Masses of wind
While their Olympic peers sat windless and idle Thursday, competitors in the seventh 18' Skiff International Regatta hosted by the host St. Francis Yacht Club had more then they could handle. There were so many capsizes it looked like synchronized diving, only in colder water.
Australia's Seve Jarvin and defending champion Howard Hamlin of California were among those who flipped, but at the end of the day they were in first and second place after six of the ten scheduled races.
"Today was the windiest day," said Jarvin, who dumped twice on the first downwind leg of the first race, won by Brett Van Munster of Australia - the only other sailor besides Jarvin to win a race so far.
How windy was it?
Readings at Angel Island on the north side of the bay hit 32 knots. Three of the 11 boats didn't finish the first race and four didn't start the second, either damaged or displaying better judgment. One boat flipped on its way out to the starting line and was left behind.
Jarvin's and Hamlin's stumbles didn't matter much because the former's fourth place became his discard, leaving him with five deadly bullets, while Hamlin dropped a DNF (did not finish) from Wednesday when his mast broke and scored a second and a third Thursday.
There was so much carnage around the 1.75-nautical mile windward-leeward course that although it took Hamlin and crew Mike Martin and Paul Allen about ten minutes to right their skiff, they dropped only one place from second to third.
"It happens," Hamlin said. "If it was easy it wouldn't be as much fun. We were in a huge puff, and everybody who tried to gybe in that kind of puff had trouble."
That included fourth-placed, Grant Rollerson of Australia, who capsized within earshot of Hamlin a minute later.
Hamlin was just grateful that he was able to continue racing after his rig was destroyed a day earlier. Allen made a four-hour round trip to nearby Santa Cruz overnight to borrow a mast from one of Philippe Kahn's idle 18s.
Searle called Thursday's conditions "a survival test." He was unable to finish the first race but followed Jarvin home in the second.
"We sailed a lot more conservatively," he said. "We were pushing way too hard."
Funny thing about Jarvin's win in the second race: He started at the committee boat, tacked to go hard right and led at every mark.
"We were up the course and missed the start," Jarvin confessed. "We were racing to get back in time and [starting at the boat end of the line] was the only thing we could do."
St. Francis YC race manager John Craig is known for clicking off the next start quickly after a previous race; competitors learn not to stray far away.
Four more races are scheduled over the next two days, including the annual Ronstan Bridge to Bridge classic at 5:30 PDT Friday afternoon when the 18s will join the kite boarding and windsurfing crowds for the 5 1/2-mile downwind dash from under the Golden Gate to the Oakland Bay Bridge inside the bay. The 18s' regular race will start at 1 p.m. PDT, conditions permitting.
1-Gotta Love It, Seve Jarvin/Sam Newton/Tom Clout, Sydney, Australia, 1-1-1-1-(4)-1, 5 points.
2-Harken/Wild Oats, Howard Hamlin/Mike Martin/Paul Allen, Long Beach, Calif., 2-2-2-(12/DNF)-2-3, 11.
3-Kinder Care Home Nursing, Brett Van Munster/Paul Montague/Ayden Mezies, Sydney, 4-4-4-3-1-(12/DNF), 16.
4-SLAM, Grant Rollerson/Matt Noble/David Mann, Perth, Australia, 5-(9)-3-2-3-4, 17.
5-Active Air, Matthew Searle/ Dan Wilsdon/Archie Massey, Sydney, 6-3-6-6-(12/DNF)-2, 23.
6-Yandoo, John Winning/Andrew Hay/David Gibson, Sydney, 3-5-5-4-
7-Harken, Joey Pasquali/Chad Freitas/Rory Giffen, Santa Cruz, Calif., (8)-6-8-7-7-5, 33. 8-Panasonic, Jonathan Whitty/Tom Anderson/John Herman Winning, Sydney, 7-7-9-5-6-(12/DNS), 34.
9-Cabot Cheese, Patrick Whitmarsh/Danny Cayard/Joe Penrod, San Francisco, (9)-8-7-8-5-6, 34.
10-Natural Blues, Dan Brandt/Cooper Dressler/Pike Harris, San Francisco, (12/DNF)-10-12/DNF-9-12/DNF-12/DNS. 55.
11-Skiffsailing.org., Jonny Goldsberry/Jay Scott/Andy Casey, Alameda, Calif., (12/DNF)-12/DNF-12/DNF-12/DNF-12/DNF-12/DNS, 60.