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Cloudless Day is But a Silver Lining

September 2, 2002
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Stuart Streuli

SAN FRANCISCO–Sunday was a rare summer day in San Francisco. The sun shone throughout, the temperature, even on the water, crept toward 80, and the infamous San Francisco Bay Area sea breeze was inconsistent and mild, by local standards. But for many of the sailors competing in the 2002 Sailing World San Francisco NOOD, especially those in the Farr 40 fleet, the exquistely beautiful day was the silver lining on a dark cloud. Saturday night, while running near his house in Lafayette, Calif., Farr 40 owner Mike Condon died of an apparent heart attack. Condon was the first fleet captain of the West Coast Farr 40 fleet and a regular over the last three years aboard his boat Endurance. “He was the one who it all going,” said Jana Madrigali, class administrator for the West Coast Farr 40 fleet.

Condon’s memory framed the day, which started with a Farr 40 memorial procession from the harbor and through the A-B starting line off host St. Francis YC and closed with some touching comments from San Francisco locals Seadon Wijsen, Peter Stoneberg, and John Kilroy at the awards ceremony. In between, as Condon surely would’ve appreciated, there was some exciting racing.

Don Jesperg dominated the Melges 24 fleet on Saturday, winning all three races against some challenging competition. Today, however, with the wind lighter and much less consistent across the city front race course, Jesperg struggled slightly in the first race, finishing fifth, but then suffered a brutal blow in the second race when he lost his rig. Stepping into the void at the top generated by Jesperg’s 20 point score in the regatta’s fifth and final race was Wijsen, a local sailmaker. “The only reason we won was because [Jesperg] lost his rig in the last race,” said Wijsen. “But we were a lot better today in terms of speed. We beat him in the first race and were beating him in the second race before he lost his rig, but it wouldn’t have been enough.”

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Wijsen hasn’t raced a Melges in three and a half years, but with the 2003 Melges Worlds, which will be in San Francisco, on the horizon, Wijsen has gotten back into the speedy sportboat. “I just felt better sailing the boat,” he said. “We all started to gel and it all started to come together. Upwind the boat sails like a fairly standard keelboat and we felt good. Downwind is where the regattas are won and lost in San Francisco. You have to have good technique and good jibes.”

With two thirds, two fourths, and a first, Wijsen and his team won the event by six points over Argyle Campbell. Jesperg, eating 20 points from the final race, finished third, seven points behind Campbell.

Further east on the Berkeley circle Sean Bennett and Rich Bergmann didn’t need to rely on their competitor’s misfortune to win the 30-boat J/105 fleet, the regatta’s largest. Instead, Bennett turned to his roots to master the shifty and relatively light conditions. “It was a little lighter in the morning,” said Bennett, who drives Zuni Bear. “It was more like Southern California racing–we started in six knots. It was good for us because I grew up sailing in light air [in Long Beach, Calif.] so we were a little more experienced in light air than the rest of the boats.”

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Bennett added that because the traditional sea breeze can pick up so quickly during a race, having both the knowledge and the”guts” to dial back the rig when the conditions are light can make a huge difference. Bennett and his team took six turns off the rig before the first race and finished third.

“In the second race,” said Bennett, “we started at the boat and tacked right. That wasn’t the best thing to do, but we had enough speed from the start that we were top five at the windward mark. We caught a couple of shifts downwind, rounded in second and split from the first-place boat. We were just in a little better lane and we came back bow to bow and we were on starboard.” Zuni Bear closed out the event with a first and won the regatta’s largest class by six points over Peter Wagner’s Nantucket Sleighride.

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