For more than fifty years, Cinde Lou Delmas hankered for the opportunity to squish herself into a tiny 8-foot sailboat to make the crossing from Sausalito to the San Francisco city front, with just a ping pong paddle and cut-off chlorox bottle for assistance.
The Bull Ship Regatta starts off the Sausalito Yacht Club.
On Saturday, Delmas will finally get that break as she competes in the 60th annual Bull Ship race for her first time, in an El Toro, along with some 40 other racers. The course runs from the starting line by the Sausalito Yacht Club to the finish line off the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) on the city front — competitors have a two-hour time limit to finish. For most sailboats, this is not a particularly daunting crossing but in an 8-foot El Toro ... well ... anything could happen, says Bull Ship registrar Paul Flowerman.
'The boat that was designed by an amateur builder out of two sheets of plywood that does three knots, if that,' said Flowerman, who lives in Lagunitas. 'The windier it gets, the deeper the boat goes in the water and submarines — it's literally like that. The boats are technically stupid but the competition is usually very good.'
As the story goes, the Bull Ship regatta was first conceived as a bet between a few guys, probably in a bar. A race was on. Back in the day after racing competitors would de-rig their El Toros on the lawn area between the St. Francis Yacht Club and the GGYC where the prize giving would take place with famous North Beach stripper Tempest Storm awarding trophies while Irish coffees from the Buena Vista Café were served.
Not surprising, the trophies for this bizarre race take a bovine form, like the bull-in-a-cage trophy, the carved wooden bull and the big set of bull horns awarded to the first female. The last finisher gets the Tail End trophy — a real cow tail.
It's a popular race with familiar Marin sailors like Gordie Nash, whose mother was awarded the first women's Bull Ship trophy in the early days of the race, and Flowerman's long-time sailing buddy John Amen who will also be on the start. The two met when they were about 11 years old in the Sausalito Yacht Club junior program and have sailed together for the past 50 years. Amen's done the race for 18 years, often placing second or third, and winning once. He still holds the course record of 43½ minutes.
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