Archive for the 'Racing' Category

AC technology, back in the day

Interesting find posted to S/A, a July 1920 Popular Science article on the latest and greatest in AC technology.

The boats were slower then, but they sailing much longer legs and weren’t afraid to go in the ocean!

Three Bridge Fiasco, our moment of fame

… occurs at 07:35 above.

Three Bridge Fiasco 2013

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Replay of our track, above.   Below, a  time lapse movie from dropatan.

Annika and I had our best-ever 3BF performance last Saturday, with blustery winds pushing us to a 14th out of 34 starters in our Division (DH Spin PHRF<108), while beating all the other Olson 34s (two of which admittedly single-handing), all the Express 37s, and overall 61st out of 256 DH monohull starters (based on the preliminary results).    Last year (the first year we even finished the damn thing)  we were a bit below the overall fleet midpoint, and this year we are in the top quartile, at least if one chooses one’s denominator wisely.

Because the Fiasco can be run in any direction, this race starts the night before more so than others.   I had studied the predicted tides and winds on SailFlow, and it seemed we could look forward to NW moderate winds, though how strong these would be and exactly when they would fill in depended on the model.   With the last of the flood at the start and a strong ebb in mid-afternoon, it seemed clear to me that clockwise was the way to go.  Also, we had had good luck with CW last year.   Apparently, a lot of people took the NWS prediction of  Westerly all day to heart, fortunately for us.  I discounted the  predicted strength though, since the forecast had been for 10 – 15 kts for several days, though the most recent was calling for low 20s.

Conditions at the start were fairly warm, sunny, and with the breeze varying from 8 to 14 kts.   As we approached the start area and pulled back on motor power, all of the engine alarms sounded at once — alternator, coolant temp, and oil pressure.  A very hurried check on the engine found no real problem, but the distraction caused us to miss our start time by several minutes.  Even the moderate wind of 12-14 kts after the start made it hard to pull the big #1 genny in in a timely way, but we did our best taking advantage of the early ebb along the shore on the way to Blackaller.

We had one slow spot near Harding, but I liked how the flood was still helping us through with about +1kt over the ground, and felt the dead spot would not last.   We did see a few boats peel away from the CW group and head for points East.  Coming though Raccoon, we continued to enjoy the flood in mid-channel, so decided to stay there rather than hugging the Tiburon shore as so many others seemed to be doing.  We also encountered new-to-the-Bay Olson 34 LOYA.

Rounding Red Rock the question became: to set, or not to set?  The angles were fine for the spin, but we were in a very crowded situation and the wind was in the high teens.   Boat speed was good and no one was passing us.  So we decided to sit tight.   Also, it was lunch time.  As we ran down to TI, the wind increased and moved steadily bow-wards, so that by the time we were at Berkeley it was 20+ kts and too hot to carry the spin.   We observed several boats rounding up or having some serious spin management issues, including the boat whose main had a huge logo for “the official law firm of AC34” on it, having lost both sheets and the red spin flying straight out from the masthead as they passed under the Bay Bridge.   Since this specific scenario is one that I have nightmares about, I felt a lot better on our decision not to fly that day!

Our biggest mistake came next.   With the wind  in the Slot clearly over 20 kts, we should have gotten ready to change down to the #3 and maybe even reef, as we were grossly overpowered with the #1 up to go upwind, as we certainly would be doing on the final leg.    Instead, as we approached the Bay Bridge West span, we decided to just gut it out even though we were on our ear and boatspeed was not good.  Annika felt she had good control, and I knew that changing down would cost us a lot of time.   So we hung on as we beat around the corner and towards Alcatraz in the very bumpy seas and winds solidly in the mid-20s, gusting to 30, and where it was clear the now-ebbing current was going to be a benefit.   Our finish was at 13:49:28, and we made sure to do complete turn around the X buoy to leave no room for doubt as to crossing the line.

We had a  very fast run down the Estuary where the wind stayed above 20 kts most of the way, and on starting the engine found it to be fine, with no alarms sounding.  Hmm.    We capped our day with a well deserved dinner at Scolari’s, our favorite eatery on Park Street, where the dress code is sailor-friendly.

Also see writeups at NorCalSailing, Latitude 38,  and Sailing Anarchy.

Race replay with multiple boat tracks here.

