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Back on the Bay

It's been six years since the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta was raced on San Francisco Bay, and with classic San Fran conditions for the opening day, it sure felt good to be back.

June 27, 2010
Sailing World

Knarrs at the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD

Dave Reed/sailing World

As I scanned across San Francisco Bay from the race deck of the St. Francis YC, with winds whipping through the gates and numerous classes short tacking the City Front, only one thought kept coming to mind: it’s great to be back in San Fran.

After a six-year hiatus, the Sperry Top-Sider San Francisco NOOD, a two-day affair here, is back on, hosting the most diverse collection of classes of any other NOOD (with 164 entries). We’ve got trimarans (Corsair 24s, Wetas), beach cats (Formula 18s), dinghies (Lasers, Finns, and Flying Dutchmen), IRC boats, new and old one-designs (J/105s, Olson 25, Folkboats, Express 37s and 27s, J/24s, J/22, and Melges 24s and 20s), and yes, even kiteboarders. It’s not the big-boat fest it was way back when, but the diversity of the 18 classes is a perfect snapshot of the sport today.

As far as the numbers go, the Formula 18 catamarans have rallied the most entries (19) and they’ve come from far and wide to set up shop on nearby Chrissy Field Beach and take advantage of the primo racecourse between the Golden Gate Bridge and St. Francis YC. With the F-18 class being a “box rule” design, there’s a lot of variety in the fleet in terms of hull shapes, designers, and builders, but by design they “should” all be the same speed around the racecourse.

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Boathandling is still the dividing factor, though, as evidenced by the finish deltas as winds kicked into the mid-20s by mid-day today. Leading the teams vying for the West Coast title are Hobie Cat team riders Greg Thomas and Jacques Bernier, who are using the event as a final tune-up to the massive 150-boat F-18 Worlds in France next week.

The bright-red sails of their Hobie Tiger were easy to spot as they front of the fleet in each of the first two races. They were leading on the final run of the third and final race of the day as well before pitchpoling on the last jibe into the mark, allowing all-star multihull sailor and designer Pete Melvin (with his teenage son, James, crewing) and his blue Nacra to sneak past.

“It was a big puff,” said Thomas. “The bows went in and Jacques went flying around the front of the boat.” They managed to get back on the racetrack quickly, and were nipping at Melvin’s transoms as the two reached into the finish. “It’s awesome sailing here,” added Thomas, a first timer to the City Front, “and really cool to have people sitting onshore watching.”

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The Weta 4.4s (a New Zealand-built 14-foot trimaran and SW’s Best Dinghy in it’s 2010 Boat of the Year program) and the Corsair 24s have assembled for their West Coast Championship as well. The Weta, fleet, which has a strong local presence, spent the day chasing the boat’s designer Chris Kichen, who swept the four-races of the day, and

As the onsite rep for the magazine, the SW editor onsite plays host on the sponsor VIP, so that’s where yours truly spent the day, motoring up and down the City Front circle with spectators and sponsors from Sperry Top-Sider, Essex Credit, and Mount Gay Rum. We jealously watched the close racing of the classic white-sailed Knarrs, and Folkboats, hooted for F-18s as they went tearing by, and ogled the big hardware of the 7-boat IRC class, namely Dan Woolery’s Summit 40 Soozal, looking in fine form as usual.

It was impossible not to get excited about it all: the big flood tide, a snotty 25-knot westerly, and, of course, a thin veil of fog shrouding the Golden Gate Bridge to make it feel like home. It’s good to back. Tomorrow we get to see the action of Berkeley Circle, and we’re looking forward to it. Meantime, check out the results, and the replay of the live City Front feed from Surf City Catamaran’s Jeremy Leonard.

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