Action on the San Fran Racetrack

Racers enjoy classic San Francisco conditions for opener

Sailing World San Francisco NOODDay One, August 30, 2003Action on the San Fran RacetrackIf you plan on winning on San Francisco Bay, you gotta know the territory. This simple fact has been reinforced repeatedly over many years of racing on this legendary body of water. Many of the Melges 24 teams racing this weekend at the Sailing World San Francisco NOOD Regatta are doing just this as they prepare for their world championships here next month.Jeff Ecklund’s entry from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is one of them and his program includes the talents of past world champ Harry Melges, who’s driving. More accustomed to playing shifts on Midwestern lakes, Melges is here to brush up on the Bay’s intricacies. So far so good. Ecklund’s team is leading the 29-boat Melges 24 fleet after three races (with 1-5-1 finishes). “The first race became a three-boat race at the top of the first beat,” said Melges. “But among the three of us [Giovanni Maspreo’s Joe-Fly and Don Jesperg’s Ego] the lead changed a bunch of times. It’s tough racing because it’s hard passing boats and it’s critical to pick the right lane. Everyone plays the beach, but you still have to play the shifts. I’m used to playing only the shifts, but I’m learning the current, too.”There’s no doubt that current is a major factor here, but with 130 boats from eight fleets sharing the same racetrack, lanes were just as important, especially in the J/105 fleet, which is the largest of the regatta with 35 boats. As the J/105 class grows on the West Coast, it’s also getting a reputation for being ultra aggressive, and general recalls, Z-flag penalties, and black flags were all thrown into today’s mix. Local skipper Bruce Stone and his team on Arbitage stand atop the J/105 standings with a tenuous 1-point lead over Peter Wagner’s Nantucket Sleighride, from Atherton, Calif. Chris Perkins and Dave Wilson’s team on Good Timing is third, 9-points behind, but with a win at the class’s recent North Americans under his belt, he’s the one to watch for a potential upset.The eight-boat fleet of Farr 40s is adding the grand-prix big-boat flavor to the mix with the usual cast of suspects schooling newer teams. Past world champ Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad finished 2-3-2 to take an early overall lead over John Kilroy’s Samba Pa Ti, which had an early case of the slows, finishing 5-4 before winning the day’s final race. Deen and John Demourkas’ Groovaderci is third.The performance of the day belongs to local Scott Sellers and his team on the Express 27 Swamp Donkey. This local team won all three races in their 16-boat fleet and was awarded the Hall Spars and Rigging Boat of the Day Award. In doing so, they built 6-point lead over Paul Deeds’ Magic Bus, from Seattle. The Express 27s are sailing their Nationals here next weekend and this is truly a warm up.In the 6-boat Olson 25 fleet, it’s a close battle between Derik and Dawn Anderson’s Blazing Saddles, from San Rafael, Calif., which stands tied with Jens Jensen’s Hamburger Haus, of Palo Alto, Calif. It’s tight in the 8-boat J/120 fleet, too, with Barry Lewis’ Chance, of Atherton, Calif., leading Donald Payan’s Dayenu, of Hillsborough, Calif.Bill Wright’s Zsa Zsa, of Larkspur, Calif., leads the 8-boat 1D35 fleet with a 4-point lead over Chris and Kara Busch’s Wild Thing, and in the 12-boat J/24 class, Wayne Clough’s Downtown Uproar lead’s Curtis Press’ Fat Bastard by 3 points.