CHAPTER 14  

RACING, THE SECOND YEAR

 

SPYC RACING, NEXT LEVEL

            I still felt my hand on the helm of the SPYC racing machine so I decided to remain chairman of the race committee for another year. Marsha passed on the Spyglass duties to Carol Goodwin. Larry Dulmage replaced Geri Gollihur as Commodore. New to the board of directors were Howard Hill, Colleen Haley, and Doug Stephens, all sailors. The installation dinner for the changing of the guard was a catered affair with blue blazers and white turtlenecks, held in SPYC's club house for the first time.

            The club's youth sailing program received a boost in the arm with a $1,200.00 grant from the city of Brisbane and the donation of 6 El Toro sailing dinghies, orchestrated by Colleen. I felt several attempts of people trying to talk me into organizing the program or helping, but I strongly resisted to the point of starting to resent the attempts. I maintained a position that I didn't want to be a part of bringing young people into this type of lifestyle. My main motives for not helping were that I didn't sense interest in the program. I wanted to just focus on one thing. I did feel this was the year to link SPYC with more official racing organizations. These thoughts were meant in no way to undermine the informal style of racing we had been enjoying. In the past year, I had heard one prospective member say he would join the club if we were members of YRA. John Super had pointed out the benefits of becoming members of the USYRU. Joe Rockmore had told me about the SBYRA.

 


Figure 112: SPYC installation dinner

            Nick Kluznick had started the SBYRA ten years ago. It was a loosely knit group organized to conduct a race series where the location of the race would vary, sponsored by different yacht clubs south of the bay bridge each month. It wasn't the America's Cup, but it was conducted in a much more official manner than Beer Can Racing. I called Nick to get an update on the SBYRA so I could learn how it worked and find out what we had to do to participate. Our club had gained much experience at conducting races over the past year, not official races, but we had learned how to choose courses, conduct the start and finish, and how to compute race results. My intention for calling Nick was to get the facts, then present them to the SPYC board of directors as something we could offer our membership if anybody was inclined to continue up the racing learning curve. My understanding from an earlier conversation with Joe was that we would just have to sponsor one race per year. Not yet knowing how it worked, I had visions of boats coming in to Brisbane marina from all parts of the south bay and SPYC sponsoring a huge party.

            Nick stated the timing of my call was good. The SBYRA representatives were just in the process of scheduling their meeting to set the race schedule for the next season. I explained what SPYC had done in the past year and that now we were in a much better position to consider participating. I also mentioned Lynda Malloy and our relationship with Oyster Point yacht club. He said great, bring Lynda with you. The meeting was scheduled for the evening of January 2nd. Lynda made no commitments for OPYC but agreed to attend to get the information. Each participating yacht club supplied one SBYRA representative, usually the Race Committee Chairman. The representatives were very helpful in understanding where we were coming from. They were eager to sign us up to distribute the committee burden over more clubs and get new courses. It wasn’t long before Lynda and I were signing up for a race date to be sponsored by our respective clubs. Lynda even tentatively signed up to hold the award ceremony dinner at OPYC. She was adamant about how it was an uphill battle to get OPYC collectively interested in racing though. Coyote Point yacht club's representative, Ray Weidner offered to come to our club's general meeting to give a talk on what SBYRA is all about. Lynda took him up on the offer. I felt that things for SPYC were under control. Jerry McDaniel had already cleared a non-conflicting date with me. I just needed to present what I learned.

            For the next SBYRA meeting, we needed to confirm the dates selected for the schedule and our racecourse information. They liked the course sheet I had developed, but Nick made a few suggestions on how to modify the nomenclature to be consistent with the others. Ed Rank, the president of the SBYRA from San Leandro yacht club called me later that week to get an extra copy of our course information, the Catalina Association wanted to use our data. SPYC's date was set for June 12th, we were in.

            I tracked down the person that made the statement to me about joining SPYC if we had been members of YRA, by contacting Dave Mills. Dave was the owner of a Pearson 424 sloop on dock 2. I used Dave's friend's comments to make the point to SPYC's directors that if we attracted one new member, that would cover the funding necessary to join YRA and USYRU. SPYC's board approved the funds for me to sign the club up for membership. From that point, it was just a matter of a couple of phone calls and filling out some forms. We were now official.

