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Thread: Farallones Recap

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2022

    Default Farallones Recap

    I've sent the following to the competitors via jibeset, but might be worth posting here too minus a few things:


    Hello, SSS Farallones competitors!

    Thank you for coming out to a challenging race. It was tough at the start and tough through the day, as evidenced by the five finishers.

    From the RC perspective, you all stayed safe, which is the really important thing. I want to thank everyone who dropped out for telling me they were dropping out, and when they were in the bay --- that is extremely important. I would prefer more text messages --- those are a little easier to deal with --- but I am very glad to have any notice.

    I know the start was really difficult with the ebb current and light winds. I did not want to delay the starts to wait for more wind, since a) more wind might not have come anytime soon; b) the ebb was predicted to get stronger before it started fading; c) the unhelpful-at-the-start ebb was also very-helpful-as-soon-as-you-started ebb; d) I knew you needed all the time you could get to reach the Farallones and return; e) delayed SSS Farallones starts could have run into the fully-crewed YRA Duxship starts; f) I'm told the SSS has traditionally frowned on postponements.

    This is your chance to give me feedback on that, and the race in general. I would love to hear what conditions were like out there, for example. This year we enlisted the SF Radio Club to do roll call. I would like to hear opinions on that too.

    It would be great if 2-3 people, finishers and non-finishers, are willing to talk about their race at the next competitor meeting. Please reach out if you'd be interested. Tell everyone about the conditions, your strategy, how you decided to keep going or not-keep-going, etc. Suggestions on how people can do better are always welcome. Everyone loves to hear that because it helps them next time.

    On that note, some humble suggestions for starts like Saturday's with a lot of ebb. Once you've sailed around the start line to know what conditions are like, motor back up to Marina Green and hang out there until your prep: with the strong ebb, you are guaranteed to get down to the start line under sail. Boats are racing from the preparatory signal, so the motor has to be off no later than 4 minutes to the start. If you are not where you want to be at 10+ minutes to your start, turn on the engine and get far enough up current before your prep that you'll still be comfortably on the pre-start slide of the line until the start. If you do find yourself crossing before your time, you have to get back completely on the pre-start side of the line or you will be scored DNS or OCS, which will really ruin your race. Currents are usually stronger out by the A buoy than by shore, so coming in closer to shore to make progress against the tide often helps quite a bit.

    Thank you very much for racing with the SSS. The SSS Farallones race has a 46 year history in the SSS pantheon, and we are glad you spent your Saturday as part of that tradition.

    Richard, 2023 SSS Race Co-Chair

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2022


    Carliane captured this great photo of Werewolf and Nina finishing in very light breeze, boatlengths apart after almost thirteen hours on the course:Name:  PXL_20230514_034630727.jpg
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    Happily they finished in about the one hour when the fog pulled back from the bay: for the rest of the day the North tower, horseshoe cove, and the whole Marin side of the bay were invisible behind the fog.
    Last edited by fauxboat; 05-15-2023 at 10:40 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2022


    Carliane also captured this image of our last finisher, in the heavy fog that came back in after Werewolf and Nina.

    The silhouette is the St Francis Flag Mast, illuminated all night long from the city side.

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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Palo Alto


    I did something like this last year as a newbie report on the SHF. Still a newbie and this year was tougher for me. Thats OK. So here are maps with numbers and text to go with the numbers. Hoping this and last years reports will help other newcomers.

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    1 Start. Lots of folks hovering around the start line. Too scary. Went and found a place sheltered from ebb and hung out. Timed how long I was drifting 1/2-mile. Went 1/2-mile East and waited. I ended up about 2 minutes late to the start. Fine by me. I was very nervous about the swim event. The lead swimmers came right past me. I had to avoid one guy who didn't look like he was capable of seeing me let alone avoid me. I can tell you when I've been swimming in current like that off Crissy you are desperately just trying to make it, you dont even care about boats. Don’t know why the kayaks were not helping him. Foggy at this point but not too bad. At least I could see the bridge. Wind about 10. Point at Sausalito, end up at S Tower. More wind than the forecast, for the start anyway.

    2. Warning over VHF from Richard: tug and barge coming in. Everyone but me made it out in time. I didn’t and had to tack just outside the S Tower. Sailed right where you don’t want to be in the washing machine by the red nun. Messed that up.

