CHAPTER 11   

 

BEER CAN RACING

BEGINNINGS

            We had done many things to make her more comfortable and Moonshot had turned into as much of a cruising boat as possible. But we were coming to the conclusion that if we ever had the opportunity to go cruising, we would really like to have a larger boat. Some of the reasons:

            - Hot Water
            - Refrigeration 
            - Oven
            - Single Side Band/Ham Radio
            - Larger Engine
            - Larger Fuel Capacity
            - Larger Water Capacity
            - Stability

None of these features were necessary for bay cruising, so until we had an exit plan, Moonshot was in great shape for more fun on San Francisco Bay. We did however, start opening our minds to buying a larger boat. We perused Latitude 38's Classy Classifieds monthly. We didn't have our finances together enough to afford a bigger boat though. I concluded the way to conquer the financial thing was construct a spreadsheet model of our life. I dove into Lotus 123 over the Thanksgiving holiday to build the shell. Over Christmas, I filled the shell with real data to see where we were. Upon completion, I discovered the bottom line was minus $11.00 for the year. At least I had the model correct, but clearly there was no room for a larger boat payment. It gave us an accurate picture of where we were, so we could make plans on how to improve our situation. We were going to have to find ways to make more money and save it. Our cars would be paid for in two years and we had no desire to own new cars. We developed the idea of saving as much money as we could and keeping the cars for at least 7 more years to use the car payment portion of our budget to make boat payments.

            Other strategies we thought of included selling the house and moving aboard to pay off a boat loan more quickly. The income tax ramifications with this plan were hefty, since we had been gaining equity in the surging bay area housing market. It would be more desirable to save that money. If we could just get the boat and pay for it before selling the house, we could sell when it was time to go. We learned that you could rent your primary residence for up to two years before it became an income unit. So if we managed to get the boat without selling, then moved aboard for 1-1/2 years while renting the house, we could use that time to shake down the boat, pay the loan off, and build a cruising kitty with the rental income. Then we could sell the house and have 1-1/2 years of cruising before making the decision to continue. If the answer was we had enough, we could come back, re-enter the system, and reinvest the untouched equity that would have been generating interest for the cruising kitty. It had the feel of a good 7-year plan. We would still be young enough to enjoy the experience and have a yacht when we returned. We still had plenty of time to understand and formulate our cruising goals. For now, it was off to the races.

            I had been talking about Beer Can Racing at the SPYC meetings so the topic would be on record, in case anyone from PICYA questioned our statements about having an actual sailboat-racing program. For the most part, when I reported on the topic I received mostly blank stares and comments like, "Whatever you say Steve”. I concluded  I needed to bring these people along further and decided writing articles in the Spyglass was the best approach. I plagiarized materials from various back issues of Latitude 38 and included their "Ten Commandments of Beer Can Racing" in the December issue:

Fleet Captain's Report:
When someone called me with the question, is Beer Can Racing where you put little sails on beer cans and race them in the marina, I thought it was time I provided a more clear picture of what I've been bringing up at the past few meetings. The following article is a reprint (without permission) from the May 89 issue of Latitude 38. I only wish I had written it to describe something I think would be a great activity for anyone with a sailboat. (Actually, I'd rather be cruising for a couple of years, but since this is where I work, I'll go for Beer Cans.)

BEER CANS - THE 10 COMMANDMENTS

1) Thou shalt not take anything other than safety too seriously. If you can only remember one commandment, this is the one. Relax, have fun, and keep it light. Late to the start? - so what. Over early? - big deal. No instructions? - improvise. Too windy? - quit. Not enough wind? - break out the beer. The point is to have fun but stay safe. Like the ad says, "Safe boating is no accident."

2) Thou shalt honor the racing rules if thou knowst them. The USYRU edition of the 1989-92 International Yacht Racing Rules, which take effect on May 1, is the racer's bible. Few sailors we know have actually studied it cover to cover: it's about as interesting as reading tax code or the phone book. For beer can racing, just remember some of the biggies (port tack boats shall avoid starboard ones; windward boats shall avoid leeward ones; and outside boats shall give room at the mark). Stay out of the way of bigger boats, pay your insurance premiums and keep a low profile unless you're sure you know what you're doing. Like most things, it boils down to common sense.

3) Thou shalt not run out of beer. Beer (a.k.a., brewskis, chill pills, thought cylinders) is the beverage that lends its name to "beer can" racing; obviously, you don't want to run out of the frothy nectar. Of course, you can drink whatever you want out there, but there's a reason these things aren't called milk bottle races, coca-cola can races, hot chocolate races or something else. Just why beer is so closely associated with this kind of racing escapes us at the moment, but it's a tradition we're happy to go along with.

4) Thou shalt not covet thy competitor's boat, sails, equipment, crew, or PHRF rating. No excuses or whining; if you're lucky enough to have a sailboat, just go use it! You don't need the latest in zircon-encrusted widgetry or unobtainium sailcloth to have a great time out on the water with your friends. Even if your boat's a heaving pig, make modest goals and work toward improving on them from week to week. Or don't - it's only Beer Can racing.

5) Thou shalt not amp out. No screaming, swearing, or overly aggressive tactics. Save that stuff for the office or, if you must, for Saturday's "real" race. If you lose it in a Friday nighter, you're going to run out of crew - not to mention friends - in a big hurry. Downing a quick chill pill on the way to the starting line has been medically proven to have a calming influence on the nerves.

6) Thou shalt not protest thy neighbor. This is extremely tacky at this level of competition and should be avoided at all costs. Perhaps it's justifiable if one's boat is damaged and blame needs to be established, but on the whole tossing a red flag is the height of bad taste in something as relatively inconsequential as a beer canner. Besides providing that you're unclear on the concept of beer can racing, it screws up everybody's evening including yours. Don't do it; it's bad karma.

7) Thou shalt not mess up thy boat. Everybody knows some hard-core weekend warrior who ripped his sails up in a Friday night race and had to sit out a championship race on Saturday. The point is that it's not worth risking your boat or gear in such casual competition: like the song says, you got to know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em. Avoid other boats at all costs, not to mention buoys and other hard objects. If you have the luxury of two sets of sails, use the old ones.

8) Thou shalt always go to the yacht club afterwards. Part of the gestalt of beer can races is bellying up to the yacht club bar afterwards. Etiquette demands that you congratulate the winners, as well as buy a round of drinks for your crew. Besides, the bar is a logical place to see old friends and make new ones. However when meeting new sailors, avoid the gung-ho, overly serious types who rehash the evening in such gory detail that the post-mortem (yawn) takes longer than the race. As much as we enjoy a quick romp around the cans, there's more to life.

9) Thou shalt bring thy spouse, kids, friends and whoever else wants to go. Twilight races are great forums for introducing new folks to sailing, such as your neighbors, out-of-town visitors, coworkers or maybe even the family dog. Always bring your significant other along, too - coed crews are happy crews. And don't just make the newcomers watch - give them a job on the boat. Get everyone involved.

10) Thou shalt not worry; thou shalt be happy. Leave the cellular phone in the car; bring the ghetto blaster. Lighten up, it's not the Big Boat Series. Have fun, and we'll see you out there!
End of article.

This is the style of racing Coyote Point yacht club uses successfully, and I'd like to see it happen here. The Beer Cans are open to the membership of the club. If someone is interested in crewing on a sailboat, just show up at the clubhouse. Anyone with available space on their boat should welcome folks that turn out. This provides an opportunity for people with powerboats to try sailing and for sailboat skippers with questions to see how it works or to just see how another sailboat performs. It also provides crew for skippers in need. I think this attitude will add a new dimension to SPYC and I intend to promote it as the season develops. My term as Fleet Captain is coming to a close with the election of new officers. I will be working on the race committee next season. I'm building a list of people that are interested in participating in the SPYC Beer Cans. If you belong on that list, leave a message, I'll get back to you.

            Marsha was stepping down from the Secretary's position on the board of directors, but agreed to continue coordinating the Spyglass. Jerry McDaniel was taking over as the next Fleet Captain. I was beginning to get some response to the racing article. Jerry mentioned he had raced a few years ago and would like to be included. Don Holmes mentioned he would be interested. I learned that Don had started racing as crew for Nick Kluznick when he had a Catalina 30 ten years ago.

            The Pacific Marine Exchange, PME, was a wonderful boating supply store we learned of from conversations in the marina. It was half a supply store with new and used equipment on consignment. The other half was a work shop loaded with marine quality woods, teak, mahogany, birch, etc., and power tools. I had sketched a design for a storage box to replace the wooden step in Moonshot's companionway entrance and had Dave Henderson, PME's proprietor build it for me. Marsha and I were picking up the completed box on Saturday when Dave started talking to me. He heard I was talking about getting sailboat racing started. He asked about the club and liked the fact that members had keys and access to the building. His girlfriend and co-proprietor Colleen Haley joined the conversation. She said they owned two sailboats and wanted to join the yacht club. Dave stated they would love to get out and race. He volunteered gift certificates from PME as prizes.

