JetStream Racing

JetStream Racing

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

2020 SSS Round the Rocks

Beginning of a New Era

There is not much good that can be said about 2020, it's been a challenging year and one that has required everyone to work outside their comfort zone and think outside the box.  Our normal routines have been upended, but if you look closely there are possibilities for new things to emerge.  In time of uncertainty, you best just play the odds.  We've taken some calculated gambles this year, but before we packed up for the Midwest we had a shot at one last sailboat race in the SF Bay.  The SSS Round the Rocks race is a nice Bay tour that starts us in the Berkley flats, takes us all the way near the South Tower of the Golden Gate, through the picturesque Racoon Straits in Tiburon, gives us a peak into San Pablo Bay as we round The Brothers and finishes up in the Richmond Harbor.

In any other year, one of my regular crew would have flown down to do this race doublehanded, but that wasn't going to happen this year, and further restrictions asked for doublehanded crews to be part of a household or 'social bubble'.   I could always do the race singlehanded, but there was another option.  My 10 yr old son had been lucky to join one of the only summer camps available this year, Encinal YC Sailing Camp.  He spent 4 days a week, for six weeks sailing up and down the Oakland Estuary on a little Opti.  He also joined me as crew for the Wed and Fri night races that started up mid summer in the Estuary.  He has been sailing/racing on board JetStream and Outsider in the Estuary for years, but the Central Bay is a different game.  After explaining to him that it would be a long day in the water, and windy and cold, he didn't hesitate when I asked him to crew for me on the race.

I'll let him tell the rest of the story:


It began with a cloudy morning in Alameda, California, where me and my dad were getting prepared for the biggest sailboat race of my life. I was really excited for the race to start.

When me and my dad got out to the bay, it was really windy and wavy, and then I was starting to get a little nervous. But when it got sunny I started to feel better. At that point we were still motoring out to the start. But when my dad was lifting up the mainsail, the halyard broke, but luckily we got the sail up in time.

When it was our starting sequence we started lifting up the jib (the small sail in front of the boat) and I started cranking it in. When our start was at about 30 seconds I started taking deep deep breaths, Then our start was at 20 seconds, 10 seconds, 5,4,3,2,1 and then the start horn went off. We were off to a fine start at about 4th or 5th then started working our way up the fleet slowly. When we rounded the 1st windward mark we were currently in 1st place in our fleet rounding the mark and making our way upwind to the Golden Gate Bridge.

When we rounded Blackaller my dad handed me the tiller. We were moving quickly on the reach and hit a max speed of 19 kts on our way to these two islands called The Brothers. After The Brothers I handed the tiller back to my dad.

When rounding the brothers I thought to myself “almost there Alex, keep up the good work just 2 more legs to go”. The next mark we needed to round was Red Rock, and after that was the finish so this was the time we needed to concentrate, but when I looked back to see if there were any opponent boats, all I saw were some boats that weren't in our division, so that was a relief. Now all we needed to do now was focus and concentrate on rounding the next mark.

We finally rounded Red Rock and the finish was just a few hundred yards away and still no opponent in sight, and I started feeling good I just kept saying to myself almost there Alex, almost there. Then my dad stopped the timer and we finished the race at 2:36:05. But we can’t celebrate yet because we still need to sail all the way back to Alameda in even windier conditions than at the start of the race. When we were done sailing across the bay all we needed to do was sail down the estuary, park our boat at the docks and put the boat away and fix the halyard which would take my dad the rest of the day, as I went home to get warm. The day was complete. When I got home I was really happy and proud of myself, and stuffed myself full of candy.

Still in training, but he turned out to be an excellent crew, and yes, we won our division. That will keep him coming back.

Monday, January 28, 2019

2019 TBF

A happy TBF

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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

2018 Big Boat Series

Big Boat Series

by Daniel Forster

It would be fair for you to ask, how can the JS9000 be in the Big Boat Series?  When did a 30' boat with less than a 6' beam become a big boat?  The answer lies in that we are a fast little sportboat and a few other sportboat owners had been lobbying the organizers to create a sportboat division.  They were granted a division last year for the first time, though we didn't participate.  But this year we signed up, with the encouragement and excitement of my 'traditional' crew, Andrew and Rob. 

It would take a few hoops to get us entered.  The majority of the division wanted to race under ORR rating instead of PHRF.  Personally, as long as it provided for competitive racing I was happy with either choice, but I do believe that the ORR rating resulted in tight results.  I also like the fact that ORR allows for multiple ratings based on the course type, which I believe its critical for sportboats, as our downwind speeds can be dramatically higher that our upwind speeds.  After a few rounds with the rating agency, the designer and evening of measurements, we got the rating just two days before the first gun.

