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Cyclops Marine 2023 November - LEADERBOARD

J/Teams & J/125s dominate Three Bridge Fiasco

by J/Boats 3 Feb 23:36 PST
The spinnaker mosh pit under the Bay Bridge © 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

For Many, a "Bridge Too Far"!

The Singlehanded Sailing Society's infamous pursuit race called the Three Bridge Fiasco never fails to disappoint. Unless you fall into a windhole and never recover. Or, don't make it to Red Rock or Treasure Island before a killer ebb starts. On the other hand, every one of the 301 competitors who signed up knew in advance they were signing up for a fiasco, so how can you be disappointed if it is one?

The 21.0nm race is simple. Start either way at the starting line, then round the three marks any way you wish:

  • Blackaller Buoy- a yellow cylinder east of the South Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Yerba Buena/ Treasure Island (Bay Bridge)
  • Red Rock- south of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge

The forecast we saw on Windy looked uninspiring: light airs under 10 knots from the NE for most of the day. Despite the forecast conditions, almost 300 light-air masochists and optimists showed up to prove the app wrong in an attempt to beat the riddle of the Bay and their fellow competitors.

As everyone knows, the race is a complete crapshoot that anyone can win. That is until you look at the results year to year. Despite the well-known complications of finding your way through the sailing version of a Bay full of mini-golf course hazards, potholes, and speed bumps, many familiar names regularly rise to the top. It's a reminder that it's always hard to beat good sailors on well-equipped, well-prepared boats with excellent strategy and tactics. Fortunately, an element of luck does occasionally gift dedicated optimists with good results.

From our scan of the results in 2023, we see that Scott and Leslie Easom aboard their J/100 8 ALL and Rufus Sjoberg aboard his J/125 RUFLESS both won their classes two years in a row. It's amazing when people can have such consistent "luck." Others who did well this year finished deep in their classes last year, which is enough to remind us all never to give up trying.

It turned out to be a picture-perfect day though, as predicted: short on wind, but with enough breeze on enough of the course to get most boats around. With a flood turning to an ebb, the majority of boats, despite whatever their pregame strategy was, elected to take the 10+ knot morning northeasterly to reach against the flood toward Blackaller, and then take advantage of the flood and breeze to beat their way through Raccoon Strait toward the Three Bridge Fiasco's $25 million racing mark (Red Rock) off Richmond. There were lots of tricky current lines to call on this leg, as some early ebb started along the Tiburon shoreline. Most left Red Rock to starboard and did their best they could to get to Yerba Buena before the building ebb overcame the breeze and the fleet. Nobody made it in time before the ebb started in earnest.

The Bay Bridge became nature's "general recall," forcing most of the fleet into a fresh start amid a colorful, windless, spinnaker-laden sailing mosh pit. The crowd lingered under the watchful eye of the Coast Guard restricted zone off the island, waiting for the breeze to fill in. It was about this time (1430 hrs) that Channel 72 came to life with many notifications to the race committee of boats retiring.

Everyone else was patiently waiting for the breeze and could feel themselves being lifted one notch higher in the standings with each retirement. For most, the patience was rewarded.

The breeze miraculously returned, allowing spinnakers to fill and the crowd to spread out and find a lane, so boats eventually worked their way around the island, where the adverse ebb turned to an ally in their favor with the breeze and current suddenly whisking everyone toward the GGYC finish line.

We were happy to join the crowd making it around, but we could only imagine the panic on the Golden Gate YC race deck as the finishing dam broke, with over 130 competitors crossing the line between 1600 and 1700 hrs. Somehow the race committee persevered and finished over 150 competitors in about 90 minutes.

The clockwise direction starting at Blackaller was the direction of choice, but others chose differently and, incredibly, also finished well. We asked Scott Easom the secret to his success. Scott Easom was the fastest of the single-handers, finishing at 16:00:48, even though he chose to go to Treasure Island first.

