Season Series Titles on the Line at San Francisco NOOD

SAN FRANCISCO--Sean Bennett and Rich Bergmann's Zuni Bear came into the 2002 Sailing World San Francisco NOOD Regatta on a roll. A few weeks ago, at the San Francisco YC's Summer Keelboat Regatta, Bennett and Bergmann closed out the event with a trio of firsts. The duo started the San Francisco NOOD, which is hosted by the St. Francis YC, in similar fashion, winning the first race today on the Berkeley circle. "This is our second full year together," said Bergmann, who handles the cockpit duties on the J/105 while Bennett mans the wheel. "It's really coming together. We had some mechanical failures early in the year--a blown steering cable was one--which cost us some important races. So we've been digging ourselves out of a hole. Heading into this event we're five points out of first for the season."

Winning the opening race, while season series leader Good Timin' finished seventh, would only help to narrow that gap. The second race was looking to be a repeat of the first as Zuni Bear took the lead early on. Though Good Timin' and Blackhawk, Zuni Bear's other big rival, were much closer on the course, it was in fact a boat in another division that derailed Bennett and Bergmann's winning streak. Approaching the windward mark in a strong flood tide, which was sweeping everyone to leeward, Zuni Bear tried to duck below a stalled 1D35 and round the mark. The other boat however, fell down and smashed into the J/105, busting stanchions on both boats, and pushing Zuni Bear into the mark. By the time Bennett and Bergmann had extricated themselves from the mess they were in fourth place. It was good enough to keep them in first place--they're ahead of Dean Dietrich's Blackhawk by virtue of a tiebreaker, with Nantucket Sleighride two points back and Good Timin' three points behind--but it certainly could be better. "The course layout was good," says Bergmann, "It just got a little confusing with four big fleets out there."

Racing alongside the 30-boat J/105 fleet--the regatta's largest--were the Farr 40s, where there is also a tight battle for overall season honors. Former world champ John Kilroy and his crew from Samba Pa Ti are currently leading the season standings for the West Coast circuit for the popular one-design, but right on their tail is Peter Stoneberg's Shadow. Today, in a westerly sea breeze the built to 25 knots in the afternoon Stoneberg's team was the better one, winning the first race and finishing second in the next. Kilroy isn't giving him much breathing room though, as he finished third in the first race and first in the second. Other leaders on the Berkeley Circle include Barry Lewis' Chance, which is leading the J/120 fleet by two points over Steve Madeira, and Bill Wright's Zsa Zsa, which won both races in the 1D35 class.

While the bigger boats were slugging it out down on the Berkeley Circle, the small boats were battling San Francisco's famous flood tide on the city front. While the Berkeley circle didn't see the sea breeze until noon, the City Front course started on time and got in three races for all five classes. Don Jesperg turned in the most impressive performance of the day. Sailing his Melges 24 Ego, Jesperg won all three races against some talented competition including Argyle Campbell and Sean Wijsen. Keith Rarick also won all three races, though his J/80 fleet was significantly smaller than the Melges pack. In the J/24 fleet, Kermit Shickel overcame some dramatics during the final race, including hitting the final windward mark and seriously botching the last spinnaker takedown, to finish third. Adding that third to a first and a second has Shickel's Nixon Was Cool leading the 13-boat J/24 fleet by two points over Dave Klatt's Jaded. Six J/35s have gathered for the class' North American championship and right now John Wimer's Fast Lane is in the lead having won two of three races. Robert Bloom's Jarlen in second, three points back. Jason Crowson leads the Express 27 class by two points over Tom Baffico and Forest Baskett.

The Sailing World San Francisco NOOD will conclude tomorrow.