Although this year wouldn't be an ideal year for our boat we signed up anyways.  Not ideal because all of the racing would be done with the current flooding into San Francisco Bay.  This means that the upwind legs would be longer and the downwind legs would be shorter.  For the characteristics of the JS we much prefer the reverse, an ebb current into the bay which would make for shorter upwind legs and longer downwind ones.  But that wasn't enough to keep us from racing.  Conditions in SF Bay in September are usually the type of conditions we like with 15 - 25 knots of wind, so as my friend Tom says, "Boogity Boogity Boogity, Lets Go Racing!"

Took a few weekends to prep the boat, elbow grease to buff and polish the hull with multiple applications.  We had a nice new suit of mainsail and jib, and a couple of A2s, and A5 and a Code 0 in our arsenal. 

This is a grueling regatta with 4 days of racing and 7 races in total, with courses around the 15 - 20  mile range.  Though the goal was to have our own sportboat division, some sportboats didn't sign up until the last minute. So instead of racing in a class of 7 similar boats, we got grouped in a 14 boat division with J-111s and J-125s, boats much larger than us.  This would make the starts problematic for us.

Day 1

Race 1 (10th)

Not a good start, literally.  Breeze filled in early for our first start.  It was already blowing around 12 -15 knots with a forecast calling to build up during the day.  It was the first start and though I set up for a conservative start, but I set up too early near the boat end.  I had some room to leeward and tried to close the gap when another boat tried to come in and hook us, but to avoid risking going over early and giving up all my leeward room I came up too early and allowed the trailing boat in.  Now I was trapped between a 40 footer to windward and a boat right on my leeward hip.  With everybody pushing hard, I thought we were all over the line early.  In the mayhem the boat that hooked us last minute call a protest on us for not giving them room (which I thought was aggressive and premature).  I was pretty sure we had been over early and in the chaos we couldn't hear what boats the RC called back.  So we started the first race with a return to the start line and taking a penalty.  Not the way to start a regatta.  Nevertheless, we worked hard on our boat speed and tried to be smart about our strategy around the course.  But being the slowest boat (upwind) of the division we quickly got disconnected from the rest of the fleet.  We will learn quickly to get over the frustration of not competing boat for boat, and rely on the rating system to do its work.   We got a disappointing 10th place.

Race 2 (4th)

I was determined to redeem myself from the bad start on the first race.  I would have to find clear air and a lane, downwind of any boat that could point higher than us (which is mostly every other boat).  So I approached late from the pin and tacked below the early starboard boats.  Most of the fleet was on the boat side of the line so we were in a much better position.  It wasn't an ideal position since the right side of the course was favored, but at least it would give us a clear lane to the first windward mark after everyone flopped over to port.  This worked pretty and though we would round the windward mark last (this will be a common theme), we were still connected with the fleet.  And on the first downwind leg we would close the gap significantly with the rest of the fleet.  We had great downwind speed.  The second upwind leg, would take us all the way to Pt. Diablo outside the Golden Gate, for a fast downwind finish in the city front, right in front of the club.  Though that upwind leg to Pt. Diablo was an arduous 7.5 mile procession, we got lit up on the downwind run to the finish, and claimed a 4th place in the race (only 1 sec out of 3rd).

This great downwind run and the good result greatly lifted our morale for the rest of the weekend to come.  We can compete.

Day 2

Friday was a roller coaster

Race 3 (2nd) 

I was in a better place on how to put us in a good spot on the starts and we were feeling pretty confident in our ability to compete after the second race.  We were pumped to go out and push hard.  In the moderate conditions we had solid boat speed and we called the tactics properly.  We ended with a 2nd on this race.  At this point we were starting to believe that we had a chance to podium.  One of the J-111s and the Melges 32 were pulling away from the fleet, but if we could keep thing clean a 3rd wasn't out of the question.  

Race 4 (12th)

With the forecast calling for a buildup, I elected to go with our smaller jib.   It had payed up in the previous afternoon.  But soon after the start the wind started to drop and we began to loose boat speed.  We also stripped the cover of the jib halyard from it rubbing with something down below and we started to loose jib halyard tension.  For an over 5 mile upwind leg this will prove disastrous.   The fleet just ran away from us.  By the time we rounded the windward mark I was determined to switch back up to our larger jib.  As we set up on downwind run back to the Berkeley Circle, Rob went forward to work on the jib change.  Our jibs are hanked on, and the deck is probably a foot wide by the headstay so the bow guy is VERY exposed up there.   By now we had crossed to the North side of the Bay and the wind started picking up dramatically. We were close to our lay line but I wouldn't jibe the boat with Rob on the foredeck as we were running at 16 knots.  As soon as Rob got the small jib down below we did our jibe but at this point we had overstood the leeward mark.  At this point we didn't have a headsail hanked on and we are screaming at 18+ knots towards the leeward mark.  Rob grabbed the big jib and went to work while water and waves tried to throw him off the boat.  By now I was regretting my call to change jibs, I was confident that Rob could do it, but it wasn't a smart call, and throwing Rob overboard would certainly put an end to the day's racing.   It got close a couple of times.  Somehow he managed to keep the sail on the boat and get it hanked on while hanging on.  With the big jib up, we doused the spinnaker early and reached back to the mark we overstood.  The next upwind leg was probably the low of the regatta.  We now had the wrong sail up again, we had lost time by overstanding the mark, Rob was justifiably pissed about what I had asked him to do and we had another long upwind leg back Pt. Diablo before the finish.   To cap it all,  a few hundred meters from the finish line we had to punch through some ferry wakes that went straight through the tack of the spinnaker, making our A2 explode into shreds.   We cleaned up the mess and limped to the finish on white sails....  With a spinnaker in the dumpster and brand new jib halyard on order, and the fact that we didn't catch any of the good action on video, it was a good thing it was Mt Gay night at the club.  Dark and Stormies were flowing.