            Carl Ballard approached me on the dock one day and stated he had been appointed the position of race person for Oyster Point yacht club and wanted to join my efforts. He mentioned someone in their club already had established a number of race courses for the area. This was good because I had been wrestling with the course decisions. The wind blew from shore so we couldn't start here and have an upwind start, which is what, given my almost total lack of knowledge, I thought was supposed to happen. Great, somebody else had thought that through.

            So including myself, there were already 5 skippers and Carl said there were 2 or 3 others from his club interested. Between the two clubs we should be able to get a half dozen boats out to have some fun. I set up a time to meet at Carl's house and discuss the topic of racing. I brought the 10 Commandments article along, which he thought it was great. He didn't have the course information yet. We discussed when to have the races. Carl talked about people in his club mentioning Sundays. I felt strongly about Friday nights though. That was a great time, you could go have fun and leave afterwards or stay and party at the clubhouse. My feeling was this would be promoted as a great way to start the weekend. I had moved forward more quickly than I would have otherwise because Carl said he would supply courses. I didn't want to get involved in such a way I couldn't participate myself. That was why I was doing this, to be able to do it. No one else was organizing it. I didn't want to have to be caught up in the administration and not be able to play. That's why the rabbit start seemed like the logical thing to do. Joe Rockmore had told me about a rabbit start but I only remembered that it was something one of the participants could run. I met him for lunch and asked him to explain it. My next article in the Spyglass was again plagiarized from Latitude 38. It described how rabbit starts work:

 

BEER CAN RACING

OUR FIRST PRE SEASON RACE WILL BE SATURDAY, MARCH 24.

The pre race meeting will be from 12:00 to 1:00 in the SPYC clubhouse. People are encouraged to attend to discuss the racing events for the season, even if they are not planning to race that day. A race will follow, with a start time of 2:00. Moonshot will be the rabbit boat. The course will be approximately 10 nautical miles. Charcoal will be burning, and the bar open back at the SPYC clubhouse by 5:00. I originally chose the following article to provide an explanation of a 'Rabbit Start', a method of starting a sailboat race with no committee boat. I ended up including the entire article because it paints a picture of the kind of fun we could have here this year (if the wind doesn't blow TOO hard). The section on 'Rabbit Starts' is in all capital letters. We can be more formal if a race committee forms, but this sounds like a great way to get started.
KEEPING IT LIGHT ON A SANTA CRUZ WEDNESDAY NIGHT.

Keep it light. That's the Santa Cruz attitude toward sailboat displacement and their Wet Wednesday fun races. The success of their so-called ultra light displacement boats is well known. Less renowned, at least outside Santa Cruz county lines, is the success of the Wet Wednesday series. Success in the sense that the Santa Cruz version of Wet Wednesday is perhaps one of the purest embodiments of pleasure sailing.

Wet Wednesdays in Santa Cruz are not about protests; there is no race committee. Or about racking up the best record; finishes aren't taken. Or about being grim; bummers must be checked outside the harbor premises. Santa Cruz Wet Wednesdays are about moving with the ocean motion, having friendly duels with the boat nearest you, breathing fresh salt air, having a beer, laughing with old friends and introducing non-sailing acquaintances to mid-week nautical good times.
Almost always well-attended, Wet Wednesdays attract between 40 and 80 boats, depending on the weather and time of year. Warm, fog free evenings just before school adjourns for the summer draw best. Part of the reason for the consistently strong turnouts is that there's never a shortage of crew. This is the result of the Santa Cruz tradition of bringing non-sailors along to see what the fun is all about. This “more the merrier” attitude was perhaps best exemplified a few years ago when Bill Lee owned Merlin and raced with an “everybody's welcome” policy.

The typical six to 10 person crews, depending on the size of boat, are perfectly safe as long as everybody knows when to duck the boom and how to keep their fingers from getting caught between the jib sheet and winch drum. Historically, the nice thing about Wet Wednesdays is that you normally don't have to be invited to end up being one of the 6 to 10 people on a boat. Most folks who show up around the hoist a little after 5:00 PM. with beer, chips and a smile are able to catch a ride. Once you get the first ride, it takes little effort to make connections so you needn't sit on a dock again for the rest of your life.
Informality is the grease that helps the wheels of fun turn at Wet Wednesday. Nowhere is this more evident than out on the non-race racecourse, where what's known as a 'rabbit start' is used.

THE WAY IT WORKS IS SIMPLE. AT A SPECIFIED TIME, THE SO-CALLED RABBIT BOAT PASSES A BUOY CLOSED-HAULED ON PORT TACK. THE REST OF THE FLEET THEN STARTS BY TAKING THE RABBIT'S STERN ON STARBOARD TACK. ONLY AFTER THE ENTIRE FLEET HAS PASSED BY THEM IS THE RABBIT FREE TO FLOP BACK ON STARBOARD TACK AND HEAD FOR THE WEATHER MARK.

There are some social and tactical advantages to being the rabbit. For not only do you get to say hello to just about everyone in the fleet at close quarters, but it's also impossible to be late for the start or over the line early.

There are, nonetheless, some downside risks, too. You can't for instance tack back to starboard to take advantage of an early wind shift until you've passed the entire fleet. More critically, there's mortal danger at the start when the rabbit could more accurately be described as the sitting duck. The danger comes from sailors who are either too experienced or not experienced enough. The novice sailors, some of whom are unclear on the rabbit start concept, think that since they're on starboard they have the right-of-way. Naturally this is true - except for the rare exception of a rabbit start. Fortunately, the rabbit boat has only been involved in a few minor collisions over the years.

Almost worse than the collisions are the scares from the rock stars, who try to see how close they can shave the rabbit without actually sinking it. This risk is avoided by dragging a lifejacket 20 feet behind the Rabbit's transom. Now instead of clearing it's stern, the fleet must clear the lifejacket.

Depending on the conditions, which can vary from windy to whispers, races are wet and wild or slow and dry. Bigger boats usually sail the indicated course, while some of the smaller, older, or less competitive designs sometimes ignore the last mark and take a shortcut to the finish.

When the sailing is done, Wet Wednesdays are just half over. The docks crawl with sailors cleaning up boats, hoisting them onto trailers, and catching up on the latest news and gossip. Then it's up to the Santa Cruz Yacht Club for drinks, a BBQ-it-yourself dinner, and socializing. Wet Wednesday racing usually begins in Santa Cruz with the Wednesday following the start of daylight savings.

End of article.

            I used the philosophies contained in the article to promote racing to the membership, that it was fun for everyone. Power boaters could serve as committee boats if they wanted, or they could jump on someone else's sailboat. The club bar should make money afterwards, so everybody wins. Carl got very busy in his life and wasn't much help in getting things started. He never came up with the racecourse information. The last I received from him was a list of dates on which not to schedule any races because they were already scheduled for OPYC events. After the initial Saturday race, I scheduled the first Friday of each month for the regular races for the rest of the summer. I chose this day because SPYC's directors decided to have the first Friday of the month be an open house and they would have the bar staffed. The season was announced as May through October.

            The third Beer Can Racing article was published in the February Spyglass, again plagiarized from past issues of Latitude 38. This one was a brief article on understanding the PHRF handicap system:

BEER CAN RACING
OUR FIRST PRE-SEASON RACE WILL BE SATURDAY, MARCH 24.
The following is third in a series of 3 articles from Latitude 38, this one from the November 89 issue. The series was designed to give interested boaters an understanding of the type of racing we are planning for the future. If you did not read the other two, they were published in the December and January issues of the Spyglass. This article is on handicapping. SPYC will not "officially" be using a handicapping scheme until we have a race committee to conduct the race starts and finishes. In the meantime, my understanding is it is a popular thing after an informal race, to discuss your boat's PHRF rating in the yacht club bar. You'll have a good idea about which boats finished when.

PHRF QUICK COURSE
Sailboats race in either one-design or handicap classes. In one-design, the boats are all the same and the first guy across the finish line wins. In handicap racing, boats are "equalized" by a rating formula. In this type of racing, though a big new boat may beat a smaller old one over the finish, it has to "give time" to the little guy. In PHRF (Performance Handicap Rating Formula) handicapping, the most popular and widely used system, boats are assigned numbers that represent seconds per mile. The lower the number, the faster the boat. So if that big boat rated, say, 72, and the small one rated 156, the big boat would have to "give" the small one 84 seconds (156 - 72) per mile, or seven minutes for a five-mile race (84 x 5 = 420 seconds = 7 minutes). If the little boat finishes within that time, he beats the big guy on "corrected time".

