by Rich Roberts
Nespresso International 18 Skiff Regatta, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club, is currently underway in San Francisco, California.
New Zealand’s C-Tech team of Alex Vallings, Chris Kitchen and Josh Melonick swept the first two races - International 18 Skiff Regatta 2012 Day 1
From first to last to first again… what sort of Kiwi capers are these bold intruders from New Zealand pulling in the Nespresso International 18 Skiff Regatta?
'We're just chipping away,' skipper Alex Vallings said after he and his C-Tech crew of Chris Kitchen and Josh Melonick swept the event's opening day races the hard way with a remarkable comeback in the second race Monday.
The top five among 18 boats was filled out by Australia's Jonathan Witty, Grant Rollerson and class icon John Winning and six-time winner Howard Hamlin from Long Beach, Calif. down the coast.
Although there had been some doubt whether there would be any racing at all on the frenzied heels of the AC45s' America's Cup World Series on the weekend, 18 boats hit the race course on an uncommonly warm San Francisco day in the mid-70s, some struggling to stay upright a modest 16 knots of breeze in the late stages of a flood tide by the time the first race got under way at 5:21 p.m. PDT.
C-Tech (r.) passes Australia's Grant Rollerson to seize first place - International 18 Skiff Regatta 2012 Day 1
C-Tech passed the early leader, Australian veteran Grant Rollerson, halfway down the first downwind leg of the two-lap course and was never challenged, but that wasn't its most impressive performance.
When the second race started C-Tech jumped the gun, had to whip back to re-start and quickly found itself around dead last chasing everyone else to the first windward mark inside the Golden Gate Bridge.
No problem. By day's end, as the sun settled under the bridge and a three-quarter moon rose from behind, the Kiwis were first to cross the finish line and arrive back at the beach fronting Crissy Field.
'We had good downwind legs,' Vallings explained, 'and we caught all the shifts, got some good puffs at the top mark. Then [on the second lap] we jibed earlier than the other guys who had trouble laying the bottom mark.'
That's a key part of the game sailing here: picking the currents and the shifts, skills which combined with boat speed are tough to beat.
Racing continues with two races Tuesday and Wednesday starting at 1 p.m., followed by a lay day Thursday before two more races late Friday climaxed by the traditional 7 1/2-mile Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race from the Golden Gate to the Oakland Bay late Friday afternoon. The last two of 10 races will be Saturday.
(18 boats; after 2 of 10 races)
1. C-Tech, Alex Vallings/Chris Kitchen/Josh Melonick, New Zealand, 1-1, 2 points.
2. Lumix, Jonathan Witty/James Hozack/ Marcus Ashley-Jones, Australia, 2-2, 4.
3. Black Swan, Grant Rollerson/Justin Healey/Marco Schurman, Australia, 3-4, 7.
4. Yandoo, John Winning/David Gibson/Andrew Hay, Australia, 5-3, 8.
5. CST Composites, Howard Hamlin/Matt Noble/Matt McKinlay, USA, 4-5, 9.
Australia's Lumix was happy with a pair of second-place finishes - International 18 Skiff Regatta 2012 Day 1
The course was littered with flips - International 18 Skiff Regatta 2012 Day 1
St Francis Yacht Club website