Day 3

It blew!!!  At dawn it was already blowing 20 knots across the bay with the forecast building to 30 knots.

Race 5 (11th)

We probably had our best start of the regatta.  It was wild at the start line with the winds in the low 20s and all the boats on our division reaching fast up and down the line.   I had planned for a boat end start, second row if necessary, but by being slightly late we nailed the boat just a few seconds after the gun with a clean lane.  As you know by now it was another long beat against a building flood.    Though we went to play the cone behind Alcatraz, many boats went above Alcatraz taking advantage of the last of the ebb/slack on the North side of the Bay.   That move payed up for them and the stretched out a bit on us.  Our new jib halyard was great, holding great tension on the nuking conditions.  We used our A5 since it was now in the solid 20s and that was a great sail for us, catching up boats on our first downwind run, until, our tackline soft shackle broke.   We brought the spinnaker down, but by the time Rob was able to retrieve the tack line from the sprit it was too late to reset.  We lost quite a bit of ground with this breakage and ended with another disappointing finish.  This result would surely now put us out of podium contention.

Race 6 (6th)

In between races, even though the forecast called for building conditions throughout the day the wind significantly dropped to the low teens while we waited for our next start.  Even though our small jib had served us well in the morning race, I decided to switch up.  I didn't want a repeat of poor upwind speed during our long legs.  This will prove to be the wrong call, as minutes before the start the fog started to roll in over the South Tower of the Golden Gate, and within 15 minutes it was now blowing a solid 20 - 25.  It was still mostly flat water (because of the flood) so I could still depower the boat, but it would have been faster and definitely more comfortable to have the smaller jib up.  The RC had called for a very long race (over 19 miles) so this would be brutal.  Luckily they shorten course and finished us after the second downwind run.  Lets talk a little bit about that second downwind run.  It was a run from Blackaller to Blossom.  It started with strong conditions at Blackaller which prompted us to put our big A2 kite up, but it built up to the high 20s by the time we reached Alcatraz.  The starboard leg from Alcatraz to Blossom is probably one of our most memorable to date, with the boat completely lighting up.  I talked a bit about Rob heroics on the foredeck on previous races.  But on this race, in these conditions, is where Andrew shines.  I wouldn't want anyone else holding the spinnaker sheet.  The combined knowledge that we have of each others tendencies and the characteristics of the boat allows us to push to the edge.  On this run we were holding 19 - 20 knots of boat speed, when a puff hit us and launched the boat.  I'm not sure I had felt that acceleration before on the boat, and a quick glance to the knotmeter showed a surprising 23 and 24 knots of boatspeed.  We hadn't gone this fast on JetStream before, and this without any wave (surf) assist.    After this results didn't matter as much.  This is what we had come together for, and we were satisfied to be pushing ours and the boats boundaries.

Day 4

Race 7 (4th)

Last race.  Everybody is pretty sore at this point.  But the night before we had a great dinner and drinks with our friends and crew of the Flying Tiger, so we were all in good spirits.  This would be a long bay tour and we played it conservatively again, sailing our boat and minimizing mistakes.   We finished with a nice A5 broad reach into the race deck of the club, with the fleet of Pac52s on our heels.  It was a good end to the weekend.

Results ORR B


  1. Consistency.  Especially in a large fleet, just can't allow big mistakes like bad starts and/or penalties.  Though we race often, the caliber and number of good boats on the same line is not something we get exposed to often in some of our other racing.  Understanding the potentials of the boats and crews around you is critical. 
  2. Upwind sail selection.  Time-wise, we probably spend 80% of the time going upwind.  Races will be won on the upwind legs.  In anything above 15 knots it is almost impossible (well possible for a few, but not a smart choice) to do a headsail change on the JS on the downwind legs.  So we need a sails with wide ranges as the conditions can change dramatically during a 3 hr race.   With our new larger main, I think we have a good setup for 15 and under with the #2.5 jib, and also a good setup for 20+ with our #4.  But in the 15 to 20 range we are too powered up with the larger jib and painfully underpowered, particularly in the lulls, with the #4.  So we might need to invest in a proper #3 for the mid range.
  3. Currents. Though by now I think I have a fairly good understanding of the currents in the Bay, at least in two (maybe 3) upwind legs I didn't play them optimally.  We missed going deep into Sausalito for relief, because I was tempted by a header to tack back into the Bay.  That didn't pay up.  I also missed going above Alcatraz from TI to a mark near the city front during the beginning of the flood.
  4. Sail the boat. Particularly in fleets with a wide rating band, and especially on the slow end of the band, it was critical that we just sailed our boat.  After the first few minutes from the start we just needed to focus on us and our boat.  Trying to match anyone else's angles, etc, just had us going slower around the course.  Sailing our boat for the conditions kept us in the game.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A different type of Delta Ditch