PHRF certificates are available through YRA (the Yacht Racing Association) in Fort Mason. The initial certificate costs $20, with an annual renewal fee of $10 thereafter. If you've never done this before, just call YRA at (415) 771- 9500 and ask for a PHRF application. Then get out your tape measure and start filling the blanks on the form. You'll need to measure things like boom length, "J" (from the bottom of the headstay to the base of the mast) and so on. If the boat is a stock version of a popular design, PHRF numbers should be forthcoming in a week to 10 days. If the boat is an unusual or unique design, or a stock boat modified by you or a previous owner, it must go to the PHRF committee, which meets around the first of each month. In one of the more thankless jobs in yacht racing, they'll do their best to assign your boat a fair rating.

End of article.

I won't have much in the next issue of Spyglass, but for the following issues, I intend to report on the race events as they occur.

See you at the meeting on Saturday, March 24.

            I felt the three articles were enough for perspective skippers to know all they needed to know to be able to get out and have fun. I was hoping to see 6 to 12 boats get involved.

 

THE TUPPERWARE PARTY

            In the initial thinking about getting racing started, I was concerned about needing money for things that would be required to conduct them, however they may turn out. The receptionist where I worked had organized a Tupperware party to be conducted in one of the conference rooms at the end of a business day. She had passed out catalogs ahead of time. I brought one home for Marsha. We hadn't been exposed to the notion of a Tupperware Party in many years. It seemed like a good thing though, since we had been working on optimizing space on Moonshot. We enjoyed picking out things from the catalog and found several items that would help Moonshot's galley.

            On the day of the party, I entered the conference room and placed our order. On my way out, I had a chance to briefly talk to the hostess, Diane. I mentioned why I was ordering the items and the conversation quickly turned to the idea of putting on a Tupperware Party at the yacht club. What an idea. This stuff was perfect for boat galleys, why wouldn't more boaters appreciate the opportunity to participate in a Tupperware shopping spree? If our club sponsored a party, we would get 15% of the gross revenue. Diane stated it's not uncommon to gross over $1,000.00 at such an event, that would mean $150.00 for the club if it worked. I got inspired and one thing led to another. I discussed the idea with SPYC's new Commodore, Geri Gollihur. She thought it would be as good as a monthly guest speaker. We had fashion shows, this would sort of be like one. I announced a date at the next general meeting and in the Spyglass. Conceptually, everyone agreed it was worth a try. I had become a Tupperware Host. It was low overhead on my part to get the event organized. Diane would meet at the club and set up demonstration models of her wares and do all the work.

            When the night of the meeting came. It was the least attended general meeting we had seen in months. I still don't know if it was a coincidence or if the Tupperware idea had scared people from coming. The people that did attend mulled over the items and purchased a few things. One couple placed a large order but overall, it turned out to be a disappointment for Diane. The total orders had barley made it past $200.00. I was apologetic to Diane for the poor turnout, but controlling that sort of thing was similar to being able to order the kind of wind you want on a sailing day. Diane dropped the merchandise off at my office in time for me to take it to the next general meeting, along with a check for $34.00. I delivered the Tupperware, presented our Treasurer with the check and proclaimed, "I am hereby now out of the Tupperware Business!" Racing funds would have to come from some other source.

 

THE PRE SEASON RACE

            March 24th was approaching rapidly. Carl had stopped communicating, even after I wrote him a letter, in case he wasn't receiving my phone messages. He never came through with the course information. I designed a course for the day where I would be the rabbit off freighter channel marker #3, two miles on a course of 60 degrees magnetic from our channel entrance. It would be on upwind start back to the channel entrance, then south around the freighter channel markers #5 and #6, then north to freighter channel markers #1 and #2, and finally back to the finish at the channel entrance.

            Moonshot's crew for the event was Lewis Knapp, Jim Callan, and Bernie Battaglin. Marsha couldn't make it to the marina early enough that day. The skippers meeting was scheduled for 12:00 in the SPYC club house. I arrived early to anticipate the day's events. The skippers began straggling in and signing the participants list and soon, the club house was full. I started the meeting by talking about the club's plans to initiate Beer Can Racing off this point. Everyone was welcome, SPYC membership was not required. Course information would be provided as we developed it. The season's races would be on the first Friday of the month. This was the first year so we were still learning about the right way to run things. Initially, we planned on an 1830 start time to see how it worked. Any suggestions were welcome as we had never done this before, a du-ja-ve sensation. I explained the mechanism of a rabbit start drawing diagrams on the white board until everyone appeared they understood how it worked.



Figure 78: The Race Course

            The room was filled with excitement. It had begun. The machine had started moving and there was no stopping it now. Everyone headed back to their boats while I waited behind talking to stragglers that had come in late to make sure they understood the course and start instructions. The race was scheduled to start at 1400. Soon Moonshot was underway, motoring out to the freighter channel. It looked as if there were boats everywhere, we counted 17. I had never seen this level of activity on this part of the bay before. Elation was hardly the word for how I felt after the race got started. I sailed Moonshot in a tacking pattern passing marker #3 back and forth with sailboats of all sorts following my every move. Lewis, my new tactician and I planned our last tack so we would go by marker #3 as close to 2:00 PM as possible. It worked. As we passed the marker, I had Bernie sound the air horn with a long sustained blast. Racing off Sierra Point and the San Bruno Hill had begun. C Bear was first across the start line. We tacked back onto a starboard tack when the line was sufficiently long that anybody left would sail in the right direction regardless if they could spot Moonshot. It appeared from where we were that Del Cielo was rapidly becoming the leader of the pack.

            I don't remember many of the details of the actual racing. I was mostly consumed with the thought that this was actually happening and had become reality. It was on the level of a sensation that I had been an instrument of God to be the one to initiate the inevitable. I had forged ahead in the face of having little knowledge, acting on an inner voice that said, if I can't be cruising right now, I'll race. With a slow boat, I'll lead a randomly collected group of sailors out to begin Beer Can Racing on a part of the bay that had plenty of wind and water but was otherwise quiet. I use the word instrument of God and inevitable because I truly feel thoughts are things and the thoughts were there. I was an instrument because I was tuning in, listening for the thoughts to come. I was the one equipped to act on the prevailing thought and I let no barriers stop me from responding. At least those are words that try to describe how I was feeling, after months of being alone in my quest seeing blank stares at the meetings and only hoping there would be half a dozen boats interested. It was great feeling seeing all the sails and masts flowing with the wind in unison, even if it was from behind most of them.

            Nick Kluznick had influenced my thinking about how the finish would work. His comment on how the Wednesday night races out of Coyote Point worked was they have half a dozen boats or so go out and they discuss who came in ahead of who at the bar in the club afterwards, while grilling burgers for dinner. I had made no other plans than this for the end of the day. When we made it in and back to the club house, a great party was well under way. The grill was cooking and drinks were flying over the young bar like they had never done before. This had broken the record for the number of boats participating in an SPYC event and all appearances were that the record for revenue from an event was going to be smashed as well.


Figure 79: Racing sailboats

            As it turned out, Lee Mosher of Good Turn had been crewing for Jeff and Jayne on Del Cielo. Since they were the first boat over the finish line, they got into a position to record the time differences from when they crossed the line and when each of the other participants finished. I had brought along copies of the listing from YRA of all the boats they had ever established a handicap for. With that information and a calculator, and much head scratching, they were able to compute corrected race results. I hadn't planned on that, I could already sense it was a moving machine that was much bigger than me. As Jeff was reading off the corrected results, the crowded club house would reduce to silence for the next result, then all mouths roared cheering for the result they just heard, then quiet down for the next one. Burgers and beer were flying in every direction. The folks running the bar and grill stood at their positions watching, wide eyed, taking it all in. Nothing like this had ever happened there before, the average age of the crowd was 10 to 20 years younger than the more familiar crowd SPYC was used to. Marsha made it to the club in time for the party and got to enjoy the event's aftermath. A new frontier had been forged.

            It was in the socializing after the race that I learned a group of people from Oyster Cove Marina had been going out on Tuesday nights doing the same thing we were getting started. They weren't organized as a yacht club, so they hung out on the docks after their races, then went out for pizza. Many of them had joined our race. They stated they had been racing the course starting at the channel entrance and rounding freighter channel markers #1 and #2 and then #3 and #4, in either direction. That seemed like a good idea for our next race. They used a rabbit start and didn't track their finish. Matt Matthew's of Esperansa was their rabbit.

