Yesterdays Bridge to Bridge race can be compared to launching yourself full speed down a mountain stacked full moguls- only have the finish line at the bottom of the mountain- 1/2 way across the gravel parking lot!
For 99% of the race, skiffs, kites and formula boards were fully wound in 18-24k and steep ebb chop, screaming downwind across the San Francisco Bay- only to come to a screeching halt 100m from the finish line- set just in front of Treasure Island at the base of the Bay Bridge where the wind becalmed the leaders and a river of ebb tide flowed, making it nearly impossible for nearly half of the fleet to get cross the finish line.
In fact only 33 of this years 57 entrants were able complete the race- but not for lack of skill. It was just that hard of a race.
It all unfolded with the last moves of the game as the skiffs came powered in from the city front and the majority of the kite and board fleet sat in the bubble just west of Treasure Island.
Actually the skiffs had it from the beginning.
All they needed was to avoid disaster and it would be theirs to lose.
And they did exactly that- sweeping the podium with the top 3 positions.
In 4th was local Chip Wasson followed by Steve Sylvester in 5th taking the top board spot- and edging out a pack of boards and kites- all trying to inch their way across the line in the opposing current and light wind.
The chaos even started before the starting gun as sounds of crunching carbon could be heard as 2 skiffs got tangled up in the run to the starting line.
With no protest being heard, per the sailing instructions, everything was going to be settled on the water.
The start was pretty chaotic with kites, skiff and boards all running at different angles and speeds across the line. I made a few quick calls to duck the port tackers (yes- duck the port tackers)in exchange for staying upright and full speed.
There’s nothing as slow as being skewed on the front of an Aussie 18′s 12′ bow sprint.
Port or starboard.
I was able to ride some big puffs down the city front before it got too light and gybed back to the outside for pressure. This is where things really heated up and Sylvester and I were still neck and neck. He eventually was able to pull away with better speed on his 60cm kashy, north 9.0 and ML10 as we went past Alcatraz in a a wild array of voodoo chop and swell. I think the difference was just being able to put the hammer down. With a smaller fin in the big chop, you can get more control with less drag.
Even with my back foot fully on the leeward rail in the triple chicken strap, I was barely able to hold on -flying across the backsides of 3-5 swell and chop in 20-25k of breeze. I confess, the 67cm kashy that I was riding was more than enough. Pushing as deep as I could, I plowed right over the top of Soheil- not knowing he was even there until I cleared him. Fortunately just a few seconds of delay but when I gybed to make the layline for the finish line a kiter went down just in front of me – spreading his kite, lines and board in a tangled mess. Another few seconds lost going upwind to clear myself and around the kiter.
Things were looking good with the guys in front not making the line and falling off a plane. I came planing in making my way through a graveyard of downed kites, trying to body drag their way to the finish! A few pumps and the lucky puff and I might have it but then in an all too sudden anti-climatic finish, I fell off a plane and was faced with a river of current pulling me away from the finish line. It took another few minutes of real struggle to make it across the line.
I had to settle for 17th overall in what was a disappointing finish but sometimes it’s more about the race than the finishing order.
That’s all part of the game.
Win or Lose.
It keeps me coming back every time!