I see it has been a long time since I last posted.  But this last weekend was a memorable one in more ways than one.

Before this weekend, it is worth mentioning that the JetStream crew joined Greg and Karl on Outsider for a division win in the Spinnaker Cup and a second overall (just a minute behind in corrected).

With the Delta Ditch the following weekend, and the JetStream crew getting back together again for a another run, the anticipation was building.  We were all excited that this would be a trailer delivery instead of the usual 13 hours upwind slug from Stockton to Alameda.  The boat however still needed some preparations so Rob and I spent most of Memorial day preparing the boat for trailering.  Still everything hadn't been done, so Friday turned into another boat work day.

Oh, and this year we also updated the sailplan on JetStream, with a longer boom and a bigger main to help in lighter conditions.

Drilling into solid steel

One of the main items to convert the boat for trailering was attaching a hoist ring to the keel in order to retract it and set the boat lower on the trailer, safe enough for highway speeds.  The keel on the JS fits inside a trunk that goes all the way to the deck, also serving as the mast step.  The keel already had a threaded hole on the top of it, but in the down position it wasn't possible to screw in a hoisting ring, at least none I could find would fit.  So we decided to drill a new hole a bit further back with enough clearance to screw in the hoist ring.

With my drill bits and tap for a 5/8th hoist ring, my electric drill and some cutting oil ready, I set out to just drill a hole.  Clearly I have never tried to drill a hole into hard solid steel before.  A small pilot hole went in quite readily, this was looking like an easy job.  But as I started to upsize my drill bit, I quickly discover that my choice of hole position wasn't ideal as it was split between the core steel and the encasing fiberglass.  Guess which way the drill wanted to go?  So change of plan, and start drilling at a slight angle to get back to the steel.  To keep this short, a trip to home depot and 4 hours or drilling later I had my hole.  The actual raising of the keel would have to wait until we arrived at Stockton since the mast needs to be down to be able to raise the keel with the boat hoist.  In the meantime Andrew build 20 beautiful splices for the 5 point hoisting strop, while Rob fixed our forward bilge pump, restrung some foredeck rigging and dealt with some cabling issues down below.  Full days work for the whole crew.


Its the Delta Ditch, who needs a forecast.  There was to be a 30 degree differential between the coast and Stockton, that is at least 25 knots of wind.  The forecasters clearly didn't know what they were saying when then were forecasting 0-10 knots throughout the course.  Nah, its going to blow, lets go racing

Race Day

We woke up to a warm morning with no marine layer.  Hmm, not a good sign, but its the Delta Ditch, nothing to worry about.  Just to make sure there would be wind I dressed in just short and t-shirt, not the usual base layer.  Clearly tempting nature this way would ensure payback in the form of wind and spray.  Its over a 2 hr delivery from Alameda to Richmond where the race starts so we were off the dock at 7:30.

As we got to the start area, we went to run the line and quickly found the muddy bottom of the bay since the race committee set the boat end of the line in 5 feet of water.  A quick backing of the main and a heavy heel quickly freed us.  A few words with the race committee and they quickly moved the boat to navigable waters.

With enough breeze on the course we got off with a nicely timed downwind start on a spinnaker run towards San Pablo Bay.  Played the shore side to avoid the worst of the ebb and this was looking like a good day.  After turning Pt. San Pablo, the first signs of trouble showed themselves.  The breeze began to lighten and we could see the end of the wind ahead.  For us it was a chance for a restart, as we caught up to the larger boats and multihulls ahead.  Next decision was how to setup for the next transition, should we go towards the channel or stay inshore?  Did the forecasters get it right?

Mistake.  We anticipated a current change that didn't quite materialized and by choosing the channel, half of the fleet got by us on the inside as we made our way back to shore.  Little by little we picked up the boats in front and after a good move in Vallejo we were back with the front runners.  The leg through Suisun Bay was both challenging and fun.  With a variety of conditions and a couple of windholes it was a cat and mouse game with the boats around.  Different boats excelling on different conditions resulting in many position changes.