            Independent of my efforts, other members of the board were starting to take action regarding racing. There had been complaints that the marks we had been setting out for the start and finish were too small to see. One thing led to another, the conversation went from buying new official race marks to getting new official race pennants. I learned about this when I called Lee Mosher to see if the committee boat was lined up for the January race. He stated the board had approved $1,000.00 for race equipment. Colleen Haley had gotten a good deal on equipment through PME's retail license. It turned out that Lynda had followed suit for OPYC. She was excited because with 2 large orange markers apiece, we could set the marks for our own courses independent of existing channel markers. It was incredible timing, my linking SPYC with the SBYRA and our club getting new equipment. Now when the June SBYRA race came to Brisbane, we would appear as first class citizens, and we were.

            As for as our winter race series, by the end of February, the last 4 SPYC winter races were total DNF's. Not a single boat because of lack of wind. I became convinced a winter series was not the right thing to do, but people showed up anyway. Hopefully, March would be windy.

 

SBYRA COMMITTEE WORK

            When things became official with the SBYRA, Marty Rosenthal was the first to volunteer to be the committee boat. Being the show boat that he is, this represented a grand opportunity. He asked me to find out if it was OK if he could raft up to the committee boat or somehow be involved with the next SBYRA race to witness how they managed it. I checked with Dave Few who was scheduled for his 36' sloop, Chablis III to be the committee boat for the March race out of Coyote Point. He said fine but Marty couldn't make that date. Lee Mosher however, was interested. At the last minute, Marsha and I decided to join as well, rather than race Moonshot. I never took my entry into the series seriously, but wanted to participate in the race out of Sierra Point.

            It was a good thing we volunteered because Dave had a short, yet capable crew of three. He welcomed the assistance. The day was one of the few rainy days we've had in the past few drought years, and one of the even fewer days with lightning. Dave was worried about how to cancel a race. A race had never been canceled in the entire 10 years of the SBYRA's existence. He decided not to cancel in case it would make the racers angry. Twelve of the 30 entries showed up to participate. This race had four starts, the classes were divided into spinnaker and non spinnaker and under or over a handicap of 150. Lee's job was to raise the flag signifying which division the start was for, A, B, C, or D. Instead of burgee halyards, they had the flags attached to the ends of bamboo poles, one at each end. Marsha was the back up timer. I got to fire the blanks from Dave's 12-gauge shotgun. I fired one at the white flag for the 10 minute preparatory signal, one at the 5 minute preparatory blue flag, and one at the starting red flag, then one for the next 3 starts, each at 5 minute intervals. The red flag was lowered 4 minutes after each start, and then raised at the next start, with Lee changing the division flag which remained up for the 5 minute period. Once all the divisions had started, we were able to go below to dry off and get warm.

            Eventually, we had to go back out in the rain to run the finish. I would also be firing blanks for the first boat over the line for each division. It appeared that it would be almost impossible to keep track of 4 divisions if you didn't already know a particular boat was entered and what its identifying markings were. Ruth, OPYC's treasurer, had started a stopwatch running at the beginning of the first start. All times would be recorded as total time, then adjusted for divisional offset once the results were compiled. The results were not computed on the day of the race. The committee boat would give the data to Mike Dixon from San Leandro yacht club. Mike used a spreadsheet for the computation and mailed copies of the result sheet to each participant registered for the series. This administration service was the primary reason for the $15.00 entry fee. Once the race was over, we retrieved the start marker and retired to the CPYC clubhouse for coffee.

 

COMPUTING RACE SERIES RESULTS

            It was fortunate that we got involved with the SBYRA when we because I hadn't figured out how to compute the results of a race series yet and detailed instructions were part of the SBYRA rule sheets. I decided to follow their rules when the SPYC winter series was over. They were similar to golf, in that the lowest score won. In any given race, you accumulated points equal to your position. First place gets one point, fifth place gets 5, etc. You threw out your worst score if there were any throw out races, and then add the series totals. If a competitor failed to finish the minimum number of races, the penalty score was the total number of entries plus 1 point for a DNF or plus 2 points for a DNS. This worked in a series where there is a known quantity of entrants at the beginning of the series. It was perplexing trying to fit it into our informal style of show up if you can. The most perplexing part about computing SPYC's winter series results was that 4 out of the 6 races had been complete DNFs.

