Elvstrom/Zellerbach regatta 2011 update from USA 4 Windsurfing National Champion Steve Bodner.
Seventy plus dinghies and boards packed the San Francisco city front course for two days of racing at the St. Francis Elvstrom/Zellerbach regatta. The five fleets saw a building breeze and foggy conditions both days with racing in 15-25k and a raging ebb tide along the San Francisco city front.
The lasers saw a big turnout in prep for this season's masters and 4.7 World Championships in San Francisco.
With just six board sailors in the formula windsurfing class, our fleet saw the core racers in action but it was Seth Besse who showed the most consistency to walk away with 6 bullets.
Race one stated just after noon on Saturday in 14-16k. Both Seth and I sailed with our 9.5's while C-Rad, Al and Tom raced with their 11.0 rigs. Size didn't seem to matter through as I led around top mark catching a great puff and riding the ebb up while the rest of the fleet had to double tack the first mark. I kept the lead for the next two legs sailing smart to the laylines and it wasn’t until the next downwind where I failed to cover the fleet that they got ahead. I gybed back outside to get more breeze while the fleet behind me sailed to the shore with a puff. Crossing at the bottom of the course again both Seth and C-Rad were ahead. C-Rad and I rounded the bottom leeward mark in a pack of lasers on the outside of the pinwheel. Despite the dirty air, the formula boards are traveling so fast compared to the dinghies that it only takes a few seconds to clear and get through any bad air. We both tacked on the layline and I got a quick jump and was overlapped to leeward heading to the finish. It became clear that I would need to give him room at the finish as the RC boat acted as an obstruction. C-Rad was able to shoot the line at just the right moment and edge me out for second in a very close overlapped finish while Seth took the first bullet.
Race two's sequence started after the dinghies giving Al a chance to rig down and help out Tom who had broken his fin. We realized with just Seth, C-Rad and I on the line, it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the fleet so we asked the RC to postpone while we waited for them. The RC obliged and we got Al back on the line but despite his best effort, Tom wasn't able to get back in time for the second start. C-Rad led with some great speed off the line as we all started on port tack and charged the right side of the course. His momentum quickly stopped as he plowed directly into the offset mark in a spectacular crash leaving Seth and I to battle it out for the rest of the double windward leeward course. Despite having better angle I wasn't able to capitalize on it. I tacked just below him on the second beat up thinking I would be able to squeeze him out but he had enough speed to roll right over the top of me.
Ouch! Speed kills. No strategy required.
In the high speed racing we do on formula boards, it’s not often you get more than one or two chances to make a move on the course. You've got to see it coming and when it happens capitalize on it immediately. When racing is tight, you've got to be able to utilize your best asset otherwise its waiting for the guys in front of you to make a mistake. Seth took the bullet with me in tow for second and Al in third.
Race three started off in a building breeze but not before C-Rad got the chance to rig down. Now the fleet was all on either 9.5's or 10.0's in 18-22k and a strong ebb tide. There were still some holes on the inside of the course but not enough to Seth to lose his edge and speed away to another bullet. I kept things in check putting some distance between me and the rest of the fleet but sailed comfortable to another second. Consistent!
Day two saw three more races for all fleets plus the chance to sail in the flood tide before the ebb really kicked in strong at 2pm. The fleet went for a starboard tack start charging the left side of the course and trying to get to the inside first to take advantage of the shore lift. Despite the lift, it was actually better to tack early or else you overstood the top mark. In some cases, that actually worked out in your favor as we had to sail through the lasers fleet approaching the windward mark. The usual pecking order established itself quickly as Seth got out to an early lead again with great speed. I had second all but wrapped up again in front of Al coming into the finish line but had to duck below two-three lasers and barely eeked out across the line salvaging second.
Race five saw the tide switch and the committee board swing from straight downwind to straight upwind despite a fresh 18-22k breeze I realized what was happening but failed to take into account the relationship of the starting line. It was now a slalom start and I was over early. Clearing myself I decided to get some separation from the fleet to get any advantage I could. When your behind, you really don't have too much too loose and your risk can be bigger. I sailed to the right both upwind legs as the fleet hit the shore and was clawing my way back on the last downwind just about to pass C-Rad for second but got a little too carried away and went swimming on my gybe. Total yard sale!
No composure the rest of the race and I used a ton of energy flailing in the water.
Well at least there was a discard coming after five races!
Race six started in 22-25k and a big ebb. All of the fleet was on either 9.o's, 9.3's or 9.5's and 64-67cm fins. Anything else was just too big to handle in the chop and breeze. I thought for sure I was over early again getting a great start with no one to windward or leeward and actually ducked a few sterns heading back to the line to clear myself but no horn. I kept going despite the bad air and made my moves when I could. Taking lessons from the previous race, I picked up Tom and Percy on the second upwind by calling a better layline and letting them overstand. It wasn’t until the last downwind leg that I could go over the top of C-Rad with better speed and get back into second. I made sure to keep my composure focusing just on the task in front of me and making my last gybe and sailing through laser traffic at the leeward mark. The finish was another hairy spot with three-four lasers crossing the line as I approached. Luckily I squeezed through without incident to seal another second.
Overall a super weekend of racing on my favorite body of water in some very challenging conditions early in the season. I made some mistakes like failing to cover and not being able to use my strongest asset but nothing too major that put me out of the top two-three boards. Obviously keeping a heads up on the startling line during the pre-start is a wise idea!
I'll credit the second it to good off season training and being familiar and comfortable with my equipment. Four out of the five guys in the fleet were sailing on new sails still trying to find their sweet spots. Full results St Francis Yacht Club website