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What is the OYRA Jr. Waterhouse fleet doing at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge? ©2017 Jan Hirsch
Jr. Waterhouse Stays in the Bay

September 13, 2017

Following several unfortunate accidents with fatalities, OYRA began including an in-the-Bay course for each of its in-and-out San Francisco Bay start and SF Bay finish courses. The idea is to keep OYRA boats inside SF Bay when conditions in the Gulf of the Farallones are too dangerous. Each OYRA race committee must consider safety when deciding whether or not to keep OYRA racers inside, and the decision to stay inside has been made several times during the past few years.

This year’s OYRA Jr. Waterhouse Race on September 9 provided an interesting twist to the “too windy” policy. Facing a morning flood, an afternoon ebb, and a very light offshore wind forecast, the Richmond Yacht Club race committee opted to keep boats inside to give them a reasonable chance to finish the race.

It proved to be a winner for this year’s race. Jim Quanci of the Cal 40 Green Buffalo was “glad we avoided the ocean… it was a big parking lot outside the Bay.” The Antrim Class 40 California Condor’s Buzz Blackett thought, “The race committee probably made the right choice to keep us inside the Bay, because the flood would have been pretty hard on the smaller boats that started later in the sequence.” Bob Johnston of the J/92 Ragtime! summarized his satisfaction by quoting Steve Martin: "excellent choice!"

The inside courses resemble the SSS Three-Bridge Fiasco more or less, with long legs and around a 20-mile distance. Richmond Yacht Club PRO Del Olsen and his race committee "studied the weather reports right up to 9:30 before making the final call." He added that someone "mentioned it was less motoring to get home after you take a DNF, too."

So instead of sailing out under the Golden Gate Bridge and around the South Buoy or Lightship in the Gulf of the Farallones, this year’s OYRA Jr. Waterhouse skippers started at Little Harding and sailed for Blackaller Buoy at Fort Point as their first upwind mark. OYRA President Andy Newell described his Santana 35 Ahi’s beat to Blackaller as light and slow. Jim Quanci "played the wind pressure, which was in ‘lanes’ on the way to Blackaller" where the first restart of the race occurred.

After Blackaller, Quanci’s Green Buffalo had a light wind run to Blossom Rock” where there was a second “bit of a restart.” Lori Tewksbury’s Express 27 Hang 20 was a little late for the start, so she was thankful for a chance to restart at Blackaller where she recovered some time on her competition.

On the way to YRA NB7, just south of Red Rock, boats split, with some taking a chance on the flood current to boost them past Angel Island’s wind shadow on the west side, while most opted for the Richmond shoreline with promised clear air.

Jan Hirsch, sailing the Island 30-2 Sweet Pea singlehanded decided he "had enough speed to glide through the lull behind Angel Island." Observing the 'west' boats from their 'east' boat parking lot, Jim Quanci commented, “Those on the left side made out like bandits,” and Andy Newell thought they had their own private breeze.

Lori Tewksbury’s Hang 20 “made the mistake of sailing toward Richmond and joined the horrible wind hole with Green Buffalo, Ahi and others.” With no wind but some flood current, Hang 20 spent time moving backwards toward the Richmond Long Wharf.

Another parking lot occurred at YRA NB7, giving the Richmond side boats a chance to catch up. As boats finally turned the leeward buoy near Red Rock, the westerly wind began to fill in and was solid by Southhampton Shoal as the fleet headed for Blossom Rock again. Boats set up for light wind with their #1 jibs up suddenly found themselves overpowered and #3s blossomed as the fleet approached Blossom Rock for a second rounding before heading back on a reach/downwind for the finish line at RYC.

Most boats stayed with white sails for the first part of the final leg, hoisting their chutes when the wind angle allowed. Singlehander Jan Hirsch stayed with his whites, hitting 8 knots in his vintage Islander 30! Andy Newell reported seeing wind speeds in the low 20s in the Slot before he set his chute.

Among the boats competing only one opted for the "close to home" DNF. Andy Newell summarized racers’ feelings with “a big thank you to the Richmond YC race committee for hosting the race and calling the in-the-Bay course.”

Complete Jr. Waterhouse results are posted on

— Pat Broderick

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