            After the March race, which did have plenty of wind, Colleen Haley, Dave Henderson, and I met at the clubhouse to work through the numbers. We decided to use the number of participants of each race as the entrant number to compute the DNF + 1 penalty points for that race. If anyone was close to the top three positions but didn't enter one of the races, we weren't sure what we would do but that situation didn't happen. We ran the numbers and it resulted in the fact it helped tremendously if you just showed up. The winner of our first series was John Brown on his Catalina 30, Scantrec. There was a 3 way tie for 2nd place, Jim Lee on his Ericson 29, Fortunate, Dave Henderson on his recently purchased Olson 30, Done Deal, and yes, Moonshot. We placed because of our decent performance in October and purely the difference between DNFing and DNSing 4 races. It was hard to believe.

            It was too late to rethink the way we computed the results because they had been published in the Spyglass, but I had a lingering feeling that we hadn't figured out the best method yet. The point that kept bothering me was that someone could randomly show up for only one race and thereby effect the penalty point system for that race impacting someone else that made most of the races except for that one. I was adamant about not making our style more formal. I felt the right thing for the future was to either have anyone interested in being considered in the series to stand up and be counted at the beginning or else pick some minimum number of races someone had to be in, 3 or 4, to be considered in the series results. The latter seemed to preserve the informal style more. We kept learning.

            Coincidentally, the Saturday of OPYC's final winter race was the weekend Marsha and I ended up being bartenders for SPYC. The night before had started slow but picked up after a while. Jerry McDaniel showed up first and played the Annapolis Sailing School video he had picked up for the youth sailing program. We saw most of it before other people started coming in. The Saturday night started even slower, but a few people started showing up after a while. It had been a rainy day, but OPYC held their race anyway. Dave and Colleen showed up with some interesting news. OPYC couldn't compute their series results without consulting with me. I was somewhat dumb founded because they had the same SBYRA information I did. I was flattered that I still controlled their life in at least one way, and that OPYC was recognizing SPYC as possibly more than just the folks in the utility shed. Another group came in including Lynda to discuss results computation. They had been much more fortunate than us with the fluky winter winds and had racers finishing in most of their races. So much for the winter series, on to our second year.

 

MUNCHING BOATS

            The SPYC April race got the season off to another great start with plenty of wind, boats, and enthusiasm. This year, we moved the races from the first Friday of the month to the second to avoid conflicting with OPYC's general meeting. Lynda moved OPYC's race to the fourth Friday of the month. The first time I could get out on Moonshot after returning from our two week vacation in the Windward Islands was for the May race. Marsha couldn't make the start in time, so my crew consisted of Lewis and Barbara Knapp. As we were leaving the marina, we felt an overwhelming sensation of how small Moonshot really was. Each of the past cruses had an impact on how Moonshot felt when we came back. This time the feeling was that it was time for a bigger boat.

            The course for this race was the one we used all last summer. After we rounded the first mark and got our sails set for the second, I heard a cracking noise and turned to see Reverie's mast crumbling like aluminum foil. It was less than 100 yards from us. We could see their sails falling into the water. We listened to the radio for any transmissions. We watched for a while and could see no one was hurt so we continued in the race, as did the other boats around us. Once back at the clubhouse, I learned of another incident. Marty had gone to San Leandro to witness the April SBYRA race. He anchored on the opposite side of the start from the committee boat planning to shoot a video. After the race, one of the sailboats near him did an accidental jibe and T-boned Poquito causing $2,600 worth of damage to his teak and fiberglass.

            This was becoming an alarming trend. I had a strange feeling that the wheels of the machine I had started in motion now had jaws with steel teeth that were chewing and grinding resulting in thousands of dollars in damage to people's boats. No one had been hurt on Reverie's dismasting. The winds were firm that night but only around 20 knots, certainly not as strong as it could have been. Don claimed his rigging was 10 years old but had recently been inspected as in OK condition. Two shrouds gave way and that was all it took. They were only able to salvage the jib. They lost the less than one-year-old mainsail. His original main blew out racing last summer. They couldn't radio for help because their antenna was mounted on top of the mast under water. They didn’t have an emergency antenna or handheld VHF. Reverie got a DNF.

            Later that night, a group of us were discussing staffing Poquito for the approaching SBYRA race. I suggested Don Holmes might be interested in bringing the 12 gauge cannon his daughter had given him as a Christmas present. He certainly wouldn't be racing. When announcing the race results, I wasn't sure what to say about Reverie's dismasting. Lewis advised me to just say no one was hurt. That seemed to work without creating remorse. Whose boat would get bent next? Everyone still seemed to be having a great time. A Friday night Beer Can still seemed like absolutely the best way to start a weekend.

