he stunning performances of Joe Woods on GBR-700 Red and Michael Illbruck on GER-401 Pinta confirmed that racing on San Francisco Bay at the 2008 Rolex Big Boat Series is challenging, sometimes unpredictable and at other times pleasantly surprising. Woods had a win and a second, while Illbruck matched him to snatch the overall lead after four races completed in this close run series.
With overnight leader John Porter on USA-32 Full Throttle and Pieter Taselaar on USA-169 Bliksem tied with four points each, the second day of racing was sure to be equally as intense on the competitive side and fast on the fun side as the first.
In classic San Francisco style, overcast skies started the day with fairly calm seas and a slight breeze. Cool, crisp air treated the Melges 32 fleet to their first start of the day. Philippe Kahn on USA-166 Pegasus 32 was greedy on the start, guarding the committee boat end heavily.
Once across the line, Kahn tacked to port for the right side breeze and building pressure. The majority of the fleet followed suit. The locals — Stephen Pugh on USA-158 Taboo, Andy Costello driving for Caleb Everett on USA-145 Stewball and Don Jesberg on USA-162 Viva played the city front in what appeared to be very diffent breeze and current.
Kahn stayed further right and alongside him was Porter, Woods, and Illbruck almost practically neck-and-neck, tack-for-tack. Going back to the idea of 'there is more than one way to skin a cat', Pugh rolled the dice early with an amazing shore side jaunt coming out even with the leaders, ahead of Taselaar and on the transom of Illbruck. At the mark it was Porter, Woods and Illbruck rounding tight.
The three put some distance between themselves and the rest of the fleet, while Pugh rounded not too far behind in fourth. Porter shot out too far to the right, a move that compromised his lead position and turned the big chase over to Illbruck and Woods. Closer to the mark, the front of the pack stayed close together. Illbruck won the gate sprinting back upwind with Porter looking to catch back-up and Woods in third, all looking for more pressure and flat water.
At the gate, Illbruck took the lead in stride. Downwind, Illbruck gybed right at Alcatraz - Porter and Kahn went left. Woods gambled way right looking to sail straight into the finish. Porter, Kahn and Giovanni Maspero on ITA-999 Joe Fly looked to gain on the city front. Woods pulled the ultimate master stroke on the last run, taking a massive lead ahead of Illbruck. Woods' victory was was a stroke of luck made on the advice of a St. Francis Yacht Club bar conversation.
'Well... we were committed to going around that side of the island anyway. And, it was not a tactical matter either. Another sailor said to us in the bar the other night that anyone who takes that side wins.' said Woods.
Illbruck claimed second some ten boat lengths behind Woods. Porter was third. The wind showed up on time for the second race of the day.
Around 2 o'clock a fantastic 15-18 knot breeze settled in and the sun appeared for the gun. The wind was up, the sun was out and the bay called for full-on Melges 32 speed - the start was dead-on.
Local favorite Costello, along with Maspero and Jesberg looked to the right for traditional bay pressure hoping to move out to the front. Upwind, not only did the wind build to 20+, but the wave action was tremendous making for a wet, windy ride in more or less an around the bay endurance race.
The first weathermark, located up near Sausalito found Illbruck again doing exceptionally well as was Kahn and Taselaar. Illbruck assumed the lead early on with Costello in second, in third was Pugh. It was a brutal first mark rounding for the last half of the fleet as they stalled briefly, then set the kites.
Up ahead, about 200 yards from the mark, a nice breeze line helped Illbruck exit the building on the final downwind run. Costello maintained his own in second chased closely by Woods. Coming into the last gate the fleet was scattered making Illbruck's anticipated win look all too easy. Eventually Woods' speed was enough to get him around Costello, but not enough to catch the ultra-fast Pinta racing team. Melges32 - Results after four races, no discard
1.) Michael Illbruck, Pinta; 3-4-2-1 = 10
2.) John Porter, Full Throttle; 1-3-3-4 = 11
3.) Pieter Taselaar, Bliksem; 2-2-4-3 = 11
4.) Joe Woods, Red; 4-7-1-2 = 14
5.) Philippe Kahn, Pegasus 32; 5-1-5-6 = 17
6.) Giovanni Maspero, Joe Fly; 7-5-6-8 = 26
7.) Stephen Pugh, Taboo; 9-6-8-5 = 28
8.) Don Jesberg, Viva; 6-8-7-10/RAF = 31
9.) Caleb Everett/Andy Costello, Stewball; 8-9-9-7 = 33