Three Bridge Fiasco: There was wind!
Published on January 28th, 2019
While many parts of the country were shivering in a nasty artic blast, the sailors participating in the Three Bridge Fiasco, hosted by Singlehanded Sailing Society, were donning shorts and light jackets as the weather gods blessed San Francisco Bay with above average temps, filtered sun and, despite projected forecasts, wind. This year’s race was held January 26, 2019.
Of the 334 registered shorthanded boats registered in 27 fleets, 5 were single-handed and 22 were double-handed, with the highest raters starting just after 0900 off the Golden Gate Yacht Club. For two plus hours, the fleets continued to flow across the start line, and this year, as opposed to recent years, nary an anchor was needed.
Winds in the 8-12 knot range made life easy for a reaching start in either direction, the million-dollar question was, as always, which direction? The 21.67 nm course is defined by the Golden Gate, Richmond, and Bay Bridges, with adjacent marks that the fleet must round, but in any order and direction.
Bay weather/current guru Kame Richard gave his opinion to eager listeners at the skippers meeting, and by and large the vast majority agreed with the clockwise course theory. A waning ebb would shift to a flood as the day progressed, the big question, was would the offshore winds fade, build or stay consistent.
As the vast majority of boats headed straight to Red Rock, evenly split between the Racoon Strait route or Point Blunt, a smaller splinter group opted for the Counter Clockwise route and sought to get Yerba Buena out of the way 1st. With just enough breeze to circle around the island, if you gave it enough room, the slack water in the morning opened a door for those challenging convention, and the 1st boats rounded with minimal pain.
To the north, the clock-wise fleet made good progress up the river, with 1st boats reaching the objective just about 1:00 PM, with a wide variety of ratings represented. The tule fog ladened northerly adding a bit of chill to the air the closer you got, almost making some wish they had pants with legs on them.
The J-22 Samba Pa-Ti, with Gerard Sheridan and Michael Bishop aboard, rounded first, and soon set the kite and headed south, with a large parade to follow. All looked good for the clock-wise sailors, a nice run down the Berkeley Flats, round Yerba Buena and voila! However, the northerly that allowed the previous fleet to round, the big wind blocker had faded the further south you went, and while it was warmer, it was much slower.
Meanwhile a few of the counter clockwise boats had rounded Red Rocks and had plenty of wind to get them back to the City Front despite the building flood. Leading the pack, Randy Miller & Colin Dunphy onboard Randy’s Open 8.5 trimaran “ Mama Tried” were seen blasting across the Golden Gate channel making good speed towards Blackaller.
All was set for an impressive douse and victory reach to the finish until a snafu led to a shrimping expedition that gobbled up 7-8 precious minutes to resolve. Looking to the east, Peter Stoneberg & Kyle Gundersen on the Prosail 40’ Shadow-X were now around Yerba Buena and marching up the City Front, 1st to finish glory theirs for the taking. But quick work with a knife got the halyard free on Mama Tried and with the kite mess cleaned up; it was Miller time in progress.
Mama Tried would cross the finish at 13:37:11 from the west and Stoneberg’s Shadow X crossing from the east at 13:40:02, just missing that sought after shotgun blast from the race deck.
The parade of counter clockwise (CCW) boats would continue and the 1st monohulls arriving in that direction, with two J-105’s leading the charge, Will & Jayden Benedict Advantage 3 crossing at 13:47:58 followed by Chris Kim & Carl Plant on Vuju Star at 13:52:29.
It should be noted that winners in several divisions coming CCW, edging out their CW (clockwise) counterparts. By now the flood gates were opened, with boats arriving from all directions, including a massive impulse from boats having round Yerba Buena.
The race committee had their hands full for the next couple hours, as the majority of fleet all crossed before 16:30, a much different scenario then years past when they had to wait well past dusk to account for straggler and get call from boat abandoning.
Source: Erik Simonson