 

SPYC'S SBYRA RACE

            People worrying about the SPYC committee boat for the SBYRA race coming soon were starting to get nervous about their lack of knowledge. I called Ruth Lee of CPYC to see if she wouldn't mind helping. She couldn't make it but would ask Ray to. Dave Few sent me their instructions, an article that he had written titled "On the Water Race Management." This was much more complicated than our Beer Can races. It made me think about writing a revised version of the article titled "On the Water SPYC Beer Can Race Management" to document the knowledge we had gained so far.

            My crew for Moonshot's participation in the June SBYRA race was set to be Lewis Knapp, Doug Chandler and Marsha. We were expecting Gabe Gross to show up possibly. He did come, with his wife's girlfriend Sylvia, and a video camera. He planned on making a video of the race day. We knew from experience that six people was a crowd for a race, but said climb aboard. We sailed to the start location early, then tacked back and forth watching boats descend on the area from various corners of the bay. They looked like more serious race boats than our normal crowd. It was approaching time to start when we noticed some unfamiliar pennants get raised on the committee boat. Fortunately, Lewis brought his rulebook and we learned the start time was being postponed, apparently because boats were still coming up from Coyote Point. They were unfamiliar with how long it took to get to Sierra Point.

            The course turned out to be one we had never raced before. The first leg went to the #3 and #4 channel markers, the second to the #1 and #2 channel markers, the third to the bird cage, the fourth to the #5 and #6 channel markers, then finally, the upwind leg home. A grueling course, especially since the upwind leg home would be into the strong winds coming through the valley south of the San Bruno hill. We did OK at the start and held our own on the first leg, beating some of the D division boats around the mark. As we approached the second mark, we saw trouble ahead. Some of the boats were rounding only the green #1 marker and bypassing the red #2 marker, even though the course instruction sheet clearly stated round all marks. We saw 4 boats do this before we got there, so we decided what the heck and bypassed the red mark as well. Lewis set our sail for the birdcage. We had never raced this leg before. It seemed like a long comfortable leg on a reach with one reef in the main sail. I didn't plan for the set from the currents correctly however, and ended up having to tack twice to avoid hitting the cage. Once around, it was another down wind. The winds continued to build. Lewis and Doug shook out the reef in the main and set the sails for a wing on wing run. We were surfing at over 7 knots. Most boats were ahead of us now, but we still had hope because of our handicap. Gabe was taking plenty of good video footage, but his batteries were running low.

           After rounding the last mark, we were on our way to the finish. The wind had continued to build and by the time we were a third of the way back, there were large white caps on the choppy waves and we had taken the main to the second reef point. We tacked several times but just weren't making any headway. We noticed that something looked funny at the finish line. The finish mark had dragged on its anchor and the committee boat was near the Oyster Point channel trying to retrieve it. Sylvia had been getting sea sick and now it was time to chuck. She started walking towards the high side of the boat and simultaneously, Marsha, Doug, Lewis, and I all had looks of horror on our faces and called out in unison, "No, the low side!" We gave up when the race ended, took our sails down, and started the engine. Moonshot DNFed. We were making 1-1/2 knots at best motoring into the wind towards the marina, beaten.

            Genesis protested another boat for not rounding the #1 red marker. Steve Denene faxed a protest form to my office, which I forwarded to Ed Rank. He barely got out of having to call an official protest meeting at our yacht club. Because it was clearly marked on the course sheets, Ed talked the offender into giving up 5 minutes of time. That put Genesis in the lead of its division. The racers from other parts of the bay weren't used to two markers being used as one mark. I changed the course sheet to read just the green markers and sent it back to Ed to circulate for future use.

            The final thing that went wrong with our SBYRA race was Marty thought Ray was going to submit the results and Ray thought Marty was going to submit the results, so the race data sat on Poquito for over 3 weeks. After the race, we went to the club, which was open anyway, but none of the racers from other marinas came by, they all just sailed home. In my report to the SPYC board of directors, I questioned our involvement because it had been a chore to sponsor and it didn't turn out to be a moneymaker for the bar. Larry Dulmage stated however, that a young couple from Oyster Cove signed up as members after the event, just because of the SBYRA series. We decided to continue.

 

CHANGE OF THE RACE COMMITTEE GUARD

            Marsha and I showed up at the clubhouse one Saturday evening in July to learn the night before had brought new race developments. A recent race called the Boreas Race just celebrated its 40th anniversary race. Cosponsored by the Elk Horn yacht club in Monterey Bay and the Oakland yacht club in Alameda, it was an 83-mile down wind race. That race had inspired an idea in Colleen Haley and Jim Lee's minds. Jim was a new member of SPYC, though he had been racing Fortunate with us from the start. Their idea was to have SPYC co-sponsor a race to Half Moon Bay. There was no such a race out of San Francisco at this point. It was still in the “Hey what a great idea” stage, but it sounded as if a few people had been involved with the conversation, including our Commodore.

