During January and February I liberated Patience, my 23′ Ranger, from her slip in front of my office and aided by several friends, participated in two beautiful, spirited weekends of sailboat racing on San Francisco Bay. Once again the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon put forth what has long been recognized as a premier Bay Area Midwinter Regatta with the added enticement of including the Rob Moore Memorial Race as Race #3 in the four-race series.
Rob Moore was a very close friend, long time editor at Latitude 38 magazine and a world-class sailor. His death last year from lung cancer at age 58 left a global void in the sailing community. Rob, a non-smoker, was a huge proponent of the Corinthian YC Midwinters, hence, the designation of Race 3 as the RMMR.
Close racing in Division C left the top three boats separated by only one point each. Our scores of 2, 1, 1, and 3 gave us the low point total of 7 to win Division C overall. Most personally satisfying was our first place finish in the RMMR. I raced with Rob for years on his various boats and benefitted accordingly from his vast knowledge. Some of it I actually retained over the years despite my somewhat famous attempts with Rob at beer-making. Fittingly, the first place trophy in each division consisted of a large, etched glass beer pitcher. A likeness of Rob’s trademark mustache dominated the etching.
Laughter was the key ingredient in our four races. In the first race I was joined by my longtime crew member, Steve Shinn, as well as Mike Wrisley. (Mike introduced me to racing as a crew member onboard a Moore 24 back in 1982.) We had a great start but traffic at the weather mark from larger boats in different divisions made for a laborious (should I say confused!) rounding. The rest of the course was sailed with non-stop, good-natured criticisms of each other’s abilities covering everything from my steering, choice of sandwiches and beer brand to Mike’s footwear (suede boots?) and inability to now fit in a 2XX large PFD (most likely due to beer consumption), to Steve’s long-suffering tenure onboard Patience as foredeck where he sometimes referred to her and me as Impatience.
The second race had Steve and me joined by Grand Banks 32 and Cal 20 owner, Glen Hall. New to the race program, Glenn had completed a few CYC Friday night beer can races with Steve and me. Laughter again ruled the day despite very light winds and adverse currents which clearly affected the beer supply and our Patience!
The third race (the RMMR) had Mike, Steve and I scheduled. At the last minute I received a call from James Fryer, old friend and single-handed sailor extraordinaire, on his Wylie 34, Cheyenne. In the early 90s, I frequently joined James onboard Cheyenne in double-handed bay or ocean races, including a memorable and rough Double-Handed Farallones race. We nicknamed ourselves The Fryer and Baier Hard Rock Sailing Team after really pranging a rock in the shallows off Pinole on the return leg of a Vallejo 1-2 race. James was also a part of the early days of beer making/sailing with Rob Moore and held Rob in high esteem. What better way to pay Rob tribute than for James to join us onboard Patience?
So now, having four sailors aboard for the upcoming race, with a combination weight close to 800 lbs (Mike!), I purged every ounce of unnecessary gear out of Patience to compensate for James and the additional sustenance he would require, including the extra sandwich.
Race morning found a relaxed crew onboard a slightly lighter Patience as we headed out to the start from the CYC. We were pushed along at five knots by my whopping 4HP Johnson outboard. With forty minutes to our start we had plenty of time to make it across Raccoon Straights and out to the starting area by Little Harding buoy. There was no wind in the Straights as I motored by a fellow Division C competitor drifting under flogging sails on his Harbor 20 (which rates the same as my Ranger 23). The ebb current was insuring him of never making the start as he drifted out towards the Golden Gate Bridge with no engine on board. Clearly saving weight! The same scenario was befalling an Etchell 22 as he vainly tried to sail to the start but was even further away from the starting line than the Harbor 20.
Hmmmmm, I mused. I could laugh at both skippers’ poor planning and misfortune, carry on to my own start and clearly not have a prime competitor to race against me. My other choice was to be a good sport and tow them both to the starting area. The clock was ticking against them both and then me as I turned around towards them. We rigged two lines, one on each port and starboard primary winch, hooked them up and made off to the start with only 20 minutes to spare. Patience’s speed was down to three knots as the little Johnson gamely struggled onward, towing the additional 5,000 lbs of Harbor 20 and the 30′ Etchell, plus their combined weight of five crew! This was going to be really close and might be the stupidest thing I had ever done in the name of sportsmanship. If I missed my start I would never forgive myself, not to mention my crew’s assessment of me and this dicey move.
Thankfully we were granted a reprieve when our start was delayed due to an earlier start having to be repeated because of overly eager competitors. Whew! So a bit later, off we went crossing the line on time, accompanied by the Harbor 20. At the first mark they were way out front due to our/my bad tactics (gulp). Nice work John. I could really use some help here Rob I said under my breath as the phrase no good deed goes unpunished rattled around my head.
Faced with the decision of just following the leaders of my class and losing or trying another great (?) tactical move and splitting from the fleet, we unanimously chose the latter. We would die trying and go down in flames or maybe, just maybe, pull this one out of the hat. We sailed off confident and of course, laughing. A half hour later we crossed the finish line ahead of all our competitors, except for one 30′ boat who finished slightly in front of us. Due to our rating differences, I corrected out in front of him, winning the race. My crew and I marveled at our change of luck or perhaps, it was Karma pay-back?
The last race took place the next day with just Steve and myself aboard Patience as we had been so many time over the years. A long course took us across San Francisco Bay over to the city and then back to the CYC to finish. The fresh breeze at the start, on the weather leg, and for most of the first third of the reach back to Tiburon, slowly diminished. Thanks to a very quick sail change from the #2 to the light #1 by Steve, we stayed in the hunt but still mid-fleet. Once again we split out from our competitors and headed to the Sausalito side of the course in search of the building flood current, hoping it would help us get pushed to the last mark before the finish. It did and we came in third, good enough to take the series first overall. We’re back!