After a solid week of cold damp fog enshrouding the Northern California Coast reaching far inland, the forecast for Fridays jaunt from San Francisco to Monterey via the Spinnaker Cup was looking up. Of course it depended on the source of information , and even then , the offerings varied.
Westerlies in the 15-20 knot range shifting to Northwesterly 20- 25 on the lower part of the course was the optimistic prognostication. Record breaking conditions? Maybe.
As the crew of Frank Slootman’s RP 63′ Invisible Hand assembled at the dock for the 8:00 AM boat call, a gentle westerly indicated there would be pressure on the course, at least for the start. 1n 2013 , Tom Akin’s TP 52′ Meanie set a new course record in brisk winds, eclipsing the previous mark set by the RP 75 Akela 3 years prior. Meanie’s mark of 6:43:33 was certainly attainable, if Ma Nature cooperated and Lady Luck graced the boat. The team which consisted with a solid cast of talent would not be the weak link.
Joining owner Frank Slootman today was skipper and shot caller Norman Davant, navigator Christopher Lewis, sail maker Bill Colombo , boat captain Willy Lynch, Bowmen Benjamin Allen, Garrett Greenhalgh, & Tom Powrie, Grinders & Trimmers Jack Jennings, John Hayes, Ruben Gabriel ,Timothy Lidgard 2nd trimmer, Mast and pit men Paul Allen, Billy Erkelens & Rufus Sjoberg and two guys getting in the way Eric Muller and yours truly.
But don’t label any of these blokes in a singular fashion, they are all interchangeable and capable of picking up someone else’s slack or stepping in when need be. The confidence level is very high when surrounded by such a core, team players who don’t see problems as problems, they see them as challenges that will be overcome.
Off the dock by 09:00 the boat motored out of the Richmond Channel for the start. The obligatory team talk with job assignments was read, a safety discussion and distribution of gear for those in need. Through Raccoon Strait and towards the race course. Main & jib raised and proper trim runners adjusted and marked. A couple passes to check the line and before you knew it, we hit the line with a fervor, pin at speed threading a very tight needle between the Farr 40 Bright Hour and the RP 44 Tai Kuai. The westerly wind and remaining ebb took us quickly to the Gate, just 20 minutes where the decision was made to remain center channel and out of the adverse current to the south. A quick hitch to Point Diablo and then back on starboard.
Clearing Mile Rock in 8-10 knots of breeze, the crew changed sails, to the mast top genoa and staysail in smooth rapid fashion and The Hand responded nicely with hull speed in the 13-14 knot range. Dodging crab pots became a bit a challenge, and a sharp eye ahead was required to avoid entanglement with the bulb, which I’m told is slow. By noon we were opposite of the SF Zoo and about 3-4 miles out continuing in a southwest direction. The outlines of the boats behind, aside from Tai Kuai were quickly getting smaller and smaller.
Once well clear of Pillar Point, now about 1:00 PM if memory serves, we crack off a bit and replaced the Genoa with the A2 anticipating a favorable NW shift that never fully materialized. A darkening sky to the north indicated a rain band following and providing a bit of moisture, preventing dehydration for the trailing fleet. Lunches were distributed , and the crew shifted to a short lived relaxed mode before it became clear that the mast head genoa was needed to clear Pigeon Point. And just like that, a peel is processed and it was back to the rail, meat.
Our rhumbline kept us a couple miles offshore, past Pigeon Point and Año Nueveo, where the anticipated shift and wind increase to the mid to high teens entered into the equation. Back goes the A2 and we head inshore towards Waddell Creek, until we ran began get low on water under the keel, bounced back for a short hitch before gybing again to go back in at Davenport. The skies began to clear and the classic SC Monterey Bay breeze became more abundant! Hugging the coast until Needle Rock Point the final gybe out us on a direct layline towards the finish line 23 miles away. It was now just past 17:00 hours.
The initial romp across Monterey Bay had The Hand hitting the low 20’s and the crew piled up in the aft rail for an impromptu togetherness session, enjoying a few laughs and telling tales of journeys before. This is what it’s all about, pushing the boat to its Limit, which was her former name in years past. For the record to be broken, we would need 20 knots plus across the entire bay, which unfortunately failed to materialize. Winds lightened and shifted right at the finish, The Hand crossing the finish line @ 18:48 and change, about 1/2 hour off the pace, with the Code 0/A3 giving all the power it could as we slid across the harbor. A great ride and just a tad short of record territory but fast enough to claim 1st to finish, 1st in division and 1st overall corrected!
Sails are quickly doused and the boat tidied up, the support crew arrived with delivery sails, overnight gear, food and fuel . The boat is readied for the immediate journey south to Long Beach, where she will begin anew life after being donated to Orange Coast College of Seamanship. It’s been a great ride for Frank and crew over the years and plans for the future are very much in the air, but Frank is very interested in Multihulls along with his current campaigning in the J-70’s… We wish The Invisible Hand a fond farewell and thank Frank and crew for including us in the final downhill blast!