Its been a while since we had an enjoyable Three Bridge Fiasco. The last few years had been a story light or no wind, big currents and frustrating days. With the bar set so low by the previous years, Rob and I were ready to go at it one more time. With Rob doing the trek from Seattle just for the race (well and a little surfing on Sunday) the pressure was on to make it a worthwhile trip. The forecast wasn't exactly encouraging, with a non-traditional NE flow.
We had the usual preparations, a nice meal and some beers to 'finalize' on the strategy. A strategy that we nevertheless normally ignore by the start of the race. With the veering of the breeze we were seeing on the wind charts for the day CCW seemed the best direction for us, IF we could make it past TI. Many TBFs have ended for us by going to TI first, as it can be pretty light there in the mornings.
We made it to the start line with plenty of spare time and began re-strategizing. With the large majority of the fleet choosing a CW direction, it put our original strategy in question. We hung around the eastern side of the line to keep an eye on the boats headed to TI, while continuing to monitor the wind line pushing down from the North. CW, CCW, CW, CCW, with 2 mins to our start, we could see the wind filling in to TI and we made the call to head CCW, as originally planned.
We had a nice close reach up the city front and soon after clearing Pier 39 we deployed the code. The speedo jumped from 9 knots to 13 and we started reeling boats in. Clearly we were having way too much fun to appreciate the size of the wind shadow behind Yerba Buena. Even though we gave it a wide berth by going around the first tower, it was still too close and we ran straight into the vortex from hell. We also showed everyone behind us where not to go, so the wise ones stayed way clear of us and ghosted around the wind hole around us. We fought our way through the vortex but at a significant time cost. We found a southerly behind YB that we rode way East, to get out of the current and trying to hook back up to the main NE flow. We made that transition much more cleanly and made the Emeryville to Red Rock segment on a single tack. At one point we tried to redeploy the code but the angle was too tight for us to hold, so we jib reached the rest of the way. It was encouraging to only encounter boats coming from the other direction only past Richmond. We were feeling pretty good about our position. It was hard to see how many boats were in front of us until after we rounded Red Rock.
Next decision was whether to shoot through the straits or go around Angel. The wind direction was pointing straight through the straits, so there wasn't much discussion. We started picking up boats ahead of us, but we could still see some pesky little kites ahead. We kept the pedal down and were able to pick about 10 more boats, but eventually ran out of runway. We knew the Thompson was ahead of us, I had seen them on the back of YB when we ran into the wind hole, but they clearly had put enough distance ahead that we weren't able to see their finish. So we ended up in second place for our Sportboats fleet and top 10 overall. A pleasing day all around. The big prize was within reach this time, just one bad transition. We'll be back next year.