            I spoke with Matt later that week letting him know what SPYC was doing and learning more about what they were doing. The group of people he represented were apprehensive of yacht clubs. They had seen the demise of the San Mateo yacht club because of bickering, conflicting politics and bad management. I assured Matt we didn't require membership to come out and join us, the parties in the club afterwards are fun and food and drinks are available. He gave me the details of their Tuesday night races and stated all were welcome. I got a crew together for the next Tuesday to get out and see how they did. They had a good turn out. It was interesting seeing boats head out in two different directions. Boats were crossing each other between the first and second marks. It didn't seem to impose any problems. Nobody was bothered about not having an upwind first leg. It was fun getting out, but I preferred Friday nights with a club to go to afterward as a way to start the weekend. SPYC had taken in almost $600.00 from the first race and was anxiously waiting to see how the coming Friday night races would turn out.

 

FIRST FRIDAY NIGHT RACE

            Soon, the long awaited first Friday night race was upon us. The crew was anxious. My approach to organizing a crew was to invite everyone that had anything to do with Moonshot in the past and hope there wouldn't be too few or too many. Being the rabbit would impose additional work on my crew that none of the other skippers had to worry about. All of this was still quite new to us. Fortunately, Lewis was on top of things because of the Olympic Circle Sailing classes. Barbara was eager to participate as well. Jim and Joanne Callan were ready to sign on as winch grinders. Sometime mid week, I received a call from Jayne Eastman. She had been phoning around and managed to have a writer for Latitude 38 agree to crew on Del Cielo for the race and write an article on the event. Looks like we were about to hit the big time.

            Looking forward in anticipation of the race made life much easier. It was as if there was an ever-present background task whose job was to pump out a continuous flow of extra adrenaline to produce a constant, faint but noticeable sensation of excitement. How are we going to do in the race? Finally, the Friday of the race was upon us. I woke up before 5:00 AM after tossing and turning half awake all night, mulling over what was about to occur. We were going to be covered in Latitude 38. How would the other boats know Moonshot was the rabbit boat? How were we going to avoid coming in last? All this was like a hum, the background task hadn't let up all week and now it was working harder. I drew the shape of a rabbit on a 2-1/2' square of yellow material with a black magic marker. I planed to attach it to Moonshot's backstay with duct tape. The odds of a photograph of the flag showing up in the pages of Latitude 38 were slim, but I was careful in my sketching, just in case.

            Everyone was supposed to meet at the boat at 5:30. This meant several people from high tech firms in Silicon Valley would have to leave their jobs a little early that day. I was no exception. A meeting started at 4:00 that made me nervous, what if I was late? By 4:30, I mentioned I was going to have to leave early and by 4:45, I announced I was off to the magazines. One must have one's priorities in order. I made it to the boat first and started getting ready. One by one the crew showed up. Moonshot was seemingly the last vessel one would imagine racing, with its dodger, windscreen, and CQR anchor hanging off the bow, but we were going for it. Jim and Joanne finally arrived while I was taping the rabbit flag to the backstay. We left the dock by 6:00, with the race scheduled to begin at 6:30. It was happening again. Boats were coming from every direction. Over 20 sailboats were converging on the start line. We got the sails up and barely had time to go through a warm-up tack maneuver by 6:30. It was becoming clear that if we were going to get the race started on time, we weren't going to be able to pass by the Sierra Point channel entrance marker #2 on a port tack. Boats were beginning to recognize Moonshot as the rabbit, so we said heck with it and headed for the mark on a starboard tack. The race had begun.

            Eventually, the mass of canvas all started coming towards us. When it looked as if most of the boats were clear and had started, we tacked and started trying to figure out where to go. The course was the one suggested by the racers from Oyster Cove Marina. There were two marks, #1 and #2, and #3 and #4 freighter channel markers and you could round them in either direction. Lewis could see I was totally involved with conducting the start and had been studying the wind direction, tides, and current. His advice was to trim for a down wind leg and head for markers #3 and #4 rounding counter clockwise. Most of the boats went the same direction we did though a few set their sails towards markers #1 and #2. The informal style of racing I had in mind didn't have quite so many boats involved. It would be interesting to see how things would work out and what would happen at the club afterwards.

            Rounding the mark was straightforward. We approached it on a broad port tack, then trimmed the sails in as we rounded the green #3 marker. We were in the middle of the pack at that point. As we got the sails trimmed for a beat on to the next mark, we noticed something that would make the race more interesting. Barbara was the first to see a large freighter rapidly approaching this channel from the southern end of the bay. As all the sailboats made their way to markers #1 and #2 or away from them, the freighter came plowing through the middle. Everyone just watched in amusement at it's timing. We started wondering what its PHRF was, guessing about minus 2000. Dave Henderson was the only skipper, on his Merit 25 April that made it around the mark and out of the way before the freighter plowed through.

            To round the second mark, we would have to sail well past the green #1 marker before tacking to clear the red #2 marker. I noticed a slight problem when we finally did tack. Jim and Lewis had used the whisker pole to pole out the jib on the down wind first leg. When putting it back in its holders on deck, Lewis managed to get the lazy jib sheet pinned underneath it. He raced forward to get it free. Error. We were losing quite a bit of ground, the rest of the fleet was pulling away. Moonshot's wide beam may provide for a comfortable boat, but we sacrifice pointing ability and it was beginning to show dramatically. Thank heavens for the handicap system. The comments we received when admitting to a 237 handicap were similar to, "Gee, you just need to make it around the course." Thank you. We weren't the last boat in, however we were the last boat to finish as several boats DNF'd, dropping out for one reason or another.

            Del Cielo had finished far enough ahead of the pack again to enable Jeff and Lee to time the finish for the rest of the participants. We had a blast. The weather was great, the wind was firm, and we made it back in one piece. The crew soon made their way to the clubhouse for burgers and beer. It was packed and over flowing into the yard through the open garage doors. Just after I walked in, Jayne pushed through the crowd to pull me aside to meet the writer for Latitude 38, Shimon Von Collie. He interviewed me asking questions about how this came to be. My statement was we're just doing this for fun. If we were serious about racing, we would have our boats further north, near the city where all the real racing goes on. We just wanted to get out, have some fun, and start the weekend right. Marsha and Joanne had placed orders for burgers and brought them to the table as Shimon was completing his notes on the event.

            As soon as I finished with my burger, Colleen Haley introduced to Lynda Malloy. Lynda ran a marine upholstery business renting space in PME's loft. She called her business "A Beautiful Recovery". She was quite upset and started talking about how we had scheduled our races on the same night as Oyster Point yacht club's monthly general meeting. That meant, as Lewis paraphrased the situation, they would have to make a decision to either sit around and talk about it or go out and do it. She was pissed off because she would have to make that choice and would rather go out and do it on her Islander 36, Cloud Dancer, but she was part of OPYC's management. I explained the interaction I had with Carl, even the piece of paper he gave me with the days to avoid because of OPYC functions. She settled down a little, understanding why there might be a problem as he hadn't been around much lately. I explained it was too late to change things for the summer, I had sent in the dates to Latitude 38 and they would be published in the next issue. She looked bummed out. I made the suggestion, "Why don't you join the race committee and have OPYC sponsor a race on the 3rd Friday of the month?". She thought about it briefly and stated she didn't know how to do it. I said she could leverage anything we were doing and she agreed if OPYC approved, she would do whatever we did for the next month. Colleen, watching the conversation, winked an eye at me with approval that the situation had been handled.

            By now, Jeff and Lee were in the club with the raw data they had collected and were trying to compute the race results. It wasn't official to use the YRA handicap list, each boat is supposed to have its own certificate, but it was good enough for us. While the computing transpired, the crowd was loud, drinking lots of beer, and eating every morsel of food that the good folks that volunteered to run the bar after the event could find. Some open house! Jerry and Carol McDaniel, Walt and Frieda Williams, Larry and Carol Goodwin, and Glen and Geri Gollihur were these folks and they watched the crowd spend money in amazement. The March race had been an anomaly in the club's history so far, but here it was again only twice as big. Money was pouring into the cash box. Eventually, Jeff had the results computed, a notion I still hadn't planned for. He stood up to announce the results and the crowd quieted down to listen. As he announced each one starting from the bottom of the list, the crew from that boat and friends would let out a loud cheer. He progressed through the list and the crowd kept focusing on him, cheering then quieting down and drinking more beer. When he finished, the crowd kept on partying until everything in the building had been consumed. Moonshot's crew left, then Marsha and I went back to the boat to crash.

            Cindy got me out of the V-berth early the next morning with her usual hey dad it's time to go fetch wabbits anxious futzing. We walked up to the vacant lot for the usual stroll through the middle and around it's perimeter. I was in no hurry to bet back to the boat because the prior day's events started going through my mind. All of a sudden, I broke out in a fit of deep uncontrollable laughter. I still could sense I was at the helm of a machine much larger than I was, but for the time being it smacked with total success and felt great. The people from Oyster Cove marina had been racing off the point for the last year on Tuesday nights, but now there was Friday night Beer Can Races complete with a bar and grill. The club's membership to date was made up of older folks, but racing was attracting younger people. The club needed to be building funds and so far, the two races had each brought in more money than anything else that had ever happened.