    3. All was good until we got past Bonita. Wind died completely. Well it went to 4 and then long patches where it went to absolute 0. Actually worse than absolute zero at +/- 1. I thought I went a bit close to Bonita and the shoal markers, but some went even closer. There were a few big rollers that came through just warning you not to get that close. I caught up to Randy and Tortuga who was parked along with nearly everyone else and we went round-and-round and back-and-forth-and back-and-forth for what seemed like hours. It was hours. Sails just banging around. At least mine were, I have no idea how some folks just cruised right through this stuff. Those of us that were parked were getting a free ride North which was good but also getting close to the reef buoys and markers. By now it was pea soup. All I could see were several boats around on AIS. I knew there was an eddy spun up off the coast. Not unlike last year. I had been out the day before and it was just like this and dead until 1-2pm. I'd texted Randy the night before and shared that with him and said it could be a long day. It was. I heard what sounded like a bad alarm, like a high-water alarm or something. I called Randy and White Rose on VHF who were both near me but no response, so guess it was OK. Noise went off after a bit. On the first picture you can see Randy and I just sloshing about together in the current, ebb then flood. If this had gone on much longer I was totally ready to bail rather than get any closer to shore. When the fog lifted a few times we were all what I would call already close to shore and I could see waves and rocks. I saw a couple boats pass me on the way back in. One came pretty close just to say hi and shouted at me he was giving up but I couldn't see who it was or the boat name. I heard a couple more on VHF call in retirements. One said "Too rolly for me".

    4. Finally about 1-2 pm the wind picked up a bit, maybe 5-10, and veered to W very slowly on the way to normal. Randy had started out on the same half-circle course as me but then ducked out about 12-1pm. Still very foggy and it would stay that way for me for the entire day. Friend on the hills in SF later said he'd never seen the fog so thick. Became a tight tack out to the point between SE Farallon and Middle Rock. Every 5 minutes thinking I wouldn't make it in one tack. Gave up speed, which for me means 3.5 knots not 4.5 knots, so I didn’t have to do that painful tack North. I got to the lightship about 4pm, a bit late. Some folks were close to finishing by then. Wind increased. Waves increased. Got very wet when I discovered a line loose and had to go uo to the foredeck with waves breaking over the entire boat. That was a bit miserable. Saw Greyhound coming back on AIS and that drove home how slow I am compared to some of the SSS boats. Depressing. Still I kept looking at the time and I though I could maybe, maybe just make it back before midnight so I decide to press on and round the island. At this point, I was back in the mode of the challenge was to finish.

    5. By now it was windy, sometimes very windy, and there were some occasional big waves around the back of SE Farallon. I was down to about 50% main and 50% genoa. I dont think the waves were as big as last year, there were some big ones behind the island last year but the waves on the way out this year seemed bigger, steeper and closer than last year and probably more messed up than any other time I've been out there. I do realize I have not seen it at anything like its worst though. Never saw the island. Never saw the light. Never heard a wave break. And weirdly never heard a seal barking. That may be the fog. Didn’t smell the island until I was passing Hearst Shoal. Perhaps because I rounded even further out than I did last year. Most of my rounding was in more than 100 ft and only briefly did I see a stretch of 80 ft. Rounded about 7:30pm. After rounding I heard the first VHF roll call but they couldn’t hear me. I wonder if I had accidentally pressed my Hi/Lo button on my VHF mic as its real close to the PTT button. Next roll call they heard me fine from about 20 miles out. Good to know the VHF works that far out as previously only VTS has managed to pick me up on VHF at the Farallones. Should have asked what power and antenna the SF Club were using. Guess a battery-powered 25W rig with a Yagi? but anyone know?

    6. Nice ride back. Sort of. Still pea soup. Heck of a lot more comfortable with waves behind me than in front of me. Actually managed to doze off a few times. Still windy though it gradually dropped towards the end before finally really dropping approaching SF. By this time it was 10 pm and I was trying to figure out if I would make it before midnight. Didn’t look likely and I texted Richard to warn him. I didn’t know if he could see me on AIS. One thing you don’t know is when AIS kicks in. You can see the AIS kick out in picture 1. I know that VTS can see me on AIS behind the Farallones, and they did in LongPac as I was talking to them on VHF too. I know they have different antennas and transmitters as the lady said "Let me switch transmitters". I don’t think RC picked me up on AIS until well in front of the islands. Not sure if Richard was seeing my GO! RaceTV transmissions or not. What is a bit nuts is I have Class A and B AIS, a YB3, a Garmin and a GO! but still no easy way to make sure that RC can see me. As I have discovered before cell phone text turns out to be the easiest and possibly best from SF to the Farallones and sometimes beyond. Low bandwidth, digital. Richard did later text me that seeing me appear on AIS after rounding was reassuring.

