by Rich Roberts
The beach remains but the bleachers are gone, along with the giant catamarans (apparently long gone) that shared the restless waters during San Francisco's summer of the 34th America's Cup last year.
18' Skiff International Regatta
But the lively little boats that for a decade helped to set the stage for spectacular beachfront sailboat racing will be back on the bay Monday, Aug. 25, through Saturday, Aug. 30, for the 13th annual 18' Skiff International Regatta, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club.
The competition will include USA veteran Howie Hamlin of Long Beach, Calif. who has won the event six times, along with two victories in the class's world championship---the JJ Giltinan in Australia---and world titles in the 505 and International 14 classes, also challenging and almost as fast and feisty as an 18-footer.
The hull measures only 18 feet and the spinnaker pole extends that to 29 feet overall. The hull, with no keel or ballast, weighs only 342 pounds, not including the crew of three that dances between port and starboard wings, hanging onto a wild horse.
Casey Smith, who first sailed on one as crew for winner Jack Young of Australia in 2005, said, 'It will be hard to go back to sailing anything else. You don't do on other boats what you do on these.'
Like ... fly downwind under an oversized spinnaker faster than a 20-knot breeze funneling through the Golden Gate. Flip at any moment.
New Zealand's Alex Vallings, winner the last two years, will not compete, but the Kiwis will have a strong representation with veteran Graham Catley, who finished fourth to Hamlin's third in the recent European championships; Catley's son Nick, a member of the Waka match racing team ranked number four in the world, and Brett Van Munster, actually an Australian sailing a New Zealand entry.
Graham Catley said, 'All of these boats have the boat speed capable of winning races, but consistency will be the challenge.'
The boats will launch off the beach bordering Crissy Field west of the club. The schedule calls for a total of 10 races, two per day starting at 1 p.m., except a 4 o'clock start Thursday preceding the traditional 5.3-nautical mile Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race when they'll join a variety of boats and kites for a 5:30 start under the Golden Gate.
Wednesday is designated as a reserve day.
It's quite a show, visible from the shore. The entry list will not be complete until the teams check in.
2013's top finishers
(10 races; two discards)
1. C-Tech, Alex Vallings, New Zealand, (2)-1-1-(3)-1-2-2-2-1-1, 11 points (C-Tech wins tiebreaker by finishing ahead of Yamaha in final race).
2. Yamaha, David McDiarmid, New Zealand, 1-(5)-2-1-2-1-1-1-2-(4), 11.
3. Fisher & Paykel, Grant Rollerson, Australia, 3-2-4-4-4-(6)-(10)-3-4-2, 26.
4. Yandoo, Nick Press, Australia, (23/RET)-3-(8)-7-3-4-4-4-3, 31.
5. CST Composites, Howard Hamlin, USA, 4-4-3-(5)-5-3-3-5-5-(6), 32.