            It was early Saturday morning, the entire weekend was still ahead and as far as anyone could tell, everyone involved had more fun that the area previously had to offer. We hadn't done very well in the race results, but we never expected to on Moonshot, it was a comfortable cruiser. We spent the rest of the weekend just hanging out in the marina. Jerry McDaniel stopped by our boat stating the bar had grossed a phenomenal $800.00. With a 50% profit margin, that increased the assets of the club by 4% in one day. When's the next beer can race?

 

LETTERS TO LATITUDE 38

            The following Tuesday evening while Marsha and I were at home watching the evening news, she handed me the May issue of Latitude 38 open to a page in the letters section. She instructed me to read the letter titled "Can't They Handle The Pressure?".

CAN'T THEY HANDLE THE PRESSURE?
      I can't understand why Sierra Point will not join us in our Tuesday Night races at Oyster Cove. They did last year. We've heard that they, like Oyster Point, are going to race on Friday nights at 6 PM. Oh well, maybe we could get them to put up their best five boats against our five boats on a Saturday in the last part of September to see who is the fastest. We think this would be fun for all - unless they can't handle the pressure!
Genesis
Race Committee, Oyster Cove

      Genesis - It's no fair snipping at others if you're not willing to handle the pressure of signing your name to your letters. Besides, maybe the folks over there have something important to do on Tuesday nights, like watching Roseanne or Who's the Boss? As Harbormaster Dick Timothy explains it, the Oyster Cove races are strictly for fun, have no classes and don't require yacht club membership. The races, he says will be held every Tuesday night from April 3 through September 4. Timothy says that an average of six boats showed up Tuesday nights last year until the last race of the season when 14 entries were attracted by the prizes: one case of Corona for the winner, two cases of Corona for the losers. We at Latitude are particularly fond of big time racing like this, and plan to show up soon for a photo shoot.

            This, after all the effort we had put out to make sure our racing was open to all boaters. We had been passing the word about Oyster Cove's Tuesday night races as well as the progress Lynda was making getting things going with OPYC to our membership, inviting them to join. Perturbed, I couldn't sleep that night. I got up and started writing a response letter in time for Latitude's deadline the next day. I thought this would be a good publicity opportunity, and before accepting their challenge and setting a date and time for a showdown, I spent time discussing what SPYC was up to. I faxed my letter to Latitude in time, we would wait and see what happened.

            Later that week, I received a call from Steve Denene, the skipper of Genesis. He was extremely apologetic and wanted to explain some of the background behind the letter. It had been written weeks prior, but hadn't made it into the earlier issue. The letter had been written with ulterior motives. It was rumored that the Oyster Cove Harbormaster and coordinator for the Oyster Cove races was planning on limiting participation to strictly boats from Oyster Cove. Some of the racers from the cove were against that, and the letter was, in their mind a method of creating interest from other folks off the point in participating in their races. I explained that I understood, took no hard feelings, but I had already generated a response and leveraged the publicity opportunity. We agreed to let my response letter go to press if Latitude would publish it and work together to make the Oyster Cove Sierra Point Challenge a successful event.

            Things were busier than normal at SPYC's May general meeting. There was much discussion about how successful the Beer Can Races had been, with dollar signs ringing in their eyes. Was this going to continue, how much food do we keep on hand, how much beer? People were gearing up for more activity than they had been used to in the past. A motion was approved to procure a signboard and expand the menu to include hot dogs. The bar stocking would be expanded to well and premium liquor. There were discussions about the club providing a committee boat to coordinate the start and finish of the races. Marty gave me a look with a gleam in his eye that being the committee boat could be great fun. That was a blessing as far as I was concerned, I would love to be able to just get out there and have fun without being the rabbit. That's what I wanted to do in the first place.

            When the meeting was officially adjourned but most people were still milling about, Dave Henderson pulled me aside for a discussion. Dave had been using PME to post any news about the races and made sure the information made its way to the interested parties in Oyster Cove. He wanted to reaffirm that a member could unlock the club house with his key and what would be involved if someone wanted to bring a few of the racers from Oyster Cove to the club house after a Tuesday race because there was a birthday party plan brewing. I confirmed my understanding that this was a member club where you had a key if you paid the fee and you just had to make sure the place was as clean as you found it. I brought Larry Goodwin, the club's Port Captain into the conversation to make it official. By the time Larry and Dave were finished talking, arrangements had been made for a few SPYC members to help run the bar for the birthday party and the groundwork had been laid for the Tuesday night race crowd to congregate at SPYC's club house after the 2nd Tuesday of each month for burgers and beer. They figured one night a month was enough for a weeknight party. That could potentially double the race revenue coming in from the bar. The prices were fair, nobody minded SPYC making a little money to provide the forum for fun.

            Dave also wanted to arrange a seminar night where a speaker would come and talk about racing basics. The speaker he had in mind was John Super form the Bay View boat club. John had been their race committee chairman for the past 10 years and was willing to come talk to us. We scheduled a time and advertised it in the Spyglass. Over the next few weeks, it became clear SPYC would need to procure a liquor license to make all of this fun legal. Geri Gollihur took on this task as the platform for her term as Commodore. It seemed as if everything else in the club's growth and development was falling into place like clockwork, on it's own.

 

RACE NUMBER TWO

            We couldn't wait for the next race. The full crew from the last race plus Bernie made a crew of 7. The excitement of anticipating the race was as great as before, how are we going to do on the start, how will we finish, will we be able to get away from work in time, will we get stuck in traffic, will the summer winds off the Gulf of Candlestick and around the San Bruno hill blow us away? All the questions in the background were ample distraction from work to balance a Silicon Valley lifestyle. This time, however I wasn't worrying about running the start. As the early articles I had published in the Spyglass stated, this is for everyone, power boaters bring your deck shoes and join the fun. Marty had a crew to make Poquito be the first SPYC race committee boat.

            Meanwhile, Mary Anne Dulmage showed up on Dock 5 as part of Bob Andre's crew on Lone Star. Lone Star's handicap was within a few points of Moonshot's so he was becoming my primary opponent. Larry and Mary Anne had moved from Dock 5 to Dock 1 since they sold their Sea Ray and town home and purchased a new 50 foot Kha-Shing yacht named Traveler. Some of the other power boaters were gearing up for the events after the race, anxiously waiting to see if the phenomena we had witnessed in March and May would reoccur. Jerry McDaniel seemed to be more worried about making sure the burgers got cooked than racing his boat. This puzzled me because he was one of the initial members that expressed an interest in participating. Lee Mosher also expressed an interest in having Good Turn be a committee boat but for this race he helped Marty.

            Six people seemed crowded on the first race, seven seemed even more crowded. We did well on the start, the sails were trimmed for a heading towards the #3/#4 mark. Lewis observed the lack of telltales on either sail and suggesting they would help make Moonshot more competitive. We did well on the first down wind leg keeping up with the rest of the pack. The boat was so crowded, that Marsha and Joanne stayed below in the cabin. Most of the boats were converging on rounding the first mark when one of the boats accidentally tacked because its skipper was trying to point too close to the wind. It was Genesis, heading perpendicular to and through the middle of the pack. I didn't have time to feel embarrassed for Steve because he sent several boats in front of me scrambling with pissed off skippers screaming at the top of their lungs at him. I missed a possible accident by veering to the right 90 degrees until clear. The only repercussion from this maneuver was that Marsha had been holding onto the starboard handrail in the salon when the course adjustment occurred. Joanne easily settled into the port settee but Marsha hung onto the rail, ripping it from the fiberglass inner liner. Our first racing casualty, the handrail, not Marsha.

            Most of the pack passed by us on the next leg, it was a beat to the #1/#2 mark. Lewis mentioned something about the lack of telltales again. I can't remember the number of mistakes we made that night specifically, but I could tell it would be quite a while before we would race error free. The funkiest part of this race was the finish. The San Bruno Hill messed up the wind pattern near the finish line. The wind would die in some areas and come from the opposite direction in other areas. This added a challenging aspect to the race, like where to have the committee boat start the next race to avoid these fluky winds. Meanwhile we sailed around in circles for a while until finely making it across the finish line. We didn't come in last this time, the crew was ecstatic. Back to the dock and up to the club for burgers. There had been 26 boats participating in the race. The party was in full force, stronger and rowdier than ever, to the point it was good fun. After all, these were respectable sailors we were catering to, for there is no other kind. The power boaters that were joining in were across the boundary for a night, having as much fun as everyone else. Moonshot's crew just did its best to get a round of beer and burgers.

