Well, for the first post on this blog, I thought I'd describe our experience on the Double Handed Farallones Race for 2011. I did the race with Paul Sinz who is one of the best drivers around, and my most regular crew. The race was yesterday, April 9th and the course was from the X buoy off of GGYC in San Francisco out the Gate, taking the South East Farallone Island to port, then back to GGYC. It's about 58 miles. The forecast was for a light air start on a 3.7kt max ebb at 08:49 with the wind building to the mid 20's in the afternoon. In our class was another Cal 40 Green Buffalo, also rated 114. The rest of our class (PHRF 80 to 124) consisted of several Catalina 42s, a couple Olson 34s, a J32, and a Beneteau 36.7. Our start was at 08:20.
When we got to the start, it was very light out of the East and there was flood at the start line. We positioned ourselves north of the start line and made a "run" for the pin at a speed of 2kts through the water, which gave us about a quarter knot over ground. After barely rounding the pin several minutes after our start gun, we slid back out to the north a bit. Our plan was to try to get to the ebb in the main channel going out the gate. We saw several boats pop their chutes with a starboard pole and reach to the north. We did the same and found that when we got to the current, we were quickly swept to the West. We decided to hold our course to the North to get to the strongest ebb current, which looked to be on the north side of the channel. By the time we decided to bear away and gybe, we were met with the westerly filling in. Down with the chute and back up with the #1.
As soon as we got out of the Gate, we got a taste of what was to come with a large swell that seemed out of place with the light wind. The Moore 24 Nevermore (ex Eight Ball) was next to us and was going pretty vertical on some of the waves.
As we looked back, the majority of the fleet was still battling the flood with their spinnakers up. They were spread from Ft Mason all the way across to the center channel but didn't seem to be making much progress.
Near Pt Bonita the wind picked up so we decided to change to the #3. With the forecast we probably should have changed earlier but it was blowing about 14kts when we started the change. We had decided to race with the head foil rather than hanks since we may want the jib top on the way back in and that has a luff tape, not hanks. By the time I got the #3 plugged in, the trimaran Tatiana was coming at us on starboard so we tacked over to starboard as well and let him by us. I raised the #3 inside of the #1, then we tacked back over to port and dropped the #1 on deck. After tying down the #1 on deck, it was blowing 19. I caught my breath for a few minutes and decided I needed to get the #1 off of the deck since we had a lot of water washing over us with the current sea state. After several good dunkings , a bit of levitating, and some choice words, I ended up dragging the #1, along with about 20 gallons of seawater, to the companionway and stuffing it below. I'm sure my sail maker would have been cringing and grinning at the same time.
Shortly after getting the #3 up we were in what ended up to be the roughest part of the race. Winds in the low to mid 20's and very steep 10 to 15' square waves. With the help of the ebb, we were making about 10kts over the ground. While I was down below putting on a dry jacket, I heard over the VHF many boats dropping out due to the conditions. Times like these make me really appreciate 15,500 lbs of displacement and a spoon bow. Lapworth got it right.
The rest of the trip out to the island was fairly uneventful with the waves mellowing out a bit and the wind swinging between 21 and 26 kts. As we approached the Farallones, we could see only 4 boats ahead of us and a J120 on our hip. As we rounded the island a little before 13:00, I ran the sheets for the jib top since we were skeptical about flying the spinnaker with so much north in the wind. In the lee of the island it was much calmer and I was able to get the jib top on deck and hoisted. We dropped the #3 and tied it down on deck.
It was like someone threw a switch. The ride was very mellow going with the waves and the jib top was the perfect sail with the apparent wind around 80 degrees. We headed back on a bearing of 60 degrees while behind us a few of the Moore 24s went further north so they could then bear away and set. This makes sense when your boat can get on a plane with the chute, but the extra miles don't pay for a Cal 40. We took advantage of the conditions and downed some food and water as we switched off driving. I don't know about Paul, but my hand and arm were cramping up quite a bit from the pull of the tiller. Powered up on a beam reach with the wind in the mid to upper 20's is a work out.
The first boat to pass us was the 11 Meter Sailing Skiff Foundation, which rates a 69. As we ground down the miles heading back to the gate, we saw some small kites behind us gaining quickly. The Moore 24 Nevermoore went sliding by effortlessly. At least it looked effortless to us, but I'm sure they would say otherwise. The only other boat that passed us was also a Moore 24 Banditos. We stayed north of the shipping channel since there was a bit of a parade of ships coming in. Oddly enough, one large container ship slowed down in the shipping lane to let another one pass by him. Later we would see both of these ships in the estuary turning basin at the same time. I had never seen that before.
As we neared the gate, the waves flattened out thanks to the max flood which was scheduled at 15:48. We stayed on port under the center of the span until we could gybe and lay the finish. The wind was in the high 20's so we cautiously ground in the main, released the vang, and then let the main sheet slide a bit as the boom came across. Once it was across, Paul hauled on the vang as I gybed the jib top. We had a great line to the X buoy and were screaming along at 9kts in the flat Bay water. As we neared the line, we could see Banditos finish with their kite up. The committee said they were the first boat to do so. Behind us we saw what looked like an Express 27 or another Moore having a very difficult time recovering from a spin out just inside the gate. We crossed the finish line taking the gun for our class at 16:21 for a corrected time of 7:50:52. Definitely a fast DHF race!
As I write this, the preliminary results are posted with 80 boats starting, and 43 finishing. Our class had 9 starters and 4 finished. Green Buffalo came in second for a Cal 40 1-2. Congratulations to them as well as the other finishers in our class, Ay Caliente and Temerity. At this point it looks like we may have placed 10th overall with the Moore 24s really cleaning up.
Fun race, good company, challenging conditions, and all around satisfying feeling along with a few aches and pains. Can't wait until next year...