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PAC52 class at the 2018 Rolex Big Boat Series - Overall

by Erik Simonson 19 Sep 2018 11:03 PDT 12-16 September 2018

After Saturday's chilly windy start and lengthy on the water marathon, crews welcomed the warm sun and lighter winds to start the Sunday ROLEX Big Boat Series Finale Bay Tour. Well at least the warm sun part.

Entering the day, Frank Slootman's Invisible Hand had already secured the series class title with a 5-point advantage over 2nd place RIO, and didn't have to sail. "We came to sail, so sail we will" said a well-chilled Frank late on Saturday, and there they were at the Treasure Island start for the starting gun Sunday morning.

A slight delay at the start for winds to build and stabilized, and the fleet got underway at 11:40 on the 25.8nm course 26. The Tour Du Bay would take the fleet up to Blackaller near Fort Point, back east to Red Buoy "2" east of Alcatraz, back west to Cavallo Point in the shadow of the North Tower, a tight reach across the bay to Fort Mason then a quick run to Blossom Rock before a mega uphill beat out the Gate to Point Bonita then a two mile run to the Hollywood finish off the StFYC Race Deck.

Gwen and Austin's Interlodge would take the pin, sans either owner. Gwen had stay behind to attend a wedding and Austin had gotten about all the SF Bay he could handle over the past three days and handed the keys to boat captain Kris Matthews. BadPak, RIO and Invisible Hand would share the committee boat end, but all four would reunite for the 1st beat towards the City. Interlodge and RIO would end up in a tacking duel protecting the shore side with the Hand more centric and BadPak working the Alcatraz Cone. When they reunited on the Blackaller layline, Interlodge had a two-boat length lead over Invisible Hand which in turn possessed a several boat length lead over BadPak and RIO. Interlodge would do a bear away set and sail along the beach while the other three would pull off flawless jibe sets and head out to the central bay.

The Hand would take command of the race with impressive boat speed in the 12-15 knot apparent with RIO and BadPak exchanging gybes in their wake, while Interlodge would take some wider angle and round the leeward mark in 4th. On the ensuing bet up to Cavallo Point, The Hand would continue to stretch their lead while RIO a now found Interlodge their sparring partner and BadPak singing the fourth spot blues. The boat would go kite less for the tight reach over to Fort Mason before rounding and blasting down to Blossom Rock off of Pier 39. And then the massive uphill climb.

With the flood now in full effect and high teens in the central bay, the ride up to the gate was relatively uneventful. However the exit outside and the mile ride out was anything but. Leading the PAC52's, Frank Slootman recalls the ride out "It was a miserable slog upwind to Bonita in a confused, tide-infused sea state and light winds."

By the time they reached Point Bonita, the fleet had compressed once again, rounding the buoy in close proximity. It was shortly thereafter where fortunes changed for the fleet. RIO's tactician Mike Menninger provides us a little blow by blow:

I thought we did a really nice job managing the current and wind from the bridge to point Bonita, we put more distance between us and Interlodge, and gained a bit on Invisible Hand. However, as we rounded the point, we were a bit late to realize there was a bit of current relief offshore, and our tack back into shore looking for more relief was a loss, and Interlodge passed us as we rounded the Bonita government mark. The three of us straight set, in the biggest righty of the day, I think it was a 261 TWD. Before we set, I was thinking of gybing quickly onto port to lead the boats ahead on the headed gybe, as I knew the wind was going to go back left by almost 40 degrees to a ~225 TWD by the Golden Gate Bridge. We picked a nice time to gybe onto port and sailed in nice pressure coming off the land along the Marin headlands. We ended up taking that header on port almost all the way to Pt Diablo (passing Invisible Hand as they began to get lifted before we did), before gybing back onto starboard and leading Invisible Hand back on the long gybe to the finish. We ended up getting headed on starboard as the wind went left as we thought, and we were able to hold off Invisible Hand down through the finish. It was a great way to finish that last long race, and finish the regatta with a race win. We felt like we sailed really well on the water all week, and executed well on our pre-race strategy. Really fun racing these boats on the bay.

RIO would take the day and keep their second place position in the regatta with 16 points with Invisible Hand winning the regatta with 12 points, Interlodge would come in third but take a one point penalty as per the owner driver rule for 23 points total, last years regatta winner BadPak would come in fourth yet remain in third for the series.

The fleet reconvenes in two weeks for the PAC 52 Cup with all the marbles on the line!

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