            My reaction to this was “perfect”. Based on my experience of one and one half years of race management, I believed the SPYC race season should start with a pre season Saturday race in March, then have a 6 month series of Friday races, finishing with a special final race on a Saturday in October. The idea of this Half Moon Bay race sounded like the perfect October race. We kicked around several ideas but the decision would be made based on what members wanted to do and these were the members so why not.

            I had been avoiding SPYC board meetings because of movements enlist me into other jobs. I had decided to be involved with the club but just focus on one thing and had managed to thwart off additional responsibilities. I was comfortable with what was required on my part in conducting the races. Though Marty’s participation started to dwindle after Poquito got T-boned, Lee Mosher had assumed most of the responsibilities for making sure there was a committee boat with a competent crew. There seemed to be plenty of people helping run the club party after the race. My tasks were to contribute an article in the Spyglass and compute and announce the race results.

            There had been several attempts to involve me with the youth sailing program. I never had any interest in doing that and continued to manage a firm no thank you. Larry Dulmage came down to Dock 5 upon our arrival in the marina after an overnight cruise to the Encinal yacht club to ask if I wouldn't mind contributing some time on Saturday mornings to help out. They needed people that knew how to sail. He asked so nicely I couldn't refuse, but it just made me stew.

           Earlier in the year, I had arranged for Alicia of Windward Leeward Yacht Charters to bring in people from her company to give a presentation to SPYC on yacht chartering. The idea came up one morning during last year's San Leandro overnight cruise out. Marty, Larry and I had been discussing the fact that the club may now have enough people that knew each other to charter a few boats for a week in some foreign location. The bar tender from Spinnaker yacht club talked about their experience chartering in the Mediterranean somewhere as fantastic. I knew Alicia was quite helpful from our first charter in the Virgin Islands so I asked her to help kick start the idea at one of our general meetings.

            What we learned from the talk was because of the mix of power and sail boaters in our membership, we needed a location that offered both types of boats. I thought that's OK, the trawlers could be the committee boats and marks, and we could have a good tropical Beer Can Race during the charter. This fact limited our choice of places though. The options were the Virgin Islands, the Sea of Cortez, the San Juan Islands in Washington and Australia's Whitsunday Islands. I didn't want to go back to a location I had already been. I had begun researching Anacortes Yacht Charters in the San Juans. They offered a large selection of both sail and powerboats. While I was still thinking about the idea, an article appeared in the Spyglass about a Virgin Island charter the following spring and interested parties should contact Steve Sears. I was furious and the message I intended on delivering at the next board meeting was I felt the person involved with the organization of such an event should be someone that planned on participating, not me.

            I attended the next board meeting and the Half Moon Bay race was one of the agenda items. Colleen was on a roll spearheading the conversation about the Half Moon Bay race, which was full of enthusiasm, without me in it. When it came time to decide whose name to put on the announcement materials, I felt my psyche take three large steps backwards and finally Jim Lee stepped up and volunteered. This was the first time a contact name on an SPYC sponsored race wasn't mine. Over the next few weeks, Colleen and Jim organized the event. Jim came up with the name "Runga Kutta", after a well-known mathematician. It appeared to have enough momentum to become an annual SPYC event.

            The July race was two days later. It turned out that none of my crew could make the race. I had intended on helping the committee boat but got tied up at the office until after 7:00 and missed the entire race. Colleen called me later in the week to see if I was upset about the Half Moon Bay race. I said not at all, I was happy to have other people get involved. Two weeks after the board meeting where I pulled out of the charter planning idea, Marsha and I were returning from an overnight stay at the Pacific marina in Alameda. That's a good place to visit for a weekend. They give you an overnight berthing for free and its next door to both the Encinal and Oakland yacht clubs. As I was hosing off the boat, Larry approached me again. That's when I told him that I didn't want to continue as the Race Committee Chairman. He understood and thought Jim Lee would be a good candidate to take over. He asked me to do what I could to make the transition go smoothly.

