Gusto and Blue Label
The second race of the 2013 Lagunitas Kite Series got off with a bang in 80 degree temperatures in the City by The Bay. At the 1700 skippers meeting regatta chair Erika Heineken addressed 32 eager sailors. The hot topic of conversation was the weather and the doldrums of the bay. The high temperatures had beach goers in board shorts, bikinis, and plenty of Lululemon about 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start. The usually choppy and windy SF Bay was feeling like Conner’s back yard in San Diego (Etchells sailing anyone)? However, as the skippers meeting progressed with safety discussions, rules talks, and group introductions the light sea breeze built to 12 knots out of the West. Erika consulted with the local fleet, race operation headquarters, and decided to go for it. There was after all a building 2.8 knot flood tide on the way!
In command of on the water race direction was St. Francis Yacht Club Director of Race Operations Robbie Dean. Robbie had a crack team supporting him on and off the water including master boat driver Paul Heineken, boat driver JB, and a veteran AC campaign manager. Jessica B. headed up the shore team for the nights racing. Being well prepared, Robbie also placed seasoned local kiters Kevin Growney, Tammy Camp, and the French connection Bruce Johnson on crash boats in case they were needed. And they would be, along with a few bottles of Blue Label.
At approximately 1715 local time Robbie ignited the fire into all 12 cylinders of his twin Yamaha outboard engines. Robbie had his plan, his crew, and finally a sea breeze. With thumbs up from the shore crew the M/V Cressy was outbound for the race course. Robbie pulled away from the dock at the St.FYC with grace and professionalism that only a seasoned mariner could do. Throttling up the twin Yamaha power houses Robbie headed West with speed and purpose. Upon arriving on the race course Robbie throttled back and took the MV Cressy off her 30 knot plane. Master boat driver Paul Heineken was already head to wind on station sending wind readings to the race committee. The breeze was echoing the radio chatter and was being displayed on the M/V Cressy’s high tech instruments from 240 degrees at 13 knots magnetic. Robbie was directing his resources like a seasoned bar pilot, smooth, confidently, and with gusto! With a quick call to the big boys on Treasure Island (USCG Vessel Traffic Service) to state his intentions Robbie put the hook down. It was time to set up a race course. With the winds light and variable Robbie took queues from the wind instruments, his hand held compass, and the two mark boats. A few minutes later there was a race course. Robbie directed his mark boat crew to use the standard St.FYC Big Boat Series mark set protocol. 125 foot color coded anchor ropes were used for the weather and leeward gate marks. Commercially available 5 pound dead men along with 30 pound navy anchors were used to secure the marks to the bottom of the bay with unknown knots (the author was not aware of the knots used on these marks and will provide a further update in the future).
After a 15 minute postponement the race committee started race 1 at 1545 with 13 knots of breeze from 245 degrees magnetic. Most of the sailors in the 28 person fleet were on larger kite sizes, including 19, 18, 15, and 13 meter kites. Race 1 had a Vogue Magazine cover shot start with most of the fleet on Starboard tack at the gun, it was beautiful. The fleet took the pressure into the beach as far as possible. Brian Kender and Chris Brown tacked halfway across the starting line to go outside for more pressure. At the top mark it was the A fleet, led by current world champion Johnny Heineken, followed by Brian Lake, Kinder, and Adam Koch close behind in 4th. The next sailor in the B fleet bringing up 5th place at the top mark was a full 63 seconds behind the top 4 sailors. At the bottom gate most of the kites took the South gate and headed for the shore to get relief from the flood. At the finish it was Johnny Heineken, Lake, and Kinder taking the top three spots.
Race 2 was a bit faster as the wind speed was now reading 15 to 16. The pulse of the local fleet came alive with the increased breeze. The sailors with the big kites had a decision to make. Make a run back to the beach and rig down or stay with the big kites in the building breeze. Most of the fleet remained on the kites they originally rigged. The start of race 2 went off with most of the fleet on starboard once again. There were a few late sailors to the line that were thinking of pulling off a port start but the Northerly component in the wind just didn’t favor it. Again most of the fleet hit the beach on the first beat. At the top mark it was Johnny Heineken, followed by Kender, and Lake. The top sailors tacked out into the bay as there was more pressure there and VMG was the name of the game. Both Lake and Kinder from team Cabrinha were pushing the 2013 Velocitys in hot pursuit of Heineken all the way downwind. At the bottom gate most of the fleet headed for the beach to get out of the flood. At the finish it was Heineken, Kinder, and Lake.
Race 3 started with the breeze at 13 knots and fading. Some of the top sailors noticed this and rigged up to larger kites in between races. At the start the fleet was on starboard and a few were a bit too eager. 2012 Defending champion of the Cabrinha Race Series Chip Wasson was OCS along with pro sailor Andy Koch. The race committee immediately fired a single gun after the start and raised the individual recall flag as per US Sailing and ISAF protocol. Most of the fleet hit the beach again and tacked back out for pressure on the way to the lay line to the weather mark. At the top mark it was Johnny Heineken in first, followed by Kinder, and Lake. Johnny picked up a patch of seaweed on his fins while approaching the top mark. Johnny tried to clear the seaweed by boosting a huge “air clear” at the top mark (The author cautions riders about this type of behavior frequently). Johnny ended up not landing it and was immediately passed by Kender who was just astern of Johnny. Kender was closely followed by Lake and Adam Koch. After rounding the weather mark they all immediately jibed outside for better pressure. Johnny Heineken took the inside track and didn’t have as good a VMG as the others. At the bottom mark it was Kender, Lake, and Adam Koch. On the way back upwind it was Kinder, Lake, and Adam Koch with Heineken desperately trying to close the gap. Kinder came inside where the pressure was light and immediately tacked back out to the middle of the course, Lake and Adam Koch followed. It was a virtual match race between Kinder and Lake on the way to the finish line. Dennis Conner would have done the same thing sailing with his daughters, and that’s to cover! Tack for tack Kinder covered Lake until the SoCal Volvo wagon driver had the lay line to the finish. It was Kinder, Lake, and Adam Koch at the finish followed by three others. The rest of the fleet was not so lucky, the wind died down to virtually nothing and only 6 sailors finished. The top three sailors for the night after three races were St.FYC member Johnny Heineken, Bryan Kender (Both were tied but Johnny won the tie breaker), and Bryan Lake.
In the woman’s fleet it was St.FYC member Erika Heineken, St.FYC member Marion Lepert, and Boriana Viljoen.
Now it was Robbie Deans’ time to shine. With overall responsibility for the night’s kiting fleet including returning champion Anthony Chavez it was Robbie Deans’ responsibility to the kiters and the St.FYC membership to make sure they all returned safely. There were 20 plus kites that needed rescue due to the wind dying. Robbie immediately contacted Jessica at the race operations headquarters unit and apprised her of the situation. Jessica took up a position on the race deck and worked closely with Robbie to make sure that all kites were accounted for. Robbie also worked closely with VTS and the crash boat drivers who were for once not in the way at the starting area. The race committee did a fantastic job of getting all the kiters on board the crash boats. Now it was just a matter of getting the Blue Label scotch to a few of the units that were inbound that evening. Enjoy it boys, we appreciate your help. All in all it was a great night of racing at the 2013 Lagunitas St. Francis Thursday Night Kite Series. See you on the water for the next race on May 16th.