Boat speed more than brains
Just when sailors think they've figured out how to race on San Francisco Bay, they get a day when "you use boat speed more than brains."
So said New Zealand's David McDermaid, a birthday boy and the new leader after 6 of 10 races of the Nespresso 18ft Skiff International Regatta for the Mark Foy Trophy.
There was no fog under a gray overcast, but the fearsome breeze that had organisers redoing the schedule just last weekend pooped out to about 10 knots and flat water Wednesday. Not a whitecap in sight, but vigorous competition.
McDermaid, with crew Andrew Archibald and Mark Overington sailing Yamaha, won the first and third races and finished second to defending champion Alex Vallings, sailing C-Tech, in the other. After tossing their worst results - a fifth and a third, respectively - the two New Zealanders share the lead above a pack of Australia's Grant Rollerson and Nick Press and the USA's Howard Hamlin contending for third place.
McDermaid, skipper of Yamaha, celebrated his 30th birthday by soaring into first place on a tiebreaker with Vallings. Each has seven points but McDermaid finished ahead (1-2) in the most recent race. McDermaid, with wins by two and nine seconds, was 1-2-1 Wednesday; Vallings was 3-1-2. Each has won 3 of the 6 races.
Hm. Kiwis seem to be getting their way on the bay these last few days.
"We just had boat speed," McDermaid said, 'but it was a very tricky day."
With a flood tide in force, some of the 22 boats played the left side upwind, others the right, but McDiarmid's concern was holding off Vallings downwind, noting that "he's really fast downwind."
His best tactic was to stay in front - gybing when his rival gybed to hold him just enough to win by two and nine seconds.
Vallings said it was light but "really gusty" and like "a four-way mach race," with Press driving Yandoo for absentee veteran John (Woody) Winning, and Hamlin's CST Composites also in the mix.
Some of the competitors were less concerned about the conditions than several of the large classic boats in the America's Cup Super Yacht Regatta that wandered into the 18's course.
McDermaid said: "They came straight through our bottom mark. We had to decide whether to try to cross one of them or go the other way. We had it by about one meter. I looked up and saw both of his bow anchors just over the tip of our spreader."
As for lack of wind, Hamlin, a six-time winner of the regatta, spoke from experience: "We haven't had one day like this in 12 years."
The series continues Thursday with a wide variety of classes joining the 18s in the traditional and mostly downwind 5.3-nautical mile Ronstan Bridge to Bridge race from the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge, following two America's Cup races at midday. The 18s' last two races are scheduled to start Friday at noon.
St Francis YC manages the skiff event, independent of the AC competition, while the event is being hosted in conjunction with the AC Open as part of the Summer of Sailing, taking place at the America's Cup Village on Marina Green.
While the JJ Giltinan regatta run annually in Sydney since 1938 is regarded as the class's world championship, the Mark Foy has gained global status entering its fifth year of spreading the skiff spirit to various world locations.