It was now around 4 o'clock and we were still at Pittsburg, it wasn't going to be a record breaking year.  Normally we would have been very frustrated in these conditions, but the new larger main seems to have given the boat the performance to be competitive in the lighter conditions.  I guess the forecasters were right.  I'm sure we all knew they would be, we just didn't want to admit it to ourselves.  By this point we were committed, the trailer was waiting for us at Stockton and we only had enough fuel to push us a few miles, we still had over 30 miles to cover.

Pittsburg delivered another wind hole, but as the trailing boats brought the wind with them we started to build up our lead again.   This time we didn't miss mark '19'.  In the moderate conditions its a little easier to track it down.  And by habit be brought down the kite as we rounded it.  This was a bad move as some of the boats behind kept their kites up for a while and made some gains on us.  Around the top of the hump it was a battle with a F31 Tri and a Melges 24.  As conditions continues to lighten it was a battle that we lost.  By the end of the hump another Melges 24 also caught up.  We managed to hold them off for a couple of miles but they eventually were able to reach over us and get ahead.  It was getting dark now, spirits were still very good on board.  It had been a long day but one that was pretty satisfactory and the end of the race was near.  We made some bets on finishing time, mine being the most conservative at 10:30 pm.  But there was no evening breeze and as the night set in, the breeze decided to go to sleep as well.  We were now drifting towards the finish line, with a surprising late running flood still pushing us slightly towards Stockton Sailing Club.  

Needless to say 10:30pm came and went.  We drifted by the always partying 'Lost Isle', got buzzed by a few power boaters going way too fast on a dark night and continued to creep ever so slightly towards the finish.  Around midnight we passed the F-31 that had previously passed us, and caught up with the J-111 that was also struggling keeping the boat pointed in the right direction on the conditions.  But we could see the finish line ahead.  It was a bit annoying that the race deck was sounding the 'finish' horn to every boat that had pulled the plug and motored in.  I guess they too had been waiting a long time to do 'something'.  It was looking like we will finish after all, still dead calm, but enough current to get us to about 30 feet from the finish line.  And then 1 am came.  I had not bothered to check the race instructions for a 'time limit'.  It is the Delta Ditch, it always blows.    But as we sat motionless to leeward, urging the boat to keep creeping towards the finish line, the current finally turned and the stroke of 1 am meant we will not finish the race.  We would have been the 4th monohull across the line.

Post Race

After putting the boat away we set off to make camp for the night.  I had packed the Jeep the day before with our camping gear and delivered it with the trailer.  As we are unpacking the car, the camping chairs came out, so did the sleeping bags and sleeping pads, but where is the tent?  Well, clearly I didn't pack it.  We decided to grab some food first and figure our next move while we ate, it was now well past 2 am.  Luckily they had saved some ribs for us and we got some needed calories before calling it a night.  It was decided, Rob and Andrew would sleep on the truck, and I would crawl back to JetStream to try to find a dry spot to lay down for a few hours.

The Keel

Maybe you've read some of our previous delivery stories.  Taking the boat back to Alameda over the water is a 13 hour upwind ordeal.  This year I had prepped the boat to deliver back on a trailer at 60 mph.    We had worked hard making some modifications to the boat and Greg hooked us up with a trailer.  We were able to push the rudder out from under the boat while the boat was in the water.  The mast quickly came down, all was left was to raise the keel with the hoist and drop the boat on the trailer for the ride home.   Raising the keel was the only unknown.  The keel on JetStream had been secured in the down position probably since the boat got put together.    We took off the 3 traverse bolts keeping it in place and set to raise it.  Well, it didn't move.  After over 4 hours in the 100 degrees of Stockton trying to raise the keel, we gave up.  The keel looks to be very aggressively shimmed in place and all the friction was preventing the keel from releasing.  The story is not over.... the boat is still in Stockton where our friend Chris is trying to work his magic, and if that doesn't work a trip to the local boat yard is on deck to release the stubborn keel.

Always an adventure

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Be willing to throw away a perfectly laid plan

Its that time of the year again, last weekend of January and with it  comes the SSS Three Bridge Fiasco.  This years version attracted a record crowd of 368, all sailing single or double handed.  This year I entered JetStream in the singlehanded division.

We all knew it was going to be a tough race, with a strong ebb dominating the day and two wind main wind events during the day.  The first starters were to see a solid Northerly giving way to a Westerly at 'some point' later in the morning.

With the strong ebb in the middle of the race, the plan was set: take Red Rock out of the equation by knocking it out first.  For the other marks there is always a play regardless of the current, but getting around Red Rock on a full ebb can bring the toughest sailors to desperation.

I dropped and clean the boat Friday night as it would be an early start on Saturday.  All night Friday the wind was howling at our home on the Oakland Hills.   Good omen perhaps.   It was still blowing strong we I left at 6 am.  After breakfast at Oles with a few other crews we set off to the starting line.  A busier than normal delivery since there was no one else on the boat to rig it up and prepare it for racing.  Autopilot on, I got to the process of rigging everything up.  With a nice Northerly filling the bay I hoisted the main on the lee of Treasure Island and put the outboard away.  Took a quick detour to scout our escape lane.