Three Bridge Fiasco unofficial Olson 34 Division

Culebra is sitting this one out, none of the Express 34s are showing up, but we have a new (or renamed) O-34 LOYA coming.

Our start is at 09:57:45.

Here we go again

Weekend Fun

While Temerity still languishes with no autopilot and a few other low-priority fixes needed, Char and I took a break this past weekend.   On Saturday we went aboard the Hawaiian Chieftain to see the Fleet Week Airshow from the water, and also go to see some of the AC45’s on their way to the race course for the Saturday ACWS event (yes, the one where Jimmy augured in so nicely).   (See also this post for more on the Chieftain.)

Once out the Estuary the Chieftain set sail and we did a good deal of sailing (rather than motoring) for the rest of the afternoon, reaching back and forth behind Alcatraz as the jets zoomed overhead.

On Sunday, we were up at 0-dark-30 for the long drive to Vallejo so that we could do Race Deck duty for the 2nd half of the SSS Vallejo 1-2.   Char did a great job on sound signals (gun and horn)  in the morning, and in recording finish times in the afternoon, while I helped with flags and calling the sail numbers and finishes.  Char also got a chance to indulge her flair for the dramatic on the radio, and work on her Southern Belle impression (coached by PRO Jan!).

Monte Carlo router

Here is how the multistage Monte Carlo router works.   Multiple paths are propagated using polars and GRIB wind data.    In this case there are three cycles of 48 hours each.  At the end of each cycle there is a crude pruning based on the simple distance to the finish, and then a fancy alpha shapes pruning is done to eliminate near-equivalent cases and also routes terminating  internal to the fur ball.  When you have gone as many cycles as you care to, examine the isochronic tracks that end closest to the finish.   And then tell yourself,  “no way am I going that far North”.

The next step would be to take the wobbly best paths and do some sort of simulated annealing on them to refine the results, but no time, no time!

SHTP Promo Vid

Some nice coverage and shots here — we saw Red Sky departing the Estuary on Saturday as we came back from practice, out of the yard with days to spare.

Spinnaker Cup 2012

Our Spin Cup day started early with the long motor out in the cold to the Knox start area, spotting one of the AC45s on the way, tricked out with a big “75” logo to help celebrate the Bridge’s birthday.   Temerity was entered in the Shorthanded Division, with Andreas as crew.  The forecast was for 20 – 30 kts all weekend, fine for the race but I was worried about the long uphill slog for the return delivery.

The reality was very light wind for the start, and the flood already starting.  The RC made a point of telling the racers the scary forecast, including steep 6 – 8  ft seas at 6 seconds, with wind waves on top of that.   We got ready with the #3, motoring around the start area while starts were delayed to wait for wind.   Finally it was our turn as the last Division to start.    With Andreas’ good tactical advice we nailed the start, crossing the favored pin end in clear air about 2 seconds ahead of the drop.  The wind built quickly as we approached the bridge, and we took in a reef in a timely way, which helped us a lot later on.   It was a hard beat all the way to the R8 turning  mark,  which we needed only a small pair of tacks to make.  In the process we started catching up with the C and D fleet boats ahead.    Bearing off we found the wind was on or even a bit ahead of the beam.   The seas were a bit choppy but nothing like the forecast.   We stuck with the #3, sheeted to the rail.   No one of the C, D, or E fleets had set a kite.

So we sailed and we sailed.  We had seen Elan at the start, and I thought I again saw them up ahead.   We were very slowly overhauling them.    Then we heard USCG on the radio, hailing Elan and stating that a PLB had gone off.   Several boats responded, and since we thought we had them in sight, they asked us to try to get into hailing distance.    Of course, this being a race, it was easier said than done.   We had already tried Ch 16, Ch 22A, and the RC frequency Ch 65, so we tried sound signals and our strobe/spotlight.    Finally Ahi hailed us and pointed out that we were chasing the wrong boat.  D’oh!

We later gathered that USCG had sent a helicopter out to hover over Elan, to get their attention and get them to finally turn their radio on and tune to Ch 16.   I am sure the next SI’s with have a reminder on this point, although clearly a large majority of the fleet were guarding 16, and are now privy to Dylan Benjamen’s cell phone number.   (“We just want the number for our records, sir.”)

This next piece of excitement was seeing SC27 Furthur blast past us, chute up and crew working hard.   Oh, well.

