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Pork Chop Express
Chris Jordan's Express 27 Pork Chop Express round the Lightship. ©2017 Chris Zachrisson
OYRA Lightship

April 28, 2016

The 2017 OYRA ocean racing series began with the traditional 'Full Crew' Lightship Race on Saturday, April 22. Under gray clouds and with a roaring ebb, 52 ocean racers in eight divisions sailed out to the 'Lightbucket' and back. The increasing popularity of shorthanding was evident by the 16 double/singlehanders among the racers.

Some confusion with start timing rattled the first few divisions when the Division 1 starting gun went off earlier than expected. Many boats were caught off guard, and as a result were late to the line. Michael Moradzedah’s Division 1 Santa Cruz Oaxaca was “caught off-guard by what [they] thought was an early start sequence,” but they managed to overcome their starting deficit and were the second boat around the 'SF' Buoy. Division 1 boats experienced a “staggered start” with a parade of boats crossing the start line. The confusion continued as additional divisions started. In Division 3, Jim Quanci’s Cal 40 Green Buffalo took advantage of the confusion. Jim reported the boats in his division “appeared confused on the start time due to it not being GPS time . . . just over 2 minutes early . . . so we started alone . . . it’s nice when the competition spots you a minute at the start."

The rest of the divisions figured out the timing, and, as the fleets sailed out into the ebb, racers were pleasantly surprised to find more wind than had been predicted all week. Jim Hopp in his J/88 White Shadow “headed for the Marin shoreline and rode the river out, seeing 3+ knots over the ground.” Nathalie Criou sailing her new Figaro 2 Envolée followed the wind models and stayed on the north side on the way out. She was joined by almost everyone else, including Steve Hocking on the Beneteau 45 Ohana, who caught “the Bonita jet stream.”

Once clear of Lands End most most boats stayed north. Lori Tewksbury’s Express 27 Hang 20 “went out just north of the channel” as did Green Buffalo which rode “the inside lift at Point Bonita as always.” Jim commented that a few boats “went too far north too early and stalled against the north to south Bonita Channel current.

Wind speeds were in the mid- to upper teens out of the WNW, and tacking angles were wide as boats beating to windward stretched between Point Bonita and the Lightship. The increasing ebb provided push almost all the way to the mark. Some boats, however, found themselves below the 'SF' Buoy and had to tack back north for the port rounding. Rebecca Hinden sailing her Express 27 Bombora “had a terrible mark rounding with a few too many tacks.” She was joined by several other boats beating their way through a parade of San Francisco-bound boats, spinnakers set.

The ebb never let up. Michael Jarzabkowski sailing his Hylas 49 Hylite singlehanded believes “It was ebb all through the race — even on the return." Everyone who reported their race agreed, especially the few boats who opted for a Mile Rock entry back into the Bay.

Most boats chose the northern return and a headstay reach, crossing the southern end of the Potato Patch and aiming for Tennessee Cove and the Bonita Channel to avoid the worst of the ebb. The result was sailing in what Jim Quanci described as “messy waves,” Michael Jarzabkowksi thought “annoying,” and Nathalie Criou considered as “a bit choppy.” Boats taking the southern route encountered large mixed swells and sloppy sailing until they passed Mile Rock.

Paul Disario, sailing his Olson 911 Plus Sixteen in the full crew division, said “The lull at Bonita was frustrating.” Several others agree. Jim Quanci “rounded Point Bonita very close . . . 80 feet off the rocks, passing several boats caught in the lull.” Inside was the way to go.

After getting past Point Bonita, hugging the Marin Headlands was the order of the day with the decision about when to jump across critical. Rebecca Hinden though they “held on too long on the north side as the reach to the finish was very tight.” Jim Qiuanci jibed at the North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoyed an “easy starboard jibe to the finish.” Michael Moradzadeh found “the South Tower an interesting item to pass, with the ripping current threatening to push us into the nearby buoy.”

A few boats tried the southern route, entering Lands End at Mile Rock. They did not fare as well. Jim Hopp observed, “so much for the slack tide at 3:00 p.m. prediction” and could find no relief from the stiff ebb. Pat Broderick, sailing his Wyliecat 30 Nancy suffered the same fate, making less than 2 knots over the ground as he approached Mile Rock. Both boats endured mixed swells between Channel Buoy #7 and smoother water inside Mile Rock.

Most boats finished in less than 5 hours. However, the slower boats and those electing to try the southern route faced higher ebb speeds and their times came in at more than 5 hours.

Zachery Anderson’s Schock 40 Velvet Hammer had the lowest elapsed time, 3:27:09 and a corrected time of 4:10:16, but John Kearney’s Express 27 Salty Hotel eked out a corrected time of 4:09:52 to top the combined fleet.

Full results are at www.jibeset.net. The next OYRA races is the Duxship on May 13. There is still time to enter the full season since one race will be discarded. Lightship single entries can probably cut a deal to add the rest of the season to their schedule, and single race entries are always available. Go to www.yra.org for more information.

— Pat Broderick

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