The plan was after the start to head North over the top of Alcatraz and over towards the Berkeley flats (as a hedge for current relief).  Checked a few other boats on the earlier starts with the same plan and it was looking good.

But in this sport your best plans are often spoiled.  Not ten minutes after our start at 10:12 the Northerly on the Central Bay started to teeter off and five minutes later it was gone.  Shut down.  This left me drifting in 100 feet of water with no hope to anchor at the mercy of the building ebb.    And the ebb did build, putting us on a fast track towards the North Tower of the Golden Gate.  Would this be a repeat of last year??  It wasn't for the lack of trying... I tried the Code Zero, then the kite, then the Zero again, maybe the jib would be a better drifter, so we tried that again, as we continued on our West bound trajectory.  All that work got me pretty hungry so I decided to break for lunch before deciding my next move.  By this time the radio was already filling the air with drop out calls and things weren't looking that promising for me.  Around 11:45 the kites under the gate began to billow.  The Westerly was here, and in good time, as we were now just half a mile from exiting the bay.

What now, is almost two hours from our original start time and we are still nowhere from a racing perspective.   I was still hoping to get North and never thought of given my current position of abeam of Blackaller and less than a mile away to just knock that off (something to consider next time).  So kite up and we started working our way East, with an ebb already pushing pretty hard against us.   On my last gybe before heading North I noticed another parking lot just East of Pt. Blunt, while all the boats near Yerba Buena looked powered up.  I've lost races trying to get around Yerba Buena on a ebb but I though I had good boat speed to tackle it.  So there went the plan to take out Red Rock first.  Off to Yerba Buena.

I took another gybe just to make the approach on less current closer to Treasure Island.  It paid off, I made quite a bit of ground on the boats in front.  But at some point you need to stick your nose out, and the river was flowing....  The first attempt to clear the corner failed, but on the second try, only a few away from some really scary rocks we got through.

The next piece was some of the nicest sailing to be had.  Clear sky, nice 10 knots close reaching with full VMG towards Red Rock.  Took advantage of some ebb out of the South Bay, the hedging towards the Bekeley flats to avoid the ebb.    The ebb was there, as I quickly approached the whole Northern fleet just sitting there, a mile South of Red Rock, not able to make any more Northern progress.  And so we joined them.  It took us and hour and a half to cover that mile.  The 2 knots of boat speed just wasn't a match for the full ebb.  We finally managed to get around Red Rock at 4:30 pm.  Only two and a half ours to complete the course, we still needed to round Blackaller (wishing now I would have rounded it when the breeze first filled in).  We still had some (now) favorable current and so we started our beat towards Racoon Straits.  While most boats tacked South after RR, we stayed on port tack towards the Marin shore and better pressure.  This was the best move of the day.   It payed hugely.  We rode the last of the ebb to the South edge of Racoon Straits and played the shifts along the shore.  And as we exited the straits we got greeted by a solid SWesterly.  Even with the now building flood it was a fun and quick ride South across the Bay.   I started catching up some boats ahead of me.

It was dark now.  Even with an almost full moon it is nearly impossible to find the unlit Blackaller buoy.  There was an Antrim27 and a Synergy1000 just in front of me at mark, that did the mark finding for me.  They were both doublehanded so I wasn't officially racing them, but it was nice to pull a singlehanded gybe set at the mark, get out the flood first and beat them to the finish line.  It was an exciting last run to close the race doing 12 knots in a moonlit night, finishing a little over 8 hours after we started.

Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Vallejo Season Opener

Rob, Andrew and I raced the Vallejo Season Opener this past weekend.  The forecast for the race was a little mixed with a couple of fronts coming through the weekend.  We would have a very competitive fleet in the Sportboat1 division with a couple of heavy hitters: the always competitive J90, a pair of Tigers, a pair of 1D35 and the new Melges30 Rufless.  It was going to be a fight.

