Skiffs in fog
From out of the fog, heralded by a chorus of foghorns growling in bass tones in concert with soprano finish horns, the 10th annual 18ft Skiff International Regatta, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club, expanded its scope on the third day of racing Tuesday.
The three tenors - John Winning, Howie Hamlin and Trevor Barnabas - now need to make room for two more contenders when the competition rolls into the final acts Thursday and Friday, following a day off Wednesday.
On a bright and sunny day, the fog at the bridge notwithstanding, a 20-knot westerly blowing straight through the bridge swept veteran Grant Rollerson of Australia, with 18 points, and Alex Vallings of New Zealand into contention tight on the transom of Trevor Barnabas in a fight for third place in the 15-boat fleet.
Hamlin's win in the second race Tuesday has him one point behind Winning, the week-long leader now with 11 points after everyone chucked their worst finish after the fifth race. Another discard is due after nine races.
Barnabas, driving Thurlow Fisher Lawyers for the injured Michael Coxon, the defending champion, and Rollerson benefited most from the throwouts. Barnabas was nicked for an over-anxious start in Tuesday's first race but tossed the 16 points into the shredder.
Rollerson did better. In the same race he and his crew of Justin Healey and Germany's Marco Schuermann on Slam, sponsored by Mounts Bay Western Australia, flew off the line and into the fog shrouding the Golden Gate Bridge and were never seriously threatened in a 47-second win over Vallings, sailing CT Sailbattens with Chris Hiller and Josh McCormack. Then Rollerson finished a solid fourth in the second race.
"It was a good day," he said.
The tricky part was finding the windward mark - a round red buoy - in the fog at the bridge. "We got the layline right," Rollerson said. "You gotta see the buoy before you go into the fog, and both times we nailed it."
Vallings, notching a 2-3 day, said, "We had a good start [in the first race] and the others all tacked into the beach, which wasn't too good. Our problem is that we're way better downwind [than upwind because] we're all so light. But we're happy. It was a good day."
Hamlin, with local veterans Matt Noble and Paul Allen on board, echoed Vallings' and Rollerson's comments. About locating the mark: "You think you know where it is. Paul calls the laylines … he'd say, 'I think it's about there,' and he was right."
And his crew being on the light side was a factor in his second win. "Today it was all on the first run downwind that we made it," Hamlin said. "Upwind we're off the pace."
At the gun they tacked behind three other boats to get to the north side of the course where there was more current but better wind. Noble said, "Paul and I work together figuring things out. Sometimes you couldn't see the mark at all."
Basically, once in front they covered their nearest pursuers, Barnabas and Co., because, Allen said, "Those guys are so fast."
A bit too fast at the start of the first race.
"I didn't think we were over [the line early]," Barnabas said. "We came to the line on pace [with the other boats]."
They came back to push Hamlin hard in the second race, "but our only chance to beat him was if he made a mistake," Barnabas said.
There will be two races Thursday, including the Bridge to Bridge classic late in the afternoon.
(after 6 of 10 races, including one discard; skippers listed first)
1. Yandoo, Australia, John Winning/David Gibson/Andrew Hay, 1-2-3-2-3-(5), 11 points.
2. CST Composites, USA, Howie Hamlin/ Matt Noble/Paul Allen, 2-3-1-(5)-5-1, 12.
3. Thurlow Fisher Lawyers, Australia, Trevor Barnabas/Aaron Links/Trent Barnabas, 7-1-6-1-(16/OCS)-2, 17.
4. SLAM/Mounts Bay WA, Australia, Grant Rollerson/Justin Healey/Marco Schuermann, (11)-5-5-3-1-4, 18.
5. CT Sailbattens, Alex Vallings/Chris Hiller/Josh McCormack, (6)-6-4-4-2-3, 19.
6. SMEG, Australia, Nick Press/Daniel Phillips/Brant Demis, 3-(7)-2-6-6-6, 23.
7. Maersk Line, Australia, Graham Catley/Nick Catley/Riley Dean, 4-(9)-7-9-4-8, 32.
8. Harken, Australia, Glenn Raphael/Ben Lawrie/Matt McKinlay, 8-4-11-7-(16/OCS)-7, 37.
9. Yamaha, New Zealand, Dave McDiarmid/Andrew Archibald/Chris Burgess, 5-10-9-(11)-8-10, 42.
10. White Lightning, USA, Patrick Whitmarsh/Mark Breen/Charlie Smythe, 10-(12)-10-8-9-9, 46.
11. Panasonic Lumix, Australia, Jonathan Whitty/James Hozack/Phillip Beuner, 9-8-13-10-7-(16/DNF), 47.
12. O'Canada, USA, John Ladha/Daniel Inkpen/Trevor Bozina, 12-(14)-12-13-11-11, 59.
13. USA Black, USA, Skip McCormack/Jody McCormack/Polish Mike, 15-13-8-(16/DNF)-10-16/DNF, 62.
14. Death Dealer, USA, Brian Malouf/John Gilmour/Luke Lawrence, 13-11-14-12-13-(16/DNF), 63.
15. Love Machine, USA, Chad Freitas/Katie Love/Daniel Roberts, 14-(16/DNF)-16/DNF-16/DNF-12-16/DNF, 74.