            It was just a mulling about party until the folks from the committee boat made it up to the clubhouse. Marty set the clipboard with the raw data on a table and gradually, people became curious about the race results. Jeff couldn’t make this race. Well, they had to be computed. I stared at the sheet containing the numbers and shortly thereafter backed away. One by one, small groups of people would gather around the sheet of paper and try to progress the computation, then they would give up and back away as well. Eventually, some bright young group of sailors made it through with the correct calculations, then I did the honors of announcing the results. I didn't feel I was as dynamic in my presentation as Jeff had been, but the crowd didn't care about me, they just wanted to hoot and holler about the results, see how they placed, and who won.

            The next morning I woke up and realized I would need to come up with some method of making computing the race results easier. Again, I found myself strolling up in the field walking Cindy and laughing out loud, as loud as I could. The machine was moving faster and stronger while my participation in the actual management of the affair had diminished by over half. Everyone seemed to be getting something out of it. The folks that had volunteered to hold the club's open house on the first Friday of the month were getting more work than they bargained for, but new members kept rolling in. The bar broke 4 figures from the June race. That's what the club's management wanted to see. I looked back on the results of the Tupperware Party and laughed at how worried I was about generating money, in case the racing needed things like a stop watch, starting gun, etc.

            Again we were planning on just hanging out in the marina that weekend. Later Saturday afternoon, Marty and Betty invited us aboard Poquito. They had the June issue of Latitude 38 and were calling me a celebrity. My name was referenced in the magazine in 3 locations. My extensively edited letter had been published with a good response.

 

SIERRA POINT IS UP TO THE CHALLENGE

      If the unnamed owner of Genesis is referring to the Sierra Point yacht club when he wrote his May letter, let me respond by describing what our yacht club is trying to do in sponsoring Friday Night Beer Can Races. As Fleet Captain last year, I organized events based on what our membership wanted to do. These included traditional events such as the Mystery Cruise, the Poker Rally, and the 4th of July Dingy Race; and some new events such as cruises to the Delta, Drakes Bay and other yacht clubs.

      Following in that custom of providing what the membership wanted, since last fall, I have been working to bring Friday Night Beer Cans to Sierra Point. I'm proud to say that beginning with our first pre season race in March, we have been overwhelmed with the amount of interest by club members. We feel that a fun race on Friday night is the best way to start the weekend and we're looking forward to a fun season of Friday Night races. The races are governed by "Ten Commandments of Beer Can Racing" as published in the May 89 issue of Latitude 38. Our goal is to emulate the success of the Wednesday Night Races in Santa Cruz, as featured in the March 89 issue of Latitude.

      In most of our races so far, there have been two groupings; one with faster boats and more experienced crew, and another with cruising type boats and more newcomers as crew. But no matter which group anybody has sailed in, there's always somebody close by to race with. It's been fun for everyone. Our 1st Friday-of-the-month race schedule is designed to coincide with Sierra Point yacht club's monthly open house. The purpose of the open house is to encourage non-members to drop by and see what progress the club has made, and perhaps consider joining.

      I've informed our membership, through our newsletter, of the weekly Tuesday night races held by Oyster Cove. As such, I hope participation in those races will increase also. As far as the Genesis challenge, I think we can handle the pressure. How about Saturday, September 22 at High Noon, with the Ten Commandments of Beer Can Racing in effect. Regarding rule number 8, we'll provide the yacht club, how about you providing the committee boats.

Steve Sears
Race Committee Chairman, Sierra Point yacht club
Moonshot, Watkins 27

Readers - For more on beer can racing at Sierra Point, see Sightings. For those who have forgotten, Latitude's "Ten Commandments of Beer Can Racing" are as follows:
1. Thou shalt not take anything other than safety too seriously.
2. Thou shalt honor the racing rules if thou knowst them.
3. Thou shalt not run out of beer.
4. Thou shalt not covet thy competitor's boat, sail, equipment, crew or PHRF rating.
5. Thou shalt not amp out.
6. Thou shalt not protest they neighbor.
7. Thou shalt not mess up thy boat.
8. Thou shalt always go the yacht club afterwards.
9. Thou shalt bring thy spouse, kids, friends and whoever else wants to come.
10. Thou shalt now worry, thou shalt be happy.

            Our schedule was listed with the other prestigious clubs in the Bay in the Racing Calendar, with my name as the contact. The Sightings section contained Shimon's write up on our first race:

 

SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

      It's good to know there are still places sailboat racing isn't taken too seriously. Take Tuesday and Friday night racing off Brisbane, for example. Patterned loosely after Santa Cruz's well known Wednesday night beer can races, the folks from Oyster Point and Sierra Point yacht clubs use a rabbit start. That means one designated boat on port tack sails past the anchored committee boat or marker and opens a "gate" through which the other boats pass to start the race. However, on May 11, the 6:30 start time rolled around and Steve Sears’ Watkins 27 Moonshot was running fashionably late for her appointment.

      Did anyone panic? Did they tear their hair? Did Steve vow to spend the next five mortgage payments on a new suit of sails to entice a rock star sail maker aboard so it would never happen again? Naw. They just went ahead and started on starboard, reaching off for the first mark and letting the rest of the fleet figure out what to do. Pretty soon, 21 entries were boiling out into the Bay as the westerlies curled around San Bruno Mountain to fill their sails. The triangle course took them around a couple of south bay channel markers and back to the finish. Then it was back to the dock and up to the Sierra Point yacht club for burgers, beer and a spirited discussion about PHRF ratings and how to sort out the handicaps.

      "We're not high-tech racers down here," says Sears, the Club's first race chairman. "If we were, we'd keep our boats farther up the Bay. We're just out to have fun." And fun they have. Their clubhouse is a converted three-car garage, which can't be beat for that really casual feel. The five-year-old SPYC rents the facility from the City of Brisbane's maintenance department. They've done wonders with the space, fitting in the requisite bar, icebox, a sink and seating for about 40 or 50 people. You know dinner's ready when they roll up one of the garage doors and you smell the barbecue smoke from the driveway. For all its charm, the club's venue may change soon, however. Former commodore Jeff Eastman, who owns the Pearson 42 Del Cielo with his wife Jayne, currently heads the clubhouse committee. He's been scouting out some sites for an official location, probably near their present site in the business park at Sierra Point. The facility will take up 5,000 square feet (compared to the garage's 700). They also hope to boost their membership over 100, which is quite a rebound from their nadir of 25 members in 1987.

      In the meantime, the SPYC folks will enjoy their races on the first Friday evening of the month. Afterwards, they open the club to friends and prospective members. They've also challenged their counterparts across the estuary at Oyster Cove to a showdown race on September 22, with the best five boats from each club going at it for bragging rights. Of course, if they're not careful, they could lose their casual racing approach. That would indeed be a shame. For more information, contact Steve Sears.

Shimon Van Collie

            In an instant, my personality had gone public. It was together and it was the right thing. We ran into other members of SPYC around the marina who had read the references to our club and there was an excitement level that folks had ached for. We were on the face of the map. I had kept my ego out of the picture with noble efforts, but I was feeling the effects of the stroking. It wasn't just me, but I was clearly on record as the one that introduced a new cultural period to SPYC and it's active members. I could feel it walking down the docks. Power earned by accomplishment. There is nothing I have ever experienced that could come as close to one of my underlying goals in life, to have the strength to stand behind what I am saying. Of all the forms of gratification one could receive in life, if results were ever measurable in the short term, I was experiencing what I only thought should be real but had never had hands on evidence that it could be. It was real though, I was a frontier man. A day to bask in the glory of one's success, with fond recognition from one's peers. I had considered words from a philosophical friend from college. His philosophy was that you can be good or you can be great with the same amount of effort, it all depends on if you are listening and paying attention to that voice inside. I have to say I listened to the voice, I did what I had to do, it was smashingly successful and I felt great. It wasn't work, it was a river that flowed. I need to get Moonshot's handrail fixed, better take a sketch to Dave Henderson. I beefed up the design to use a thicker teak backing board, like I had seen on the Tam O'Shanter III.

 

RACING SEMINAR

            The seminar on racing Dave Henderson organized was coming soon. Many of the racers from Oyster Point and Oyster Cove as well as Brisbane showed up for John Super's lecture. John gave an inspiring talk on starts, finishes, and tactics. When he learned our one course could be raced in either direction, he spent time discussing the rules on rounding marks and discovered there were no rules governing the right of way in the event boats were rounding a mark from different directions. He gave us a used set of Blue, White, and Red shapes for the committee boat to conduct the starts. He passed out a two page racing crib sheet and sold USYRU rule books at cost. John talked about the good deals you can get on regatta insurance by your club being a member of USYRU. He emphasized that it paid to race according to USYRU rules for the insurance purposes. You can still have as formal or as informal of a style as desired as long as you use USYRU rules when you need rules. They are meant to promote fun, safe boating, why reinvent them. I thought by next year, this was probably the right thing to do.