            After 3 years of spear heading activities, I figured new blood should get involved and I should clear my extracurricular activity plate. Ten days later, Jerry McDaniel called me at my office to ask if I could help with the youth sailing program the following Saturday. That weekend was a cruise out to a Luau at the Spinnaker yacht club in San Leandro. I just said no. For some reason, the demands of the club on my time were getting to the point where I just wanted out. It felt as if I couldn't show up at the dock without being accosted to help with something. On the down wind run to San Leandro, I was experiencing a difficult time containing my anger. I felt like one more word about the youth sailing program and I would explode. Before docking at Spinnaker yacht club's guest dock, I managed to contain myself. I would explain to Jerry that I just didn't have the time to get involved with it. Later, I told Larry I didn't want my name on any job list for the next season. He understood and stated I had certainly done enough.

            The Luau turned out to be great fun. They had a roast pig as the main course for a Hawaiian diner, with authentic decorations and entertainment. The next morning on the way back, we were dodging multi hulls that were racing in the south bay. Lynda Malloy had borrowed SPYC's race markers and was sponsoring a multi hull race for OPYC. It was getting to the point in the south bay where you couldn't go out for a peaceful afternoon sail without getting bothered by a bunch of crazy racers.

 

SPYC ON THE WATER RACE MANAGEMENT

            Knowing I was on my way out of the business of being Race Committee Chairman, I wanted to see that my tenure was concluded cleanly. I completed the article "SPYC On the Water BCR Management" in time for the September edition of the Spyglass. I modified Dave Few’s article and included a new section on what to do if the committee boat doesn't show up, which was back to the basics with a rabbit start. Someone would have to volunteer to be the rabbit. I documented a method of capturing the results after a rabbit start, so the race could be counted as part of a series. I thought back to what had happened on our first race. Del Cielo had been the first boat over the line. Jeff had moved his boat into position to be able to watch the rest of the boats finish. He timed each of the finishes as the lapsed time from when he had crossed the line. With the PHRF handicap sheet I had made, this was enough data to produce results. In the event of a rabbit start, the course selection automatically reverted to the original course, around markers #3 and #4, then #1 and #2, then home. It is the responsibility of the first boat over the line to get into position, appoint two crew members as timer and recorder and capture the results. The article made it in the newsletter in time, with my promise that this would be the last of my lengthy submissions.

            The timing for having thought through the details for the article was good. Lee Mosher's health had taken a bad turn so no committee boat showed up for the September race. Fortunately, I was off the dock in time to volunteer as the rabbit. I announced over the radio that the penalty for being the first one over the finish line was you had to record the results. I explained the delta time style, just in case not everyone had read my article. The rabbit start went fine and the racing conditions were good. When the first boat made the finish, we heard the crew of Vitess becoming the SPYC committee boat on the radio. It sounded like they were enjoying the role. They brought the results sheet to the club afterwards and hadn't missed a boat.

            We ran into Richard at the party afterwards. He had been cruising for 3 years and made it as far as Clearwater, Florida before running low enough on cash to need to get back to work. He ran into someone in Panama with spare charts to the Clearwater area, so that’s where he ended up. Richard's advice now was to go ahead and bite the bullet, do it right and get a 42-foot boat. He had Shadow trucked across the country and was now living aboard in Oyster Cove Marina. It was good to see him, he looked great.

            We also ran into Ann and Jerry Kadoch. Ann wanted us to meet her daughter this weekend. Her daughter and son-in-law had built a boat from the hull up while living in Idaho. They had it trucked to Oregon to be put in the water and were spending a couple of weeks visiting before continuing on their cruise south. Later that weekend, they took us on a tour. It was an amazing implementation of a Cape George 35. They started from an empty full-keeled fiberglass hull. They described starting with the lead and sand ballast in the keel, then tanks and floorboards, writing $5,000.00 checks along the way. The full keel allowed them to locate their water tanks in the bilge, which gave them plenty of food storage space under the main salon settees. They continued to describe just about every nut, bolt, and board on the boat. They had tooled a workshop in the process for cutting and shaping the wood. Their joinery made it look like the most solidly constructed boat we had ever seen. I knew I would never have the stamina for such a project, but it looked like a boat they would love for the rest of their lives. I felt it was too small to be a comfortable liveaboard, but would be a great on the ocean. Below deck, there were handles to hang on to every step of the way. We wished them the best of luck on their adventures and went back to dock 5 for a lazy, no project afternoon. Septembers on the bay are great!

