlehanded Sailing Society's 2017 edition of the Three Bridge Fiasco in San Francisco, CA had more wind than predicted, except when they had none at all. One of the factors that makes the race a "fiasco" is that the crews, all singlehanded and doublehanded, must choose which way to start and finish and which direction to sail around the three marks: Blackaller Buoy near the Golden Gate Bridge, Red Rock just south of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, and Yerba Buena Island in the middle of the Bay Bridge. The clockwise pack had a restart when the wind died north of Treasure Island. Fortunately, the current on this patch of water was mellow, though at least one boat dropped an anchor. Kame Richards, a local sailmaker and highly successful racer, offered some advice about strategy at the skippers' meeting on Wednesday. "If you go clockwise you're statistically in an okay group," he commented. Probably 95% of the racers went clockwise on Saturday, but this year it was the contrarians who finished first. "The tidebooks are going to be wrong," stated Richards. "The tides will not be normal." He was right on that score. It wasn't so simple as flood turning to ebb. Rip currents abounded. The velocity of rushing water in some places was unusual on the Bay. Patches of meringue and weird whirlpools popped up in seemingly random places, all adding to the day's challenges. With so little breeze and such strong currents, the starboard rounding of Yerba Buena was far trickier than the much earlier port rounding of it by the CCW boats had been. Some boats were dragged into the island and ran aground, others piled up into a buoy tender docked at the Coast Guard station there. Some of the clockwise crews had fretted about typically light air at Red Rock and the flood turning to ebb, so they went straight to Red Rock after the start, leaving Blackaller Buoy for last. (As it turned out, there was plenty of breeze at Red Rock, though the ebb did start early there). In the late afternoon, this group shot toward the Golden Gate Bridge on a river of 4- to 5-knot ebb. Turning toward shore, they found an equivalent back eddy of flood surrounding their last mark. As Kame explained,"When it's ebbing very hard, all the water can't fit under the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of it hits Fort Point and gets bounced back along the City-front." In the large J/105 Double class, winning was Chris Kim & Mike Lazarro’s VUJA STAR. Nearly a half hour behind them in second was Adam Spiegel & Chris Tholstrup’s JAM SESSION, with William Woodruff & Mike Weinman’s RUSSIAN ROULETTE in third, John Robison & Simon James’ LIGHTWAVE in fourth and Phil Laby & Matt Skafel’s GODOT in fifth position. Thanks for contribution from Erik Simonson.

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