Then, dark.   And cold.   We were still north of Santa Cruz and faced a long night, sailing very deep and abusing the poor #3.  The seas were very beamy and unsteady, so we still did not feel like we could set, and the wind varied from the teens to the low 20s.  We appeared to be making good time against the rest of the fleet, holding about 7 or 8 nm off the coast.   Neither Andreas or I had had much sleep the night before, so we started trading watches, letting the other guy get some sleep.    At one point mid-Monterey Bay, I went below and neglected to leave the handheld GPS (critically low on batteries) with Andreas, which turned out to be a pretty big mistake as he was sailing to the wind primarily, and when a big shift came we found ourselves fairly well off course.   Unfortunately the track data from the handheld has been lost, and getting the data off the plotter at the nav station is a task for another day.

We finished at about 0430, with a elapsed time of almost exactly 16 hours.   Starting the motor after we crossed the line brought more excitement, as every piece of electrical equipment on board died upon pushing the start button.   Teething pains from our new power electrics.   Fortunately, the ugly fix of combining the batteries got us started and to our slip.   The harbor and MPYC folks were more than helpful and welcoming, and we enjoyed some minestrone while receiving the very pleasant news that we had placed second in our division.

We left Monterey at about 1400 Saturday, and I decided to just straight motor home, as the wind was fairly light and on our nose, and the seas were moderate.   We made it to Alameda in about 21 hours or so, and probably burned about 10 gallons of diesel at 2800 RPM covering around 100 nm.    I was glad to do this test as it is valuable, current data that will help energy planning for both battery charging and possible motoring fuel budget for our Hawai’i trip.

All in all a fine way to spend the holiday weekend.

First Place SH trophy standing in for 2nd Place DH Trophy


Some of the famous Monterey Bay marine fauna. These  1-inch-long shrimp or krill  found their way into my raw water strainer.  We also saw whales and a dolphin on the trip home.

Antigua Sailing Week

NSL buddy and sometime Temerity crew Wardog was lucky (and a valuable enough sailor) to be invited to Antigua Sailing Week where his regular skipper chartered a Farr 40 this year.   Like the Heineken Regatta, it’s a real sailing bucket list item.  Too much fun!   Let’s see if he remembers to bring home some of that superb Antiguan rum.

Byran Chong on S/A

Low Speed Chase accident survivor has published this today on Sailing Anarchy:

This is my first time posting on SA after years of lurking. First, I want to thank everyone for the kind comments about my original letter. I confess to some initial hesitation about publishing the story after reading heated SA debates over the years but I take my hat off to the collective sailing community for the respectful approach to the incident and follow-up discussions.

There are still questions floating around and I’ll try to provide some additional insight. Also, I have a special request to those that have done the Farallones race. Here are the most frequently asked questions since my letter:

Did SA change the original recipients of your letter?

Yes, but all I really cared about was publication of the complete story as opposed to how some of the news outlets butchered the message. One extracted this headline: “California sailing accident survivor urges new safety rules”. First, I never said there should be new rules. Second, they missed the real message around sparking discussions within the community and crews, or about safety as everyone’s personal responsibility not just the owner/skipper/captain.

Is there a GPS track?

Yes. We had 2 GPS’s running that day – the boat GPS and a handheld Garmin that we managed to recover from a mesh bag in the cockpit. I’m really amazed that it managed to stay on-board.

Here’s some interesting data from the handheld GPS: between 14:36:53 and 14:37:37 (44 seconds) the GPS traveled at 12 knots from a position approximately 464 yards north-northwest of Maintop Island to a position 295 yards southeast toward Maintop Island, this path was perpendicular to its previous direction of travel. Between 14:37:37 and 14:38:32, (55 seconds), the GPS again traveled southeast 160 yards to the shore of Maintop Island at a speed of approximately 5 knots.

I should probably rethink my initial estimate of 128 yards from the break zone. A 250-yard break zone would have then put us at 200 from the edge of the break zone. Any input from someone with a perspective on the depth of the northwest break zone that day would be greatly appreciated.

Where is the boat?

In a storage yard (not in Half Moon Bay).

Did you have a GPS EPIRB?