 

THE RUNGA KUTTA RACE

            In the aftermath of the August race, Keith Layton asked me if I would be interested in crewing with him on the Runga Kutta. I wanted to think it over. I still had some hope of organizing the Drakes Bay crew for a venture to Half Moon Bay instead. It was becoming clearer though, that Marsha just wasn't interested in taking Moonshot outside the Golden Gate Bridge. Although she said she didn't mind if I went and she would meet us down there, I lost interest after a while. Thinking it would be interesting to see how his Golden Wave sailed, I called Keith back to sign up as crew. I was too late though, he already had a full boat.

            There was a Marina Madness party sponsored by SPYC on Labor Day. It was becoming a tradition for Andy Geyser to organize this event. We missed it because I still felt the ill effects of jet lag. We learned afterwards that Lee Mosher's health was getting worse. We had seen him getting off Andy's boat after the August race, Amy May B had been the committee boat. He seemed hurt and felt he had pulled his back trying to get the race buoy anchor in. As it turned out, what he had felt was his kidneys failing. Some of the people from the club brought him to the Marina Madness function in a wheel chair. I called Lee the following week. I was planning on asking him if he knew where the July and August race results were as I hadn't been successful locating them. Jim Lee and Colleen Haley were doing fine organizing the Runga Kutta race. I was just worrying about wrapping up the race series. I didn't ask Lee about the results. I had hopes he would recover, but he sounded weak. He discussed the feeling of plateaus. I gave him my best. We commented on what a good group of people had gotten together to form and build SPYC. I said good-by. Lee died a few days later.

            When announcing the results of the September Beer Can Race, I asked Jim Lee to discuss the Runga Kutta Race to help him get the feel of talking in front of the group. He rose and briefly stated everyone is going to have a great time at the party afterwards and get laid. More boats were signing up for the Runga Kutta race than any other SPYC event.

            Bill and Linda Madru signed up as members of the club in September. Many people knew and liked them as they had been to several of the after the race parties. Bill was the skipper of a fast trimaran named Defiance. He had participated in many of the winter races, even though we didn’t count multi hulls in the results. Bill is a lively character. He built Defiance over several years in Alviso. While there, he became the city's mayor for 3 years. His wife was a charming woman. She offered to volunteer to do race committee work for us several times. Bill liked to participate in challenging races such as the single handed Farallon race. She didn't and helped with the committee work. Bill was participating in the Vallejo race, which was a two-leg race. Sunday was double handed for the return to San Francisco. Linda became part of the Runga Kutta race committee because it was starting from the same place as the single handed Vallejo race on the same day, 1-1/2 hours earlier.

            The races were starting from the 2nd floor platform at the Golden Gate yacht club. They have a permanent marker anchored outside the breakwater. The start line was between the marker and the club’s flag mast. Larry and Mary Anne Dulmage were the rest of the race committee, and would be taking Traveler down the coast to track the race. I called Larry to see if they needed help, he invited us to join them. No one else was crewing with them so we could camp out in the forepeak. We arrived in the city and found Traveler docked in front of the St. Francis yacht club just before midnight. Larry woke up briefly to let us in and soon everyone was asleep.

            The race was divided into two starts, higher than and lower than PHRF 150. There was fog at the gate and barely enough wind for a start, but eventually all 34 boats made it across the line. We got back to get Traveler underway to watch the race. Dave and Colleen actually closed PME for the weekend to participate in the event. Jim Lee was racing in Fortunate because while he was trying to take ownership of his new J-35, it's mast crashed through the deck over stressed from it's rigging. We could tell it was going to be a light air day. The sailboats would make it out of the gate, then drift back in and out until finally there was enough wind to get them moving. Once most boats had made it past the light bucket, Traveler motored ahead of the fleet through the soupy fog. We contemplated canceling the race for lack of wind, but just as our patience was about to give, the fog started lifting and the wind picked up. This brought every one's spirits out of the doldrums.

            The boats got to sail for a while, but after 4 hours it became clear that it was just too little air, too late in the day. One by one, the racers were hailing the committee boat to DNF, though most were deciding to motor the rest of the way to Half Moon Bay. Only four decided to turn back and call it off. One of the boats that decided to continue motoring to Half Moon Bay was a Cal 39. They reported several times on having some engine trouble. We could hear other sailboats standing by to help if needed, while the its skipper attempted bleeding his fuel line. Traveler got a call for help because the only one standing by when the engine quit for the 5th time only had a small outboard. We turned back and prepared to tow the vessel the rest of the way.

