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Ma's Rover and California Condor
In the last leg of the Round the Rocks, F-31 trimaran Ma's Rover and Antrim Class 40 California Condor had a duel to the finish. Ma's Rover nipped the big bird by one minute. ©2016

SSS Round the Rocks

April 28 , 2016

The 2016 SSS Round the Rocks Race started at the G mark on the Olympic Circle and finished at the Richmond Yacht Club, but not before stopping and starting several times on the way. Morning on the Circle brought light wind and a building flood, which provided several opportunities for boats to start and then re-start. This year the SSS decided to switch starting divisions, with the faster boats going first and the slowest boats bringing up the rear. As it turned out, the "slow rear" included multihulls that were supposed to start 45 minutes earlier and the slow boats, along with a healthy mix of those in between.

Ad Lib
Bruce Baker and John Skinner on the Aphrodite 101 Ad Lib at the start. ©2016

A first-starting group managed to get away and sail toward Treasure Island, figuring to tack over toward Alcatraz, but as the morning breeze lightened and the converging currents near Blossom Rock increased, they found themselves pushed east of TI into a parking zone. Meanwhile guns went off as division after division was "started" only to be swept toward the pin end of the start line, but pushed back by the current.

Yes, they are racing. Amy Wells and Kostadin Ilov on the F-27 Wingit. ©2016

Individual boats managed to creep across the start line and ghost their way southward. Finally enough breeze built back in to allow another group of mixed boats to start. In the mix were multihulls from the first start and dozens of boats whose gun had gone off afterward. This fleet opted to tack toward Angel Island, hoping to find relief from the current, but were pushed northward, many arriving at the Tiburon headlands instead of Angel Island. A third group of boats finally managed to start and sailed farther south before tacking for Angel Island. The result was a large pack of mixed boats close-tacking their way along Angel Island toward Point Blunt.

The Corsair Dash Relentless tacking up along Angel Island. ©2016

In the meantime, a westerly wind filled in, allowing the boats parked near TI to begin sailing toward and rounding Alcatraz. The westerly also allowed the Angel Island boats to escape Blunt and head for Alcatraz. Things were beginning to look better for everyone. But, as the first fleet approached Harding Rock and the second fleet got to Alcatraz the wind died again. Boats approaching Harding found themselves drifting eastward toward Angel Island as boats rounding Alcatraz struggled with the flooding current and light wind.

Then another westerly filled in and the early arriving boats at Harding began to claw their way back to the mark at the same time the late Alcatraz rounders began arriving at the HR Buoy. With light wind and strong current, the two groups converged, avoiding the Harding Buoy, whose wake was larger than any of the boats.

After managing to round Harding Rock, most boats opted for Raccoon Strait, hoping for help from the flood, with a few others deciding a route around Angel Island looked better. The Raccoon boats soon found light air and a growing ebb, while the "rounders" had less current and more breeze, and for a while it looked like they had made the better choice. And then another westerly breeze began to build and a tight bunch of spinnakers popped out of Raccoon Strait slightly ahead of the boats coming up from Point Blunt. A drag race for the Brothers commenced.

Grace and Wind Speed
A slow rounding of East Brother Island. ©2016

After Red Rock and the Richmond Bridge the "Raccoon" and "Rounder" fleets converged on the Brothers where wind became light again with an increasing ebb. Adding to the fun were shorthanders getting their chutes down in close quarters. Guests at the East Brother B&B were treated to views of colorful sails wrapped around forestays, bouncing off adjacent boats, and 'shrimping' in Bay waters. There were no collisions, but several close calls.

Nancy and Breakaway
Pat Broderick, singlehanding the Wyliecat 30 Nancy on the homestretch, with the Ultimate 20 Breakaway in the background. ©2016

The final beat back to the finish line at the Richmond Yacht Club again split the racers, with some deciding that short tacking along the east side was best while others decided the increasing ebb was a better bet, so stayed out. Red Rock was mark on the course on its second passing, so once again boats converged as the short tackers met the boats that stayed out. At the same time, the westerly wind filled in again, providing power for the reach down toward the Point Potrero Reach and the Richmond YC finish line, which became another drag race. Just to add excitement to an already exciting 20 mile race, a tug with a large push ahead barge came down the Reach as many boats were finishing.

Everyone managed to keep clear and many sailors went into the RYC harbor for a traditional SSS post-race party, swapping lies and apologizing for close calls.

Without benefit of a spinnaker, these ladies beat a field of 96 boats. ©2015

Jennifer McKenna and Suzanne Lee, sailing the Santana 22 Zingaro in Non-Spinnaker corrected out with the overall win and an adjusted time of 4:43:36. Richard vonEhrenkrook and Paul Sutchek, in the Cal 20 Can O'Whoopass in Spinnaker H (PHRF 162+) was a close second at 4:44:05. Third went to the Sullivan brothers racing their Pearson Commander Nemesis, also in PHRF 162+, with a corrected time of 4:46:41. Ron Kell and his son Oliver, racing Abigail Morgan, topped the Express 27 one design division. Scott Owens on the Schumacher 1/4-ton Summertime Dream scored the best corrected time for a singlehander, 4:51:01.

Complete results are at available at, and see the photo gallery here.

— Pat Broderick

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