Trevor Barnabas tagged along from Australia to watch his son Trent crew for defending champion Michael Coxon in the 10th annual 18ft Skiff International Regatta, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club.
Good thing he did.
Coxon, suffering from a severe crick in his neck, handed off the skipper's role to the elder Barnabas on a few hours' notice Sunday morning and watched from the club's upper deck as he drove the Thurlow Fishers Lawyers-sponsored boat to a tentative seventh place in the first race and then a runaway win in the second.
That left them in third place in the 15-boat fleet after two of 10 races behind former winners John Winning of Australia, who scored a 1-2 day, and Howie Hamlin of Long Beach, Calif., who staged two remarkable comebacks for a 2-3 day.
Coxon watched every move from the club's veranda. 'I did something to my neck a couple of weeks ago,' he said, 'and it's just been getting worse.' It wasn't any better after a practice sail Saturday or when he got up Sunday morning and decided to turn the tiller over to Barnabas, an experienced but retired 18ft Skiff competitor.
'I just came along to help out and watch,' said Barnabas, who at 58 is in the same age group as Winning and Hamlin, who are still going strong. 'The first race we couldn't get out of our own way, but we did a few things to the boat between races and it felt really good in the second race.' The only problem was the bloody bridge of middle crew Aaron Links' nose. 'That was my fault,' Barnabas said. 'I missed a [control action].'
Coxon was seeking a medical cure for his back but was not optimistic about returning before the end of the regatta Friday, which would leave Barnabas on the boat for the whole run.
'I hope not,' Barnabas said. 'I don't think the body will hold up.'
But Winning and Hamlin just keep on going, no matter what the conditions, which were more civilized than usual Sunday--- a moderate 12 knots of southwest breeze building to 18, with a friendly two-knot flood tide making for relatively comfortable downwind runs around the 1.1-nautical mile windward leeward course from inside the Golden Gate Bridge to just past Alcatraz Island.
But it was tricky finding the way through the three- and two-lap races. 'The first race we came here and went there,' Winning said. He and Hamlin have new boats this year. 'But we're not fast upwind,' said Hamlin, who has Matt Noble and Paul Allen as crew. 'It might be because we're really light.'
Competition continues through Friday, with Wednesday off. There will be two races a day, including the Bridge to Bridge classic late Thursday afternoon.