            As we were motoring back up the coast, Marsha and I started thinking the name of the Cal 39 sounded familiar. It was Moondancer II, the boat that had inspired us to seriously start thinking about selling Moonshot. As we approached the vessel, I prepared a line to throw to them from Traveler's stern platform. I started remembering Moondancer II's bent bow roller and the cracked wood in the toe rail and the fact it’s engine wouldn’t start. When we were nearby, they dropped their sails in preparation for the tow. As we circled for the final approach, I was on the back of the boat in position to toss the line. I was looking for their bent bow roller. All of a sudden, I heard Traveler's engines roar, then the boat lurched forward while black smoke came up at me from both exhaust tubes. There was a crashing noise and a jolt. The Moondancer II had collided with Traveler from a large swell that caused both boats to slide down on each other. Moondancer II hit Traveler 6 inches from the aft end of the starboard side, 2 feet away from where I was standing. I saw the incident as if it were in slow motion. I first noticed the bow roller get bent 90 degrees from the boat's centerline. Their roller-furling drum shattered. People on board were falling over from the impact. Every one's eyes on Moondancer II were as wide as could be. A dust cloud appeared from Traveler's smashed fiberglass.

            When the dust settled, I tossed them the line and went forward. Larry was angry at himself for getting too close, but it was just lack of rescue experience on the high seas with his large pleasure craft than anything else. Marsha had to keep me quiet. I was awestruck by the fact I was watching for the bent bow roller and witnessed it being destroyed. So everyone on Traveler was quiet while we towed Moondancer II. As I was watching it drag along behind us, I could see it bob and bounce and felt it wasn't the right size boat. We needed to move our thinking up from the 17,000-pound hulls we had been looking at. We advised Moondancer II to prepare to anchor, that we would cast them off in the anchorage so they could get a smaller boat to tow them into the docks, once they made arrangements with the harbor master.

            Once Traveler’s anchor was set, we learned all of the boats had DNFed. The HMBYC was providing the committee boat to run the finish. All they had to do was wait. The next business to attend to was the party on shore. We lowered the dinghy with the electric lift just before dark. The food was good, once you got your turn at the grill. Over 100 people attended, they weren't used to this large of a cruise in. After most people had eaten, the crowd in the clubhouse one by one started making and throwing paper airplanes. We were ripping pages from the Latitudes and other magazines lying around. The bartenders were serving as fast as they could while ducking the missiles as they flew at the bar. Eventually, someone got the idea to dance. Tables started moving out of the way. As more people started dancing, the airplanes quit and the party went on until late. It was a great party. It was amazing everyone made it back to their boats safely, they must have been lucky.

            The next morning greeted us with spectacular weather. It was crystal clear skies, sunny, and unusually warm. Tank tops and shorts weather on the ocean, with a mild off shore breeze out of the northeast. We got underway before 11:00. With a couple of exceptions, the sailboats got an early start as well. We weren't underway for very long before there was enough of a breeze for the sailboats to hoist their sails. When Traveler was half way back to San Francisco, I noticed an odd-looking brownish cloud, inland. I pointed it out and people pondered, thinking it may be a fire. As we made our way north along the coast, the cloud kept growing, and getting darker and uglier. We learned from another boat that it was a fire near the Caldecott Tunnel, six houses were ablaze. By the time we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, the black cloud had taken on a huge whale's tale shape. It was covering the entire city. We heard reports from skippers south of the Bay bridge that ashes the size of the palm of a hand were dropping on their boat. We could see the sun through the dark cloud glowing with a sinister color of yellowish brown.



Figure 113: Cloud of smoke over San Francisco Bay

            Our timing coincided with the finish of the double-handed Vallejo race. We positioned ourselves to watch Defiance win the race. As we passed south of the Bay Bridge we could see something clearly bad was happening to the Berkeley hills. We could see fires through the clouds of smoke. The reports of huge ashes were confirmed as we dodged them all the way back. I had never witnessed anything that appeared this bad. The ashes followed us all the way back to our marina, as did the cloud. As we docked, we learned that the fire had already consumed 45 homes and was still out of control. Soon, Defiance was docking on the other side of dock 1, so we jogged around to help him in. Once docked, a crowd gathered from boats nearby to discuss the cloud. One of the skippers from a nearby trawler came over holding a burnt piece of paper he found in the city. Its perimeter was ash, but we could read what was written on it with a 2nd grader's printing. "Get well soon mom, love Ashley." At home later that evening, we were able to see how devastating the fire was on the news. At over $5 billion in damage, it was one of the worst disasters ever. When it was over, nearly 3500 homes had been destroyed.

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