Dark & Stormy’s 3BF Triumph

 2014 3 Bridge Fiasco – Dark and Stormy – Jonathan Hunt & Rodney Hagebols

The Three Bridge has been on Jonathans bucket list for some time now. The 24th Jan was Jon’s birthday so why not try and win this thing for him. We both went to the skippers meeting on Wednesday night and found the talk by Kame and the race committee well worth the trip. What I got from Kame’s chat was to tick the boxes you can while you can regardless of the forecast and keep your options open. That being said we still looked closely at the sailorsenergy data.

Dark and Stormy is kept in Alameda and we docked out at 0800hrs to reach GGYC by 0915hrs. On the way to GGYC we had a good chance to check out the wind and current around TI. When went passed TI there was zero wind, so something had to change for us to decide to go ACW. As we approached GGYC area the breeze started to fill from the Easterly direction. Problem was that there was no wind beyond city front to the East. Our start was around 1021hrs so we tried to stay out of the way and watch the other classes get underway. This was great for us as it gave us a good indicator as to how the race track was playing out. We could see boats parking at Pier 39 as expected but we could see boats making their way through Richardson Bay successfully. Our biggest concern for the CW course was Raccoon Straits.

By start time we weren’t convinced in either direction so we took Kame’s advice and sailed to Blackaller and back up the beach towards StFYC to buy some time. The wind kept getting lighter to the point we anchored off StFYC. This was pretty nice as we got to watch the whole race course and have a bite to eat at the same time. We noticed the boats in the middle of the bay sailing in a slight breeze. Finally Jon said we gotta make a choice or we aren’t going to make it anyway (The call of the day). So we pulled up anchor and made for the breeze in the middle of the bay. By that stage all the shipping had gone through thank God. We noted boats that had attempted to cross near Golden Gate got sucked out to sea. We wanted to cross fast while we could so we hoisted the Code Zero and sailed low and fast. We got to within ½ a mile of Raccoon when the breeze shut down and I threw the anchor over again. It wasn’t long before Jon made me pick it up again and we attempted to sail.

At this point, something weird happened, the boat started to make way ever so slightly and we began to move away from the boats around us, boats that were less than 20ft away. We continued this slow escape and it wasn’t long before they were specs on the horizon. Then as we entered Raccoon a Westerly filled to blow us into and nearly through the Straits. We could see boats towards Richmond sailing in NWesterly so knew there would be a breeze change as we exited the straits. So we tried to leave from the North Tiburon side. As it turned out, this paid huge dividends. A nice 6kn NW breeze and a weakening Ebb got us around red rock in good shape, but we could see that the breeze was weakening all the time. At this stage we thought we were doing pretty good but didn’t have any other boats to guage off.

From Red rock to TI we sailed pretty much rumb line except for a small gybe early to get some East in away from the dead zone on the East side of Angel Island. We sailed with the A3 nearly all the way to TI where we peeled to a Jib and then Code Zero to get through the Lee of TI. By this stage the Flood was running and we got through the East side of TI quickly. We knew the last leg was going to be grueling because of the flood and light patchy wind. Some boats cheered us on as we went passed them about to sail uphill so to speak. We chose the sail on the TI shore as far as we could, must have been 10-15 tacks, almost going nowhere. The tacking angles were horrendous because of the flood messing with the Apparent wind. Finally we thought we had enough Northerly in to try and sail across the channel to City front without getting sucked into the South Bay under the Bridge. So off we went, constantly trimming and looking for any wind that might help us. There was massive shear in the wind. At the top of the mast we had westerly and at sea level we had Northerly. So we just trimmed and steered to the middle tell tales on the sails as the best of both worlds so to speak. We watched a J24 to leeward of us get sucked under the Bay Bridge and feared we were next. Then again a little sniff of wind gave us an escape to the North so we tacked onto Port and made some good headway. We did one more tack into City front towards the Cruise ship and Jon said “we can do this, we can finish!!” Immediately I said “Shut up Jon!”, What the heck are you thinking? Anyway lots of fun moments and more to come. Still flooding and we could see that there was very little wind close to the docks and ship but we could see some breeze filling towards Alcatraz. So…cross the channel to Alcatraz on a flood then have to come back?? We had to do something so we went for it. Low and behold the wind filled and we smoked up towards Alcatraz in the edge of the cone. Once there we tacked over to Starboard and had great angle back to the city in pressure.

This was the final bit and the clock was ticking. We sailed across the Fort Mason and the breeze slowly died. Jon was starting to freak as the water glassed out. It seemed like there was some early ebb near the shore so not all hope was lost. Jon was getting a little jumpy but managed to keep it together. We did another tack out to sea and prayed for some breeze. Wow it really is our day as another puff rolled in which allowed us to tack over to lay the finish. Approaching the breakwater near GGYC some M24’s who had retired cheered us on, as did many of the crowd at GGYC . With flash lights blazing and Jon cheering we crossed the line. Shortly after we learned we were the first to finish, that’s when Jon really started to lose it…haha. Jon could be heard all the way down Oakland Estuary as we approached our berth. It was a great day of sailing, HAPPY BIRTHDAY JON!

and from Jon, as posted on Sailing Anarchy:

Regarding planning a direction before the race, I think Rod and I went through the usual agonizing that every team goes through when trying to analyze a problem that is probably beyond the reach of mere mortals: just too many variables and unknowns. When it came down to it we had some breeze to Blackaller and no breeze to TI or Red Rock, so we did Blackaller and liked the idea of going down the Cityfront close to shore looking for early flood. We ran out of breeze in front of the St Francis and anchored with an Archimbault 35 and a J105. After 20 minutes of waiting we realized there was light breeze stretching to the north, and I think we realized if we were to have any chance of finishing the race we had to go somewhere, so we went north, toward Red Rock. Probably the fact that we started toward RR further up current than the folks who rounded Blackaller saved our race…

Light north breeze in Racoon, with lots of holes. We were with only two other boats, Rocket 88 and Motorcycle Irene. We crossed to the north side of Racoon, which turned out to be a good move as we were able to escape. I am not sure if Irene ever did, on the south side.

We maybe had a bit of flood on the east side of TI helping us go south, but of course it became an issue once we got around the south end of YB and turned into it. At that stage we had about 2 1/2 hours to finish the race, against a fairly strong flood with minimum breeze. Quite honestly it looked impossible. In the beginning we were making only a couple of knots over the ground against the tide, and it looked impossible to make the distance to the GGYC in the time remaining at that speed. During the last leg we never cleated the jib and we did many tacks over to the cone.
 Regarding who got “jumpy”?? LOL. It was a pretty close thing as to whether we would ever make the line by the deadline, and it was “dark and stormy” way out there in the middle between TI and the cruise ship and Alcatraz, in more ways than one: I was very, very worried, and anybody in their right mind would have been doing the math and climbing the walls. And I think Rodney was a little jumpy too!! LOL.

It was an immensely satisfying win. It is the unofficial season’s championship in my mind. Everybody is there racing, and it is a huge challenge and a very, very fun afternoon. We won our class a few years ago in Big Boat but this one feels better. There were people on the jetty cheering us on as we finished and that was a great heartwarming feeling after working hard all day: It was the best gun I ever got.
JH

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