    7. The end. Not the finish because I didn’t finish. I was stuck at Bonita at 11pm with no wind, dense fog, a ripping ebb and a freighter coming in. I don’t think I could have finished any time before the next flood. Shades of my LongPac finish that took nearly a day from the Farallones to GGYC. Could not have timed it worse; again. I texted Richard and said I was motoring from Bonita to the bridge otherwise I'd be there all night and Richard said he has to stay until everyone was in. I knew I must be last in. VHF roll call had become very short and only myself and one other boat were still out, though nobody could raise the other boat. Someone said coming in the bridge at night was OK in fog because you could see the lights glow. I saw absolutely nothing, zero, until I saw the bridge above me, and only just saw the deck. Made a stupid mistake again. I had assumed fog would kill the wind in the bay. Not so, got a very rude awakening as I went under the bridge with full sail. By now I was running ahead of the freighter and we had to chase each other down on VHF channels to figure out what to do. I thought I was on VHF Tri-Watch but wasn’t and missed the pilot trying to hail me on bridge-bridge. He was just being real nice to alert me and I think he knew I had been out to the Farallones and back, maybe those guys can see AIS tracks on Class A. We talked and I just headed right over to shore and crept down the city front very carefully. By now it was 1am, Richard was able to go home, I felt so bad for keeping him there so long. A very long day. Got back to the dock at 4am.
    Last edited by GBR3068; 05-16-2023 at 11:21 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2022


    Thank you GBR3068.

    I am very glad you made it in safely after an extremely long day,

    I do not know what equipment the Radio Club brought to bear. My assumption is they have higher-end gear than the typical person, much like a bird watching club would likely have better binoculars than almost anyone else. I do think they were using a very tall / high gain omnidirectional antenna rather than a Yagi.

    You appeared on AIS for the radio club a few miles away from the lightship, I cannot remember which side, but I think the west side. VTS probably saw you sooner.

    On my screen you showed up as <boatname>; in my conversations with VTS they had you as <boatname>-1. That might be the two AIS transmitters at work.

    VTS does a nice job telling traffic about other traffic, including "marine events" AKA races. So throughout the day VTS repeated that there was a marine event going to and frm the Farallones, and that the race committee was monitoring VHF 71. So the ship that chased you in absolutely knew you'd been to the Farallones --- they even called me up to find out the location of the fleet, and I described your position and that of the other boat as best I could.

    Thank you for your focus on safety, and for racing with the SSS!

    Richard, 2023 SSS Race Co-Chair

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2022

    Default Race report from Nina

    Nina's crew asked me to post the following



    Nina had a good start, after jibing around the first swimmer and ducking another one.

    Akumu started about the same time inside of us and we sailed next to her to the bridge.

    The rest of our fleet was a few minutes back as we headed out past Mile Rock

    We were with Greyhound and Akumu headed for the shipping channel, staying in the deep water with the ebb. Werewolf and another boat were a bit north, but very close.

    The wind went very light, from 0-5 Knots for the next few hours. We had a 2 knot current that kept us headed towards the islands, and as the autopilot was not happy we hand steered, keeping the boat headed west at 2-5 knots over the ground.

    Visibility was very poor and we lost sight of the fleet around 10:30. We did not see any boats for the next 5-6 hours.

    Around 1 pm the wind picked up a bit and slowly clocked around to the North West, and then North and we were able to easily make the islands, as the wind picked up to 10-12 knots.

    3:30 pm we are 2 miles by gps from the SE Farallones but we do not see them. We approached to within a half mile of my waypoint and still did not see the Islands. Since the early 80s I have made close to 50 trips around the Farallones. This was the first time I did not see them.

    We nervously made a very wide rounding of the rocks, and headed towards the gate on a beam reach.

    At this point visibility was poor, the boat was fine, and the crew was sore, tired and immobile. We were headed home at 9 knots with main and #1 headsail, and the autopilot was driving. We chased a handful of advil with a beer and eventually we started to feel somewhat human again.

    We rounded the Islands at around 4 pm, somewhere around 5 we saw Greyhound approaching from behind. She passed us, and the wind started to ease.

    Werewolf approached from behind and was faster than Nina. Werewolf went to the south near Mile Rock. Nina went down the middle, both were moving around 3 knots, 2-2 miles from the bridge at 8pm check-in. We reached the south tower at about the same time, Nina was about a half boat east, and Werewolf was about 50 ft. south, nearer the tower.

    Wind picked up, and it was a tight reach to the finish. Werewolf was under control and Nina was on the edge and had a few minor round-ups.

    Congratulations to Jeff on Werewolf, a fantastic race, and a fantastic 5 races. Jeff gets the hat trick for 3 on a row

    Thanks to the race committee, it was a late one. Sorry I am unable to make it to the awards ceremony. I look forward to finally meeting Jeff as I owe him at least three beers

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