by David Wells
San Francisco Bay Windsurfing 2011 season started out on a high note this past April 8 with near idyllic conditions for Formula Windsurfing Racing just off the race deck of the St Francis Yacht Club.
Race 4 - The Fleet hits a beam reach - St. Francis Yacht Club Windsurfing Racing Season Opener
That is ‘near’ idyllic. While winds were perfect for 10.0 racing and tides were relatively mellow it was a bit on the cold side making for some hand shaking between races in an attempt to get blood to the chilled fingers. The start of the racing action kicks off what will be one of the biggest racing seasons on San Francisco Bay ever.
With the introduction of the Berkeley Yacht Club Windsurfing Friday Night racing running on alternating Fridays with the St Francis there is literally a race running every week between now and September. In addition to the normal calendar of Marquee events including the Ronstan Bay Challenge, The SF Classic/Ultra Nectar Challenge, and the Ronstan Bridge to Bridge the SF Bay also will be hosting the 2011 Techno and Raceboard World Championships.
If that were not enough the US Windsurfing National Championships make a return appearance to Berkeley some 35 years after the Berkeley Yacht Club hosted the 1976 US Nationals that saw 13 year old Robbie Naish claim his first major title and set in motion the boom in popularity of windsurfing worldwide.
As racing kicked off this night it was Steve Bodner (USA-4), the 2010 Defending Series Champion came ready for business. Bodner had been putting his nose to the slalom grindstone and after two days in a row of slalom sailing in 30+ knot winds he was none the worse for wear and immediately sprung out to a race one victory on the infamous Course A windward leeward course.
It was treat to have Mike Percey make the long journey to race on the night and Percey was sporting the new and improved 2011 Hansens that seemed to have made a quantum leap in performance from 2010.
The Race Committee decided to throw me a bone offering up one of my favorite courses, Course B, that throws in a reaching mark. Chris Radkowski picked up where he left off last year – going fast and led the fleet around the course. Chris however had a soft rounding at the last leeward mark that allowed me to sail under him with speed and reach clean air snatching the win out from under him. Radkowski was sporting the new 2011 North Sail and while its fast my first look at it on the beach had me thinking 'Cal Trans' - as in highway construction marker. Or maybe crime scene tape.
Race three saw a rare sight as Marion Lepert – the local wunderkind and top local junior sailor – take a courageous run at a starboard start and I’ll be darned if she didn’t make it work. In fact she peeled of yours truly as I was forced to duck her stern. Bodner returned to form and took the bullet with me close on his hip.
Race four saw my favorite course dialed up by our impeccable race committee. Course C. Course C is more like slalom – formula hybrid course with two quick gybes and a beam reach thrown in to the mix. Al Mirel likes it too and assumed the parade lead with the rest of us trying to run him down. With an Ebb tide making it hard to judge lay lines Mirel understood the first gybe mark and allowed me to sail under him fully lit up. Two more turns and I was stoked to take another bullet.
As race five kicked of it was down to me and Bodner to see who was going home with the win on the night. I played an aggressive lay line to the first windward mark and understood the mark resulting in a double tack while Steve called the line perfectly clinching victory for the night.
Racing at the St FYC is one of the true bargains in all of sailing that includes full use of the club after racing. Fancy a Sauna and a Steam before retiring to the bar while the sun sets under the golden gate? Well then put these races on your calendar as drop ins are welcomed!
1 - Steve Bodner
2 - Dave Wells
3 - Al Mirel