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Bridge to Bridge San Francisco - Kites 1-2-3

by Erik Simonson images and David Wells author on 26 Aug 2011
Ronstan Bridge to Bridge 2011 Erik Simonson/ h2oshots.com
Erik Simonson images from the Ronstan Bridge to Bridge race held on San Francisco Bay as part of the 18ft Skiff International Regatta.

It was Brian Lake, Chip Wasson and Andrew Koch in a 1-2-3 sweep of the 2011 Bridge to Bridge.

Wild and Crazy is the norm for the Ronstan Bridge To Bridge race and the 2011 edition did not disappoint.
With Kiteboards, Windsurfers, Aussie 18 Skiffs, a 49er and even a Weta Trimaran on the line the Ronstan B2B is a bring it if ya got it affair. And this year kiteboarder Bryan Lake brought it all, and then some, as the kiteboards revenged last year’s loss to the skiffs.

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Brian had a large enough lead to allow himself a little pre-finish slalom fun to cap off the day!

The Ronstan Bridge to Bridge (B2B) is an all out dash between San Francisco Bay’s two iconic bridges. With the fleet starting just outside the Golden Gate Bridge the starting gun sends the racers on a mark-less sprint to the Bay Bridge finish line some 8 miles straight downwind. The B2B is part of the 18 foot skiff international regatta, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht club, which this year sports a strong 14 boat fleet of the world’s top skiff sailors.
As the fleet readied to start it was a dark and dank scene with fog completely consuming the Golden Gate Bridge. The upside to the bone chilling cold of the fog was the solid 20 knot breeze it was fueling. With a big 3 knot flood tide moving the same direction as the wind all the ingredients were set to threaten Windsurfer Micah Buzianis 16 minute course record.

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As the gun sounded it was Formula Windsurfer Mike Percey and Kiteboarder Bryan Lake nailing the start and surging out to an early lead. Lake was pushing his Cabrinha Kite deep and fast and was able to sail the middle of the course staying with the stronger winds and faster moving current. Percey took a higher line to the San Francisco city front in a move that would allow Lake to slip away. The 18 ft skiffs started in tight bunch of boats and used their superior angle to drive a deeper line pushing, literally, some of the boards out of the way.

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Quite possibly the most intense moments in sailing the moments just after the gun, kiters, windsurfers and
skiff all jostle for clear air while avoiding each other, large swells, wakes, big fish and large inbound and outbound traffic!

Anyone who enters this race knows the risk they are taking and this year’s regatta set up some all too close calls that served as stark reminders of the risks at hand. While both Kites and Windsurfers can literally stop and spin on a dime not so for the lit up spinnaker flying 25 knot skiff boat. Windsurfers Steve Sylvester and Jean Rathle got a firsthand taste of the potential risk with Sylvester leaving a bit of blood on the course to show for it. Just after the start one of the skiffs was driving down deep on to the two windsurfers and just as the wind gusted up the skiff rolled to leeward with its rack literally hitting Sylvester on the head and then raking his hand and drawing blood.

Somehow Sylvester managed to remain upright but not so for Rathle who after coming in the lee of the rampaging skiff thought the better for it and decided a quick swim was better than a potential impaling.
With the racing action starting to spread out it was Bryan Lake who started to do a horizon job on his pursuers. As the Skiffs made a beeline for the flatter water just off the city front and the bulk of the windsurfing fleet heading the opposite way to the fresher breezes of the outside it was the Lake who was literally able to sail straight down the middle unimpeded as he extend on the chasing fleet.

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As is always the case with the B2B it’s a tale of two race courses. The windy top half of the course above Alcatraz and the fluky and shifty bottom half below it. With the flat water serving up ideal conditions for the Skiffs they were simply charging down the San Francisco city front reveling in the big winds and flat water. Their advantage only improved as the wind lightened and the massive sail area allowed them to remain planning while kites and windsurfers dropped off a plane to the left and to the right. Kiteboarders Chip Wasson and Andrew Koch however called the perfect lay line to the finish sneaking under the skiffs to come across the line in second and third with Wasson getting the better of Koch in a photo finish. After the first three kites had crossed it was an incredible array of 13 boards, kites, and boats all finishing in a 30 second span in what was one of the tightest Ronstan B2B’s in history. The 18ft skiff of team from Thurlow Fisher Lawyers (Trevor Barnabas/Michael Coxon) followed immediately being the leading kites followed by Howie Hamlin’s CST Composites team to take top honors for the boats. Seth Besse took home the top spot for the windsurfers thanks to a little help from the skiffs who covered a race leading Mike Percey to allow Besse to sail on by only inches from the finish line.

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Special thanks to Ronstan for all the support and of course all the volunteers who braved a cold and windy San Francisco bay to make it all happen.

Images by erik simonson of www.pressure-drop.us
Report by david wells of www.waterhound.com
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