Saturday started really light. After a 1 hr postponement the RC was able to start two fleets, but as the final countdown to our start was about to expire, with all boats drifting backwards on the line, the RC was kind enough to postpone again.  No complaints on our side, we were happy to sit it out and wait for the westerlies to fill in.  After another 30 minutes or so, it did start to fill in and we were sent on our way.  We almost pulled off the port start, but not making it cost us dearly.  It was still pretty light and the better light air boats started to pull away as we struggled to find a good lane.  Halfway up to the windward mark we recovered a bit and set our sights for the long downwind run to Vallejo.  We set the kite at the mark and started chasing the boats ahead.  Rufless and AlphaPuppy (1d35) had extended out at this point.  The breeze hadn't fully filled in so everyone parked it up behind Angel Island.   We took advantage of the restart.  We stayed to windward, with Rufless and AP to leeward.  They hooked up to the new NW breeze first, but it wasn't long before it got to us.  Back to white sails and back on the chase.  We closed reached all the way up Richmond to San Pablo point.  After the bridge we dove down to shore to get some current relief and it paid off for all the boats that did it.  We were still running third on our fleet at this point.  We got to the San Pablo mark and turned right towards Vallejo.  We could see that the two leading boats in our fleet hadn't set their kites... The wind was far enough back that we could hold our A2 so we set right away and got to chasing again.  We started making some big gains.  Halfway to Pinole the breeze started to build and we could no longer hold our angle, down with the A2 and up with the Code0.  This transition across San Pablo Bay has become the deal maker for us.  In this mode we separate from the fleet.  Up ahead still, Rufless now had their kite up and were extending.  That Melges 30 on the right hands is one hell of a fast boat...  Past Pinole Pt we went back to our A2.  We passed AP, but Rufless has still leading and we weren't closing the gap.  We would have to see how the correction worked out at the end.  We stayed right by the fuel docks, but switched over to the left at the wall and short gybed all the way down the wall to the Mare Island entrance.  It got pretty exciting down the wall, we were steadily holding 17s and 18s through this section.

Around the point it got a bit frustrating.  There was a strong ebb coming down the Napa river and the wind was just a set of gusts from 0 - 20 with 30 degree shifts...  We stayed close to the middle not wanting to risk having to tack later on.  But the current relief close to the East bank payed off for the boats willing to risk it.  We crossed the line behind Rufless so we will have to wait for the results to see if we would correct out in front or not.

All week we had been trying to figure out what to do overnight.  Both marinas at Vallejo had depth problems as they hadn't dredged and we didn't want to sit in the bottom all night.  The folks at Glen Cove marina had assured us that they had 8 - 9 feet of water at low tide, so we turned back and headed there.  A bit of a bummer as we like to hang out with our friends and fellow competitors after racing.  20 meters after entering the Glen Cove marina we found the %$#*^& mud !!!!  What do you need to do to get accurate depth information from harbormasters???  We tried everything, outboard out, Rob hanging out on a halyard, forward, backwards...  Nothing.  And the tide was still running out.  Monti from the big powerboat on the end tie came to the rescue.  He got on his dinghy and tried to pull us in, nope.  We were close enough to get a line to the dock, and with Rob still hanging from the halyard Andrew as able to pull the boat next to the power boat where we rafted up.  A quick cleanup, a couple of cold beers and all was good with the world again.  Kristen picked us up and we headed to the yacht club for a little socializing before all of us going to my place for a nice steak dinner.

Fast forward to Sunday morning and everyone is hitting the bottle of profen.  Egg, sausages, croissants, coffee and more profen for breakfast and we are back to the boat for the race back.  There was already good breeze all the way across San Pablo bay, so things were looking good.  We had a bit of time to kill as we are the 15th start of the day.  The wind is too far forward, so its only white sails out the river.   This time we edge to the East shore for the current relief but it doesn't really pay off, the folks on the right found enough pressure to stay ahead.  The current was still flooding pretty hard so we played the wall out of the river.   Rufless has pulled ahead already but we are in close touch with the J90, the Henderson, the Tiger and the other Melges30.  The wind is now a bit from the SW so we pick a lane and start the fetch towards Pinole Pt.  Not much tactically to do at this point, just keep your eye on the speedo and keep the boat moving fast.  We had lost sight of Rufless (not a good sign) and both the Henderson and the J90 were ahead of us.  After Pt. Pinole there was a bit of a transition, with a new NW breeze filling in.  The J90 was further North so they just took off, Rufless was further South and got hurt by the transition, we were mostly down the middle so lost a bit to the J90 but gained huge on Rufless.  Rufless, the J90 and the Henderson, bet us to the finish, so again we would have to wait on the corrections to see how it all panned out.

With the results in, we corrected to first on Saturday and second (behind the J90) on Sunday.  A tiring but competitive and successful weekend on the water.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Unofficial Doublehanded Lightship

Earlier this year JetStream got denied entry to the Doublehanded Farallones even though it met all the objective criteria and equipment requirements for the race.  For the Doublehanded Lightship we would need to get some waivers from the race committee for a couple of the items on the NCORC list that it used for its required equipment list.  We requested the waivers from the committee and they were respectfully denied.  Oh well, we wouldn't be allowed to participate on the race but we are free to go for a sail around the Lightship any time we want.  My crew Rob and I already had our schedule open for this race so we decided to ghost the fleet as they raced.

The Lightship buoy stands about 11 miles Southwest the Golden Gate bridge.  We had officially done this race two years ago in 2012 on JetStream without any problem, but this year with the 'new' rules and without any waivers the boat no longer qualified.

