GREAT VALLEJO RACE — T
he great conundrum of the 2016 Great Vallejo Race on April 30 was how to win and/or have fun — depending on your team's mindset — without ever flying a spinnaker. The skipper who finally nabbed that hotshot bow chick or was counting on this race for cross-training a newbie bow dude was out of luck, as foredeck crew had little to do beyond setting up a jib
What's a foredeck crew to do in an all-upwind race? Find something to joke about. 'Secret Squirrel's rail meat seems to have succeeded.
or two and filling slots on the rail. Yet, somehow, the racers we saw seemed to be having a great time. The Great Vallejo Race serves as the season opener for the Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay. It's a weekend-long regatta, with a race from the Berkeley Circle to Vallejo Yacht Club
ALL PHOTOS ERIK SIMONSON / WWW.PRESSURE-DROP.US
Ian Chamberlain's 'Abracadabra', north of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Shots like this are usually ﬁlled with colorful spinnakers.
on Saturday, followed by a big raft-up and party on Saturday night, then a race back to the Bay on Sunday. Theoretically, Saturday's race is supposed to be mostly downwind, and with more than 150 spinnakers flying, it's (normally) a feast for the eyes of passing boaters and the lenses of sailing photographers. Sunday's race is (usually) almost entirely upwind. However, in mid-spring the weather is not always settled enough into a typical summer pattern to guarantee any particular conditions. Such was the case this year. A persistent and vigorous northerly on Saturday meant that the racers would sail upwind the entire way to Vallejo. The northerly was a land breeze, and the rolling hills of California, slowly fading from green to gold in the sunshine, warmed the air that passed over them. A strong ebb was the wild card in the deck, and the racers were glad for the steady breeze in the teens. Jib trimmers and grinders got quite a workout. Once past Point Pinole in San Pablo Bay, the tacking teams were able to relax for a while, as the fleet settled into a one-tack beat on port all the way to the oil dock at Davis Point. The last leg, from Carquinez Strait up Mare Island Strait to Vallejo, was the most normal part of the race, a shifty, puffy, port-tack close reach.
Ironically, this was the year that the YRA chose to implement the use of downwind ratings for the race to Vallejo. "The PHRF committee, in their Rules and Guidelines, say that DW ratings should be utilized for races where, under normal conditions, two-thirds of the race course is expected to be a reach or a run," explained Laura Muñoz, executive director of the YRA. "They then go on to list the regattas that historically fit that description — Saturday of the Vallejo Race, the Delta Ditch Run, the Coastal Cup and the Spinnaker Cup, just to name a few. Because we broke up the Party Circuit into individual weekend regattas, we de-
"Although it was upwind on Saturday, the warm weather and ﬂat water made up for it." cided to do overall awards for the Vallejo Weekend. The overall awards needed to be scored under the same rating system, so the board of directors decided to use regular PHRF ratings to score the overall (results from Saturday plus results from Sunday), and also Saturday, as a stand-alone race, under DW ratings. It's the ultimate Murphy's Law that the first year we put this in place, the wind came out of the north and there was no downwind leg." Just for the record, the last upwind race to Vallejo was in 2014. "I think downwind ratings in the Vallejo Race are a bad idea," Donn Guay of the Newport 30-2 Zeehond said back when the intention was announced in
The June 2016 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.