Despite forecasts for lighter-than-average wind on San Francisco Bay, day two of the J/111 Worlds, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California, delivered fresh conditions that gathered as the day’s action unfurled.
Berkeley Circle conditions started with a gentle 5-7 knots for the first race and topped out in the high-teens with puffs into the low-20s by the end of the day. But while Mother Nature was dynamic in her temperament, the fleet’s fastest guns kept their performances consistent, proving once again that one-mode boats don’t win world championship titles.
“You never know what the Bay will serve up,” said Peter Wagner, skipper of Skeleton Key (USA 115), which flies the StFYC burgee, prior to docking out. “We’re excited to be racing, irrespective of conditions. The teams here are strong across all conditions.”
Wagner’s words proved prophetic, especially once the day’s racing really got cooking. But before teams could tension their rigs, Mother Nature sprung a light-air pop quiz that saw Doug and Jack Jorgensen’s Picosa (USA 120) and Wagner’s Skeleton Key (USA 115) both take great starts, while Martin Roesch’s Velocity (USA 008) and Gorkem Ozcelebi’s Double Digit (USA 94) were deemed over early.
Unlike yesterday, the old saw about the Berkeley Circle (“going right always works until it doesn’t”) proved accurate today, especially for teams that worked the inside lanes. Jim Connelly’s Slush Fund (USA 119) beat the fleet to the first mark, followed by Wagner’s Skeleton Key (USA 115)—positions that both boats held across the finish. Rod Warren’s Joust (AUS 1110) rounded out the top three.
“We had great upwind speed, clean air and a great start off the line,” said Connolly, just after taking his proud win. “We were off the line nicely. It was upwind performance—that’s what did it for us!”
The breeze continued to freshen for the day’s second race, which was also a windward-leeward-twice-around contest that sent teams on a 1.8 nautical mile climb that, in turn, was rewarded with big-grin kite rides. Wagner’s Skeleton Key and Connelly’s Slush Fund both enjoyed strong starts, however six of the eight-boat fleet broke left, ditching the typical wisdom exercised on the Circle.
While Skeleton Key and Slush Fund covered each other tightly on the first leg, Warren’s Joust rounded the first mark in the pole position and managed to stave off Skeleton’s Key’s advances until an ugly looking gybe coming into the finishing line almost cost the Aussies their bullet. Fortunately, the team from Down Under manhandled their kite just in time, leaving second and third places to Skeleton Key and Slush Fund (respectively).
“These were perfect conditions,” said Joust’s Aaron Cole, just after finishing. As for that final gybe, “we got a little chicken-winged out and came in a little bit, but we got control and luckily pulled it off!”
Interestingly, almost all teams doused their headsails on the downhill legs in favor of a main-and-kite-only configuration, but once the wind began to gather to around 15-17 knots, most headsails remained at full hoist. “It’s our cross-over between planning and soaking,” said Cole. “If you do it at the right time, you get on the plane and go downwind fast.”
The Race Committee gave competitors an extra few minutes to tighten their shrouds between the day’s final two races, the latter of which saw big breeze that was complimented by a flooding tide. While the wind was with the water, the Bay’s long fetch still managed to churn the Berkeley Circle into a proper washboard that gave competitors a powerful isometric workout.
Warren’s Joust enjoyed another fine start to the day’s third race, followed by Connolly’s Slush Fund and Wagner’s Skeleton Key, but by the first weather mark Roesch’s Velocity managed to nose in between Joust and Slush Fund. While Velocity’s pace looked strong as the team worked their way around the top of the course, a series of leader changes unfurled that saw Slush Fund reap the day’s final win, followed by Picosa and Velocity, with Skeleton Key being forced to settle for a fourth-place finish.
After six races over two days, Connolly’s Slush Fund is now in the pole position and tied with Wagner’s Skeleton Key for total points (15). However, the new leaders are sitting on a net score of nine points (due to discarded races), while Wagner and company carry 11 points; Warren’s Joust is in third place with 17 total points and 12 net points. Racing is set to continue tomorrow, Saturday, August 26, with a distance race, followed by more windward-leeward racing on Sunday.
by St. Francis Yacht Club