            It was a helpful seminar, inspiring for OPYC's first race coming up in 2 days. Lynda Malloy had successfully implemented the plan of getting OPYC to buy into sponsoring races on the third Friday of the Month. Moonshot's crew was eager to go out again, so we participated to see how they did. She managed to get a committee boat to volunteer, so they were off to the races. We had fun and didn't come in last. It was quite a different experience in their clubhouse afterwards though. Their facility is huge and they are established so there were other things going on consecutively. Dinner was being served in the dining area and the bar already had people in it, regulars not associated with the race. The Beer Can Race crowd took over though. It was as much fun watching the expressions on the club management's faces as it had been at SPYC. A wide eyed, "who are these people" look. It appeared Lynda was in the Beer Can Race business as well.

 

LIAR’S DICE

            The Friday Night Beer Can Races were taking off tremendously. More and more boats were coming out for them, it was becoming typical to see over 25 sailboats participate. The Oyster Point races were successful as well. Marty and Lee were almost fighting over which one got to do be committee boat. Other people were volunteering to be back-up committee boats. It looked as though my days of being the rabbit were already over, which suited me just fine. I had enough to worry about just sailing the one course we had so far without making errors.

            The parties afterwards were gaining in their popularity as well. They were becoming a predictable source of income for the club, somewhat at the expense of the crew that had signed up to work after the races. It was becoming more work and a burden on the people that did the burger flipping and bar tending month after month. Large quantities of merchandise were being sold. The fact there were committee boats meant we could get reliable race results, so everyone that participated eagerly awaited the return of the committee boat crew. Getting their raw data compiled was always a challenge so I finally created a work sheet that made it easy to compute the results with a calculator. Once computed, I would take the floor announcing any news that needed to be communicated.

            At one of the parties, we ran into Hank and Polly, back after two years of cruising in Mexico. After Hank had hurt his back while working on Shellback's engine about the same time Polly scalded her legs from a pot of spaghetti water tipping over from a fluke wave, they decided they had enough and came home. It turned out that Pat, our cook while chartering in the Sea of Cortez served as the paramedic that treated Polly's burn. Polly had changed dramatically from the two years though. Before they left, we hardly got the chance to get to know her, she had been quiet and in the background compared to our interaction with Hank. Now she was very outspoken about cruising and the experiences they had.

            A couple of other phenomena began to occur as the later hours of the party approached. Liars' dice and tequila poppers. It wasn't clear who started the popper trend, but a growing number of devotees were looking towards Larry Dulmage to let the poppers begin. A popper is a drink that is a shot of tequila with a splash of something carbonated and sweet like 7-up. The server slams the covered glass on the bar causing the drink to foam up and the recipient drinks it down while it is still foaming. There were a growing number of minor incidents occurring after the parties, such as Marsha slipping off the dock into the water one evening that caused the club's board of directors some concern.

            Part of the problem was so much change was occurring so quickly. That was cause to worry if we were headed in the right direction. The racing scene was starting to produce most of the club's revenues. New memberships were predominately younger sailboat owners. It was becoming a force. The poppers became a heated discussion at one of the board meetings and it resulted in a decision of no free booze. It felt that this would curtail the drunken abandonment that was occurring. After all, we still didn't have a liquor license.

            Later in the evening after the next race, I placed a twenty dollar bill on the bar planning to pay for a round of poppers and Geri Gollihur tore into me like the proverbial duck on a June bug. It turns out that they had focused on the wrong issue. Free wasn't the issue, poppers were the sore point. Geri stormed out of the clubhouse carrying a can of beer. She had been working on getting SPYC's liquor license and after filling out close to 50 forms later, she became sensitive to responsible bar tending. From that point, the popper thing went away, but the liar’s dice and races continued.

 

THE LACE RACE

            There were two important race events approaching in September. The Oyster Cove Sierra Point Challenge and an Oyster Point sponsored Powder Puff Derby Lace Race that required an all female crew. We discussed Marsha skippering Moonshot in the Lace Race. At first she wasn't very keen on the idea but as the race date approached, she started getting more enthusiastic. The summer winds usually started calming by September. She would need at least one ringer as crew, we thought about Joy. She was available for the day. Barbara was traveling on business at the time and wouldn't be able to make it. Joanne was available as the third person. A week before the race, Andy and Jackie Geiser were strolling down dock 5 on the way to the Amy May-B and stopped to chat. After some discussion, Jackie decided to join as the forth. Lynda Malloy had mentioned there was room on the committee boat so John, Lewis, Jim and I signed up to get a bird's eye view.

            On the morning of the race, everyone congregated on the dock as the ladies prepared for the race. Each boat in the race had a unique color for their matching tee shirts, Moonshot's was light blue. After taking pictures and helping Moonshot leave the dock, the men left to meet up with the committee boat in Oyster Cove. Dave Henderson joined as well. Steve Denene had planned on being on the committee boat but before we left the dock, there was an accident on the boat his wife was crewing on. One of the women had gotten her leg wedged between the boat and dock as they were leaving. Steve saw the commotion and left. They ended up having to take her to the hospital. One boat DNS'd.



Figure 80: Moonshot's Lace Race crew

            Once we got the boat and start markers anchored, Guy, the committee boat skipper said, "OK, you guys get ready to run the start." He sat back, kicked his feet up, put his hands behind his head and stated, "I don't know how to run it." That's when we all realized we had never been on this end of a race before. Once we realized there was no turning back and we would have to do this right or have egg on our faces, we started sorting out the various tasks. Dave and I became the caller and recorder. John and Jim were matching the vessels with the entry form list Lynda had provided. Lewis started sorting out the flag halyard for rising and lowering the red, white, and blue start signals.

            Soon, the time came to start the race for the 12 entries. The wind had picked up more briskly than normal, Marsha appeared to be doing OK though. She had gotten out early to do a few practice maneuvers and managed to get the main reefed. We were still using the same course as we had all summer. As the red flag went up, it was off to the first mark. Well, not quite so off. Two minutes after the red flag was raised to indicate the start of the race, none of the boats had crossed the start line. I made an announcement on channel 68, "Ladies, the red flag is up and the start line is here by the committee boat."

            Eventually, boats crossed the start line with no close calls or collisions. That gave us time to kick back and discuss how we were going to record the finish more calmly. Every few minutes, we would get some report about what was going on with the racers over the radio. We received a report from Moonshot that Joy had broken the drink holder while using it as a step to reach the topping lift on the back of the boom. That's racing. Soon, the first of the boats were about to reach the finish. As each boat crossed, I called mark while Dave read the time and boat name to John. Moonshot was looking good coming in, but at the last minute its jib loosened up to the point it was luffing allowing another boat to pass and cross the finish line ahead of it. Joy was used to taking orders from the helm on Night Hawk and Marsha had asked for her to let the jib out. To Joy, that meant let it go. Marsha was just asking for a little fine-tuning. Well, Marsha said... Moonshot finished next to last. Jackie had a rough time of it. This had been her first time on a sailboat and it sounded like it was all she could do to just hang on as the boat sailed through the white caps. Everyone had a good time that afternoon, though. We gave the raw data from the finish to Lynda, one of the people from OPYC computed the handicapped results with a spreadsheet program.


Figure 81: Race boat looking good


Figure 82: Race boat after the error

 

OYSTER COVE SIERRA POINT CHALLENGE

            The long awaited Oyster Cove Sierra Point Challenge was rapidly approaching. Steve and Bernice Denene were busy preparing for the event by taking orders for tee shirts. I spent time searching for a suitable trophy. After looking through several catalogs, I ended up purchasing a small trophy from a store near my office. Another administrative task I had taken on was to expand our racecourse selection to more than one. I used a graphics package for my PC to produce and animated map of the starting area, the three sets of freighter markers in the south bay, and the birdcage near the airport. I picked several courses that traversed a variety of combinations of the four marks, varying the direction and course length. My plan was to start with this discussing it and taking suggestions for additional courses at the skippers meeting before the challenge race. I anticipated changes as we tried the courses and gained experience but the goal was to end up with a course sheet with at least a dozen good options.

            As the race date approached, Jayne Eastman called to invite Moonshot's crew to join them on Del Cielo. At first I didn't think so because I wanted to race Moonshot, but as I thought it over, it sounded like fun. I stated I would need to check with my crew. I got a similar reaction from Jim and Lewis. Maybe we would have a better chance of winning. Didn't Del Cielo win the first race last March?

