Regatta Report

Fall Dinghy – 2022

Hosted by StFYC
Write-up by Matt Skafel

The third weekend in October saw six International 14s from Northern and Southern California converge on the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco for their annual Fall Dinghy Regatta.

Our course was a ~1mi windward-leeward course with mid-leg start and finish lines on the San Francisco Cityfront just off the Wave Organ, and was shared with fleets of 505s, ILCA 6s and C420/I420s for a total of approximately 70 boats, all seemingly racing in different directions at different times. Racing on the San Francisco Cityfront always presents a unique set of challenges, which were this weekend amplified by unpredictable (by San Francisco standards) winds and rocking ebb tide through the duration of each racing day that whipped up a steep, short chop that put a premium on boat handling, complicated layline calls, and added many other wind, water, and geographic complexities not found on a more “normal” racecourse.

The first day saw winds in the high teens and low 20s in the morning while the teams rigged up on the St Francis lawn, with a brief wind respite during launching before really turning on just in time for the first race, with gusts reaching into the 30 and even 40-knot range as measured by the weather station on the Golden Gate Bridge. Pushed by a 1.5-2.5kt ebb tide, teams ripped upwind towards the favored right side at speeds over the bottom that reached into the low teens. USA 1200 was first to tack back, with a good layline call to reach the weather mark with a clear lead, followed by USA 1198 with USA 1186 shortly behind. Unfortunately the conditions proved to be too much, with each boat capsizing in spectacular fashion (some multiple times) during the requisite bear-away, with one particularly visible orange-hulled ’14 drawing a stunned crowd as she limped over to the shallows in front of Crissy Beach to strike her sails and secure a tow home. DNFs all around for Saturday’s race, but thankfully no major breakages on day one beyond some scrapes and scuffs to go with the bruised egos.

Conditions on the second day made for far better sailing. After a 45 min AP delay on the water to wait out a 3-5kt northerly, the Golden Gate did her thing and the first race got off just before noon in 15-18kts of breeze from the west over the same ebb tide as the first day. Conditions like this strongly favor heading to the right upwind to take advantage of the east-west tidal current between the cityfront and Alcatraz, before rounding the weather mark and banging hard down the course left (sailor’s right) to Crissy Beach and the Cityfront shoreline for some relief from the current and of course to provide a spectacle of well-executed spinnaker work for our hosts watching from the StFYC race deck.

After the days’ four completed races, San Diego YC’s Ruetenik/Wilkinson sailed USA 1200 “Astragulus Too” as though they were both still SF locals, with precise layline calls despite the currents, great speed, and several bold port-tack starts to take an early lead towards that favored right side upwind, all resulting in an untouchable 1-1-2-1 scoreline and overall win. The competition for second place was fierce, with Richmond YC rivals Twardowski/Skafel in USA 1186 “Atomic Punk” trading places (and occasionally, paint) with Clark/Menard’s USA 1199 “Pros & Cons” and Clarkson/Leihe’s USA 1198 “Low and Angry”, with only one point separating the three boats after the four races. In the end it was Twardowski/Skafel’s single bullet that proved clinch in the tiebreaker to take second place, followed by Clark/Menard in third and Clarkson/Leihe in fourth overall. Puckey/Mobley’s newly-built Hollum AUS 681 “Escaped Confict” (and Mobley’s recently-healed hip fracture) showed early promise with a 3rd place finish in the first race, but a breakdown in the new standing rigging meant letters on their scoreline for the rest of the series. After completing the first two races, Lazzaro/Zink were spotted tearing across the horizon, speed-testing their new-to-them Bieker 5 USA 1178 “Last Call”, looking very fast under three sails framed by the Golden Gate Bridge.

On behalf of the International 14 fleet, our appreciation goes out to the St Francis Yacht Club for their professionalism in running an excellent regatta despite the difficult conditions, and of course for their on-water support and excellent post-race hospitality. Thank you also to Ruetenik/Wilkinson and Puckey/Mobley for making the long trip from out-of-town for the event.

-Matt Skafel

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