No. I said GPS in my letter to help those who would be trying to conceptualize an EPIRB for the first time. The Coast Guard said they got 2 hits from our EPIRB and then it went dead. This would have brought them to within a couple of miles of the boat and should clarify the initial misunderstanding about our location. The radio call was received before the EPIRB signal. Also, the EPIRB was recently recovered but the failure has not yet been determined.

How big (in feet) was the wave?

I intentionally left out an attempt at guesstimating the size to avoid the scenario where a bank robbery witness mistakes the Stubnose 22 for a 44 Magnum. The largest swells I’d seen prior to that one was on a boat delivery headed north around Point Conception. This wave was in an entirely different category from those or any I’d seen from shore or the water. Maybe wave science experts could estimate size based on ocean depth at the point we got hit.

I agree with all the comments about swell size verse breaking wave size. The wave that hit us grew as it approached. As I continue to digest, I should also add that the wave was relatively short when compared to a long breaking wave that you would see at the beach. I’m curious to find an ocean floor topography that’s more detailed than those in standard charts.

Did it take 15 minutes for the boat to get to shore?

No. According to GPS data it was about 2 minutes. It was much faster than anyone in the water. The majority of the time I spent in the water was trying to get out once I finally made it to the shore.

Should there be a course change and new safety standards?

Regarding course. I’ve intentionally steered clear of this subject as there are expects that have forgotten more about ocean racing and the Farallon Islands than I’ll ever know. I’m looking to those experts in concert with the local sailboat racing community to make the recommendations. Jay, Nick and I have and will continue to provide investigators with any data that will help them make informed decisions. I suspect the survivors and the families would support any decision that reduces the probability of another tragedy.

Regarding new safely standards.There is no shortage of boating/racing safety standards. What seems to be lacking is diligent adherence to those standards and best practices. I guess the best comparison would be motor vehicles. Lowering the accident rate is less about new rules and more about getting folks to follow the ones that exist today – using seat belts, not driving under the influence, respecting speed limits and observing stop lights/signs.

I wish I could say that before every ocean race over the years someone told me basics like where the bolt cutters were located, and made sure everyone onboard knew how to hail the Coast Guard, how to crank their engine, etc. What if the one person left on the boat after an accident is new to sailing and has no clue about how to drive a boat or manually set off the EPIRB?

How can I help?

I’d like to assemble GPS tracks for that day and get them plotted onto one chart to provide a single consolidated view of as many boat routes as possible around the island that day. I’d ask that if you were out there or know people who were, could you ask them to download their GPS track data and email it to me at Raw data is fine as long as it has the basic long/lat/time. Our handheld had our 2011 track data so I’ll also take previous years routes from anyone that wants to share. Please include wind and wave conditions if you can remember them. Thanks in advance for your help.

Thanks everyone for your support over the past 3 weeks.


Bryan Chong

Not the Duxship

Last Saturday we had an OYRA race that was not the Duxship.   Following the Low Speed Chase accident, US Coast Guard Sector San Francisco has issued a ‘stand down’ on ocean racing originating in San Francisco (Santa Cruz, Princeton Harbor, and other west coast ports are not affected.)  The OYRA did a great job at the last minute scheduling a replacement course that did not go outside the COLREGS demarcation line.

We had a great start, once again in a heavy ebb and light winds.    We stayed clear of the pin and observed several boats piling up on in it in  a highly reminiscent fashion.  “That was us about 4 weeks ago,” I told Andreas and Andrew, who were once again crewing this race.     Our upwind leg was fast and fun; as you can see from the tacking angles above.  Even with so little weight on the rail we were in a good position rounding the mark, the Pt. Bonita buoy.   And there I blew it.   I knew that the current inside Bonita Cove would be much less than out in the main channel, and we had arrived at the mark a lot sooner than I had reckoned, so that the ebb was still in full force.    But with only 3 aboard and still a little jittery so soon after LSC, I decided not to go close to shore under spin for the current relief.    After we set the spin I had my hands full steering, and it wasn’t for a while that I realized how the ebb was setting our ground track to a net southerly heading.   So we lost a lot of ground on the run to the North Tower.  We made some of it up though with some good calls putting us near Angel, and anticipating the strong current still setting out of the channel to the north;  we make the next mark, YRA 8 without needing to douse and tack back up.  We doused before reaching the mark and went back up with the #1 for  a reach south.