Overall Results- J/125 Domination

Several boats finished before 4:00 p.m. starting with Rufus Sjoberg and Dylan Benjamin on the J/125 RUFLESS at 15:48:10 and third was James Nichols and Cody Hall aboard the J/125 VELVET HAMMER at 15:54:58. In fact, VELVET HAMMER missed 2nd place overall by a mere 44 seconds!! Scott Easom's J/100 8 BALL took fifth place. Andrew Picel and Leland Hubble's J/125 ARSENAL was 7th. Will Benedict & John Sweeney's J/105 ADVANTAGE 3 was 11th. Richard Deane & Kara Deane's J/105 NANTUCKET SLEIGHRIDE took 19th. And, Rhett Smith & Jeff Bruton's J/92 HUMBLE VANDLE was 20th. That's a strong showing for the J/Teams in the top twenty! 7 of the top 20 spots, not bad for a "fiasco"!

PHRF 3 DH J/105

The fourteen J/105 doublehanded teams had wildly fluctuating success making their way around the three marks. There were several notable performances overall. In the end, just six boats finished! Winning class was the Benedict/ Sweeney duo on ADVANTAGE 3. Just 4 minutes behind them was the Richard & Kara Deane duo on NANTUCKET SLEIGHRIDGE. Then, rounding out the podium with the bronze medal were Paolo Juvara & Rebekah Moses on CHAO PESCAO just 2.5 minutes further back. That was good close racing amongst the top doublehanded J/105 teams!

PHRF 4 DH J/24

The seven-boat doublehanded J/24 class had at least the highest "completion rate" in the entire race- 95% of the class finished! Winning was Darren Cumming & Melissa Litwicki's DOWNTOWN UPROAR. Second was Robin Van Vliet & Brian Rosensteel's LITTLE WING and third went to Rosanne Scholl & Julien Collins's FLGHT.


This was a "bad news bears storyline". Winning the race on the water in the time of 16:07:41, Bill & Jeremy Mohr's new J/99 WIND DANCER made the fateful error of just being called over the line in a miscalculation at their start off Golden Gate Yacht Club. The rules say you CANNOT restart as it's too dangerous... there are starts every 5 to 10 seconds with boats going across the line in each direction!! So, the WIND DANCER team was hit with a 20-minute elapsed time penalty, dropping them from 1st to 7th! Bummer.


Not surprisingly, given how well they did overall, the three J/125s dominated this 17-boat division. Winnning was the Sjoberg/ Benjamin duo on RUFLESS. Taking the silver was the Nichols/ Hall duo on VELVET HAMMER. And, earning the bronze medal was the Picel/ Hubble duo on ARSENAL. What's amazing after sailing the wildly variable 21.0nm race was that all three J/125s were separated by just 17 minutes!

Other J/Teams faired well. Shane Riehl & Irina Potekhina's J/133 DEFIANT took 8th place, while Nathan Sanders & Sean Svendsen's J/112E LARK took 10th position. That's not a bad showing for J/Teams, 50% of the top ten!!


In this twenty-boat division, Rhett Smith & Jeff Bruton's J/92 HUMBLE VANDAL took the bronze medal position.

PHRF 15 DH Sportboat

This eleven-boat division saw Dave Macewen & Brendan Bradley's J/90 LUCKY DUCK involved in the fast-closing battle for the top of the leaderboard. Just squeaking in ahead of them were an Olson 30 and an Elliott 770. In the end, LUCKY DUCK missed 2nd by 6 seconds (!) and first place by 120 seconds!!

PHRF 20 SH Nonspin

This division of eleven boats saw J/Teams dominate the top of the leaderboard. Winning was John Kalucki's J/109 LINDO with a 40-minute margin. The second went to Geoff Luttrell's J/24 MIRTHMAKER, despite getting hit with a 20-minute elapsed time penalty for being over early at the start line!!

PHRF 21 SH Spin

This seven-boat singlehanded spinnaker division was thoroughly dominated by talented J/sailors. Winning was Scott Easom's J/100 EIGHTBALL, followed by Tim Roche's J/92 ZAFF in second place, and Mark Howe's J/88 SPLIT WATER taking the bronze medal.

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