Photo: Rich Roberts

Day off

Rich Roberts visits the bottom of the pack at the 10th annual 18ft Skiff International Regatta

Wednesday August 24th 2011, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States

Compared to the America's Cup pros who will hit San Francisco Bay in 2013 or even the leaders in the current 10th annual 18ft Skiff International Regatta hosted by the St Francis Yacht Club, they're at the other end of the scale of fame, as they are in the present standings, but it would be hard to find more dedicated sailors anywhere than the dozen or so competitors from the Skiff Sailing Foundation racing on their home waters this week.

On an off-day for the regatta, three members are the only ones in the staging area, working on their outdated boats. All 18 skiff sailors concentrate on remaining upright; these worry about just keeping their high-tech flyers afloat, day to day.

Katie Love, who will graduate from California Maritime Academy in nearby Vallejo next April, is sailing on Love Machine (of course) in 15th/last place. "It got so loaded with water yesterday that it was sailing more like a 420 [dinghy]. I guess we'll try to fix it."

Jack Ladha, the skipper of O'Canada (named for its origins, not a sponsor), comments as he tinkers: "When I was a junior sailor over at Richmond Yacht Club, when it blew 25 knots we'd sit inside and watch sailing videos."

Borrr-ing. Turn on the adrenaline.

The thrust of the Skiff Sailing Foundation comes from Chad Freitas, a local yacht broker, and Dan Malpis, also in the boat business, who founded the non-profit group about eight years ago. Freitas, who also sails the boats, cracked some ribs on a rough day last year.

It's free for participants eager for extra excitement in sailing, but they're expected to help maintain the fleet of seven 18s. All were discarded as charitable donations to the Skiff Sailing Foundation by owners like Howie Hamlin who replaced them with new boats. Growth has been gradual but encouraging.

"You have to be committed," Ladha said. "We want people who can spend two or three hours on it at least one day a week."

Brian Malouf, who skippers Death Dealer, is one of those. He started sailing a 29er skiff on the Bay in 2005, then discovered the 18s when Hamlin and the St Francis YC got this event rolling in 2002.

"I had the need for speed," Malouf said.

Back to racing Thursday

Following a day off Wednesday, four of 10 races remain, starting with one at 1600 on the usual windward-leeward course from inside the Golden Gate to just past Alcatraz. That will be followed at about 5:30 or later by the Bridge to Bridge run - a madcap 7.5-mile romp when the 18s will be joined by the best of the local windsurfers and kite boarders. They'll start all at once from under the Golden Gate and race to the Oakland span around the corner of San Francisco's city front...

The question for Thursday is whether Michael Coxon's neck will be well enough that he can return to skipper Thurlow Fisher Lawyers, currently in third place with the veteran Trevor Barnabas? Coxon won the regatta and the Bridge to Bridge race last year. TF has a 7-1-6-1-(16/OCS)-2 log with Barnabas. …

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