The call to go behind TI also proved to be a good one.   There was a big wind hole just past the bridge, but apparently there was an even bigger one on the west side of the island and the course that way was longer.  A nice spin run down the Estuary got us to the finish, and only a few minutes from our slip, a very welcome change from the usual situation.    In all, a great day out with A&A, and a good party at EYC afterwards.

Our little pirouette

Track detail from our minor wipe-out on the way home from the Farallones.

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OYRA Farallones 2012

As many readers will by now know, the ORYA Full-Crew Farallones race was struck with tragedy as five sailors from Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase were swept overboard by a wave as they rounded the islands, and the boat with the remaining three sailors aboard was driven onto the rocks of Maintop Bay shortly after.   We were quite close when this happened.    I did not witness the boat going aground personally but some of our crew did, and we made one of the first calls to the Coast Guard, at approximately 1450 hrs PDT.   The sea state was quite rough, with a big swell and mixed chop that produced the occasional drencher on deck, even before we came to the windward side of the island where the waves are made even worse by the effect of the waves rebounding from the shore.   Wind was NW 25 kts.

As of this writing on Monday morning, the USCG has discontinued their rescue efforts, which had involved considerable effort and assets over more than 30 hours, and the missing crew must be presumed dead.  Only one body of the five that went overboard was recovered.   Two of the survivors who went aground (including the skipper) were thrown off the boat when it hit the rocks, and managed to climb on some rocks where they were picked up by a USCG helicopter.  Video here.  The remaining survivor was on the boat with a broken leg, and was also picked by by helicopter.

Chartlet of the islands.

Here is our GPS track for the full race:

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And an excerpt from the rounding of the islands:

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Raw .gpx files are here:   full, islands

We were way too cold and wet much of the time  to take pictures and in a somber mood on the ride home.  Frankly, what happened to Low Speed Chase could have happened to us also.    When shorthanding in the ocean I am very disciplined about having myself and crew clipped in 100% of the time, but with crewed racing with very proficient crew I am much more lax, as conditions outside the Gate many days are no worse than in the Bay.    But Saturday was not one of those days.   It was pretty hairy from Pt. Bonita onward.

For the race we had a great crew, comprising Kim, Chewy, Andreas, and Andrew K., the latter two new to the boat and very experienced,  skilled sailors.   There was a big ebb and almost no wind at the start, something of a tradition it would seem.  We set the #1 genny, and tried to work our way out into the middle of the stream as best we could.   Approaching Bonita, the wind and seas increased steadily, and we made a good anticipatory call in changing down to the #3, with Andreas and Andrew working very well in managing this with the new hanked-on sails.   From then on it was just a nasty beat into the square waves formed by the ebb meeting the 20 – 25 kt northwesterly.     As usual, crockery down below was smashed, the galley cupboard door  popped out, and drawers in the forepeak cabin knocked off their tracks.   It was very wet, with plenty of waves washing over the deck and down inside the clothes of most of us.

We rounded with the islands to starboard, and mid-way we observed Low Speed Chase very close inshore, and then driven aground.   The radio call was made to USCG as described above.    We were already as close as any rational person would want to be to the rollers breaking on shore, and with a helo on the way and LSC grounded,  we did not feel there was anything we could safely do to help, though we did scan the water for survivors.

On the ride home we stuck with the #3 sheeted to the rail and full main, which we had been flying since Bonita.    I did not feel like putting up any more sail than that.    Near the Lightship we were hit by a breaking sneaker wave on the port quarter, which flung me across the cockpit and to the starboard lifelines, and tumbled Temerity around in a 360° circle.   As I was in the air I had plenty of time to remember that I was clipped in and would not be going overboard.   We finished without further incident, and pulled in to StFYC to drop off  crew, and everyone jumped on their cellphones to inform friends and family that we were OK.   It seems that there had been some confusion with our initial radio call and USCG thought for awhile that we were also in distress.  Strangely, they called our cell phones and emergency contacts, but did not attempt to hail us on VHF, which would have cleared things up immediately, as we continued to monitor Ch 16 for the rest of the race.

I and the Temerity crew extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those lost at sea.

Mile Rocks Shortcut?

Some races forbid the passage between the Mile Rocks and the shore, and some allow it.   Frankly, as I can only see about 0.14 nm (less than 300 yards) of clear water, I’m happier when it is excluded, and I don’t have to think about chancing it.  But then, I’m a well known wimp.