Photo: Rich Roberts

Bridge to Bridge

Alex Vallings' C-Tech claims the Nespresso 18ft skiff regatta with two races to spare

Friday August 31st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States

Kiteboards, led by Johnny Heineken's record time, celebrated their recent upgrade to Olympic status in style Friday by sweeping the first seven places in the Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race, while New Zealand's C-Tech, the first 18ft Skiff to finish, claimed the championship in the Nespresso International 18 Skiff Regatta hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club.

Heineken, regarded locally as the best kiter sailor of all, finished the 5.3-nautical mile course from the Golden Gate to the Oakland Bay Bridge in 14 minutes 14 seconds, lopping 2 minutes 1 second off the record set by Brian Lake last year.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's C-Tech team of skipper Alex Vallings, Chris Kitchen and Josh McCormack, continued its domination of the week with the 18s to wrap up the title with two races remaining Saturday - preceding their Bridge to Bridge success with a win in the 18s' warm-up race and now counting five wins in eight races overall.

The AC45s competing in the America's Cup World Series here in August and October failed to show, as anticipated, and Alain Thebault's foiler l'Hydroptère that had record aspirations did not finish.

C-Tech was the first 18ft Skiff in the 18-boat class dominated by Antipodeans and the USA's Howie Hamlin-led teams for the first 11 years, but Hamlin, entering the day in second place, was never a factor. A broken shroud took him out of the first race, and a start delayed by repairs and plagued by three capsizes ruined the Bridge to Bridge race for him.

Otherwise, the result made the day for the Kiwis' Graham Catley, although his boat missed the 30-minute deadline for an official finish.

Catley, an Auckland businessman who has been a prior San Francisco competitor and is the lead supporter of the Kiwi campaigns, said: "This is the first year New Zealand has been competitive, with good equipment and time to develop sailing skills with the 18s."

Primarily through Catley's efforts and support, New Zealand Catley brought seven teams to San Francisco.

Vallings and his placed seventh in this year's JJ Giltinan class championship at Sydney, Australia, after only a few weeks with the tricky boats, "so this is their first real competition," Catley said. "We need to get a benchmark in New Zealand to bring the other boats up to it."

As for Australians, mid-crew Marcus Ashley-Jones returned after a kidney problem put him in hospital for Days 2 and 3, when he was replaced by Mike Martin, an 18 veteran who is now director of umpiring and rules administration for the America's Cup here, and Bora Golari, a former Moth World Champion, who helped to keep the team in fifth place through the first three days.

Two of the happier competitors were locals Avery Patton and David Krawzsenck. It was latter's first Bridge to Bridge and the former's first finish in three attempts.

"I'm usually getting fished off of Treasure Island," she said.

Their reward was a ride back to St. Francis YC on a committee boat.

Full results here

Video from Christophe Favreau/

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