Three Bridge Fiasco 2012


On Sunday, January 28, VALIS raced in the Three Bridge Fiasco. This was the fourth time for VALIS, and for us the race definitely lived up to its reputation.
We entered the doublehanded division, the crew being Dick Holm and me (Paul Elliott). Dick had helped sail VALIS back home after the 2010 Pacific Cup, and he has become a good friend and crewmember. We timed the start pretty well for us. As we were approaching the line it looked like we might be arriving too soon, so I did a quick 360-degree spin (generally keeping out off the way of the other racers) and in the dying wind crossed the line within a minute of our start time.

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And the wind was certainly dying! Our plan was to go for the Blackaller buoy first, and as we drifted towards the Gate we were caught up in a shoreward eddy. For a while it looked like we would be able to make the mark, but it was not to be. As we were swept into the shallowing water I dropped the stern anchor. That stopped our forward motion, but continued to drift sideways towards the beach. The depthsounder showed that situation was not improving, so with a heavy heart I radioed to the race committee that we were retiring and fired up the engine to back into deeper water. Bummer.
But it was a beautiful day, so we decided to continue along the course anyway. Besides, we had packed a lunch!
The breeze started to slowly fill in, so we sailed / drifted around the temporary mark (Blackaller buoy had previously gone for a cruise, and hadn’t yet been put back on position), and started working our way across the bay towards Raccoon Strait.

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As this is the largest race on the Bay, things get a bit crowded:

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We tacked through Raccoon Strait, then with a few long tacks took Red Rock to Starboard. There is a restricted zone near the Richmond Long Wharf (defined by the buoys I have marked on our track), and apparently some of the racers managed to stray into this area. On VALIS we cut it close, but did remain on the good side of the line. Of course since we had retired this was not an issue for us, but there is the principle of the thing.
We had a good, fast, reach to the Bay Bridge, at times flying our staysail just because it looks good. About halfway there the wind picked up until we were being overpowered, so we reefed down a bit. That didn’t last long. As we were passing Treasure Island and heading under the Bay Bridge the wind completely shut down. We barely had steerageway as we inched under the bridge and ghosted towards San Francisco. Once around Yerba Buena the wind picked up slightly, but that was enough to get us through the west span, and towards the S.F. piers. We had to tack twice to clear Pier 35, and then it was a clear (and slow) shot to the finish line.

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We crossed the finish line just behind our friend Phil’s No Ka Oi, so had we been racing we would have been in good company. In spite of the shaky start, Dick and I had a great day on the water.

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