We had an early wakeup call Saturday morning.  With a start scheduled for 9am off the Golden Gate YC, we would need to leave the dock in Alameda by 7.  At least be boat was already in the water from our Friday night race.  But it still took us three trips to the car to load up all the offshore gear and pretty much the full 1.5 hours delivery to the starting line to set it up and stow it.  The list of equipment we don't keep onboard for our bay racing is quite extensive:

- offshore flares and Epirb Jug
- large dry bag with:
  - sail repair kit
  - radar reflector
  - extra flashlight
  - search light
  - spare nav lights
- autopilot
- danbuoy
- offshore hatch
- jacklines, tethers
- 8' vhf mast/antenna
- full sail inventory, #3, #4, A2, A5, C0
- extra fuel

Rob found space for every piece in our shelves while keeping some of the key emergency items at easy reach.

The forecast had been quite promising all week.  Early in the week it was showing 15 - 25 and by race day it had moderated a bit to 10 - 20 with higher gusts.  During breakfast the lightship was already reporting 20 knots of breeze from the NW.  This would make for a quick fetch once we cleared Pt. Bonita and hooked into the NWesterlies.  With remaining ebb pushing us out at the start it would make for a very fast trip.  On the way to the start we could already see a more Northerly direction on the breeze than usual.  This would be great for the ocean but it meant NO wind inside the Bay.

Smartly, the RC did not postpone so that the fleet could still use the remaining ebb to get out of the Gate.  Initially I was planning on starting just after our 'division' (of course we wouldn't cross the starting line to avoid confusing the RC), but since there was literally no wind, we didn't want to interfere with the guys racing and decided to stay a few hundred yards away from the starting line towards the center of the Bay.  We were in a bit better current so we started to drift ahead of first fleet.  Caught a few SW puffs that help us inch towards the Gate.  It was all a little painful as we had just our #4 up, preparing for the smackdown we were expecting outside Bonita.  But we stayed patient and drifted along taking advantage of whatever breeze we could find.  Close to the gate we started getting a light but consistent Westerly breeze and we got on our upwind leg to Pt. Bonita.

We wanted to exit lands end on the North side.   But at Bonita the wind backed down again.  That made for some uncomfortable sailing.  The seas, though not big, were pretty confused in the area and with all the bouncing around we couldn't keep much flow on the sails.  We were back to less than 2 knots of boatspeed, bouncing around in the chop.  But we knew the NW breeze was out there.  So we tacked back to starboard to try to get it as quickly as possible.  At Bonita, both Condor and Outsider were beginning to come up behind us.  Condor pulled the plug and Outsider continued on port tack for a bit longer.  Our tack payed off and little by little we started to get the expected lift and a few moments later the breeze began to fill in gradually.  We were now on a very comfortable high teens fetching the mark.

We were sailing straight up the channel with the building breeze.  The waves weren't particularly big and once we got in the channel they got more structured.  We were now screaming at around 9 knots straight at the mark.  We cleared the channel and had both the Lightship and the Pilot ship in sight.  I was thinking that the sea state would mellow out in the deeper water but we came across a couple of steep sets.  Between the steepness and our speed we had a couple of decent slams and with the Lightship about a mile away (another 10 minutes at the rate we were going) we decided we had enough distance to enjoy the downhill ride back and turned the boat around.

By now we were in the solid 20s and our decision to just put the #4 was rewarded.  We soon jumped to the mid teens in boatspeed, with just the white sails up.  With a couple of the surfs we would jump to 17-18 knots touch 20s a few times.  The boat was effortless in this conditions.  It still amazes me how well behaved the boat is.  With the white sails up I could pretty much take the boat anywhere.  We could come up hard for speed and to big bear aways to hook up to the swell and surf down.   We set our A5 as we exited the channel and had a really fun ride back to Pt Bonita never really dropping below 13 knots.  At this windspeed and angle the boat required very active trimming.  With the big accelerations down the waves the apparent wind changes were pretty drastic.  Inside Bonita the wind backed and dropped a bit, so we had a pretty mellow spinnaker run.  We cleared the South Tower and headed towards Crissy.  By 12:10 we were back inside Gate.  A little over 3 hours to cover the 23 (for us) mile course.

It is certainly a physical boat in the upwind conditions, and rewardingly easy on the downwind portions.  We learned a few things.  For me, my offshore gear is just to bulky.  It is fine for spending the night on the rail on a big boat or standing behind the wheel, but for the active sailing on the JS probably a bit lighter drysuit, or moving to an offshore smock would feel less restrictive.  Also, need to streamline and better plan the offshore gear particular with our limited space.

Bottom line is that the boat performed very well under the normal Gulf conditions of 20+ knots and reasonable seas.  For short duration, near shore races (like the Lightship, HMB and even Drakes) waivers should be granted so we could officially participate, and even some of the shorter downwind rides to Santa Cruz and Monterey would be very doable (if I had a road trailer to bring the boat back).

Thanks to Rob for his excitement and energy to take the boat for an offshore ride.