            We were trying to figure out how many boats would be participating in this race. So far, we had stayed with our style of just show up verses making people sign up in advance. This was great for skippers who prefer to decide at the last moment if they are going to participate but it makes it rough for the people trying to make sure there are enough provisions for the festivities afterwards. Tee shirt sales seemed to be the best way to guess about the attendance. There were 22 skippers signed up for shirts, not counting crew. We had set one rule for the race. An entry had to have been in at least 3 of the SPYC, OPYC, or Oyster Cove races over the summer. The vessel Guajolote became eligible under this rule by making the last of each of the races prior to this event. They had recently moved their boat to Brisbane marina and liked to race. They had caught on to our action just in time to compete in the challenge, representing SPYC.

            The race day finally came and the skippers meeting was busy. The spirit of the challenge was that we would provide the club house and Oyster Cove would supply the committee boat. Oyster Cove got their wires crossed failing to come through, so Marty took immediate action enlisting a committee boat crew and Lee Mosher's boat Good Turn. Bernice was kept busy running the tee shirt concession, while I was doing my best to run an interactive discussion about the course sheet. A long conversation occurred discussing the pros and cons of using the birdcage as a mark. Guy expressed concern that it may not be a good idea having a racecourse leg go perpendicular to and close to the Oyster Point marina channel entrance. Dave Henderson and I both countered with comparing 20 or so boats going by once a month with the congestion and activity further north near the city. Since I was running the meeting, we won. Steve Denene came up with several additional longer courses that involved a variety of star like patterns around the marks. Lynda Malloy debugged a few of the courses where we would have had boats rounding marks in the wrong direction. Eventually, we came up with a list of a dozen courses. The discussion moved to the day's wind and currents and collectively we picked one of the courses for the race. That concluded the skippers meeting and the clubhouse cleared out. Moonshot's crew headed for Del Cielo.

            The 2:00 start went smooth. Since Good Turn was the committee boat, Marty was planning on shooting a video of the race, capturing the start then motoring Poquito down to the bird cage to film the action on the final leg. Including the committee and video boats, there were 27 participating vessels. We had sign in sheets at the skippers meeting separated by PHRFs below and above 150. The plan was to split the start if more than 30 boats participated, but we didn't need to. The mood seemed to be keep it simple. It was a great day for a race, plenty of wind and sunshine and the water wasn't choppy. Our crew enjoyed being on Del Cielo for a change. It was a much easier boat to sail. The main sail is hoisted with a push button electric winch. Once the race started, there wasn't much work to do, except to worry about weight distribution. It was refreshing for a change to see all the other boats in the race by looking backwards instead of forwards, as we had become accustomed to on Moonshot. We made our way around the marks quickly. This was the first race we used the birdcage as a mark. It was a fun reach to the finish from there. There didn't seem to be a problem crossing the Oyster Point channel entrance.

            Del Cielo wasn't first over the line, but we were in the front of the pack. We saw Guajolote come close to finishing first, but they should have headed up to cross the line by the closer mark. Instead they crossed close to the further mark. After computing the result, Guajolote missed first place by 5 seconds. Oyster Cove won the challenge, the winners were Vera and Marcus Anderson of Restless, a Hans Christian 38. Even though Del Cielo was close to the front of the pack, after correcting for handicap, we came in 10th.


Figure 83: Racecourse instructions
           

THE WINTER RACE SERIES

            The race scene was still evolving. The October Beer Can Race was moved from Friday night to Saturday afternoon with a 2:00 start time because of the lack of daylight. The notion of having a series of races where you keep track of the winners of a number of races for a season started evolving with this race. October would be the first of a best 5 out of 6 winter race series, the first Saturday of the month from October to March. There was plenty of time to figure out how to compute the race series results later.

            Lewis couldn't make it for the October race so Marsha invited Doug Chandler, a friend from work with sailing experience. Doug brought another one of their coworkers along. Over the course of the last two races, Lewis had installed telltales on the sails and we had become used to using them to optimize sail trim. First you get the jib trimmed properly with both port and starboard telltales located 12 inches in from the forestay as high as I could reach flowing smoothly aft. If the inside telltale isn't right, trim the sail in. If the outside telltale isn't right, let the jib out. Then trim the main sail so the single telltale on it’s leech is flowing smoothly aft. Lewis had mentioned, laminar flow is the key.

            As we got into position for the start, it became clear to me the committee boat would need my help in making the course selection. They felt making this decision required more sailing experience than anyone had on board. You have to understand the tide, currents, and wind for the day to pick an interesting course that would last between 2 and 3 hours. Since the wind was light, I picked one of the shorter courses, going out to markers #3 and #4, then to the bird cage and back. As it turned out, the wind picked up after the start so collectively in conversation with the committee boat, we decided to extend the course to 2 laps around. I had purchased a set of numbered pennants form PME for the committee boat to use to display the course information. There were extra pennants for the committee boat to instruct twice around or to travel the course in reverse.

            Moonshot's crew was keeping a close eye on the telltales and communicating well with the helmsman. We were doing OK, holding our own against Lone Star. So far he had beaten us over the finish line on every race and enjoyed doing it. We were also doing well against an Ericson 29, staying close to it for the entire first lap. They pulled in the lead during the up wind leg but we made up the difference catching them on the next leg and were on their tail all the way to the next mark. The wind was light near the committee boat but firm enough for everyone to make it around and start the second lap. As we were well under way on the first leg of the second lap, the two guys in the Ericson 29 started preparing their spinnaker gear for this down wind leg. Doug got up and with all seriousness and a straight face hollered, "Good, you guys will just screw it up and we'll pull in the lead." That started the entire crew of Moonshot laughing uncontrollably. As it turned out, they did screw it up royally. At one point their spinnaker pole was sticking straight up in the air. The laughter on Moonshot kept going. Then they lost control of one of the sheets. We were rolling around in the cockpit gripping our stomachs. They ended up blowing way off course and we pulled ahead of them.

            On the second leg, we noticed that Lone Star had gotten way off course and was losing ground. As we got closer to the birdcage, Lone Star tacked too soon and had to tack twice more. We did the tack to the birdcage correctly after a good job of minding the telltales and sail trim on the upwind leg. We passed the bird cage ahead of both the Ericson 29 and Lone Star, though the Ericson had made up some lost ground on their up wind leg. We were ahead of a few other boats as well. It was now just a straight shot reaching to the finish. Moonshot holds her own well on a reach so it was up to us to just not make any mistakes.



Figure 84: Spinnaker laughing

            It was smooth sailing all the way back, we never lost our position with respect to the other boats behind us. We started noticing that boats ahead of us were slowing way down as they were approaching the finish line. As we got closer, we started slowing down as well. The San Bruno Hill was blocking what was left of the wind. It kept getting worse to the point we were less than 50 yards from the finish and had slowed down to less than 2 knots of boat speed. As we slowly inched our way closer, the boats behind us began to catch up, but then slow down with the same problem. By the time we were within 20 feet of the finish line, there were 9 boats within a small diameter, almost touching each other. I almost got poked it the ear with somebody's bowsprit. We maintained out position with the sails trimmed and finally the horn blew for us, ahead of Lone Star and the Ericson. We felt great. This had been the best job we had ever done. What a team. We got into the slip quickly to go to the club house, celebrate and wait for the results to come in.

            Lynda Malloy had been doing a great job of promoting the OPYC Beer Can Races. She had more of an up hill battle politically than I did because OPYC was a much more established yacht club, with a more stodgy board of directors. So far, with any new developments, I would send on my written communications to her and she would implement them the same way we did. She also had more of a battle getting volunteers for committee boats. They didn't have a Lee Mosher and Marty Rosenthal gung ho to help out. The beginning of her winter series was getting off to a rough start. The first dilemma was with her races being on the 4th Saturday of the month, November and December's races fell in the middle of the holidays. Furthermore, the October race date conflicted with a race Oyster Cove already had scheduled. They had sponsored a Halloween race the previous year and were doing it again.

            There would be two races starting from the same area that day, which was also the same day as SPYC's annual Halloween party. It was confusing for some of the racers, most went on the Oyster Cove race dressed in Halloween costumes. Moonshot raced with OPYC to help have some turnout. There were 7 boats in their race. Dave Henderson almost made both races leading the Oyster Cove pack. Moonshot took 4th place. The Oyster Cove racers had their kegger party on the docks after the race, then most of the people ended up at SPYC's Halloween party afterwards. Bob Andre had brought along a few of his fellow band members and supplied the music for the party. The club and patio were packed with people all in some form of costume. People danced and drank until late into the evening. Not a bad ending to our first season racing.


Figure 85: Contemplating the big step

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Keys to the Golden Gate, Copyright © 2002 by Steve Sears