Waves Throw Sailors, Stomachs for a Loop

Bigger than normal swell challenges racers skills and equilibrium on Day 1 of the 2008 Sperry Top-Sider San Diego NOOD.

2008SDNOOD_Day1_Story

Stuart Streuli

SAN DIEGO-Performing at the post-race party at the 2008 Sperry Top-Sider San Diego NOOD Regatta, Peter Isler and the Water Brothers opened their second set with the Grateful Dead classic, Ripple.

The choice had to bring a few wry smiles to sailors who had spent the afternoon battling some monstrous ripples on the ocean courses. The opening day of the San Diego NOOD saw 79 boats in 6 classes hit the water for two or three races in a light to moderate westerly breeze and some extreme swell.

While San Diego is known for benevolent westerly breezes and a gentle rolling ocean swell, today's wave action was well above normal, especially for the Beneteau 36.7 and Flying Tiger 10 Meter classes, which raced southwest of Point Loma and experienced swell running in excess of 10 feet.

Sailing fast in some cases was secondary to keeping ones lunch in the proper place. "We had one-third of the crew seasick at one point," said Bill Jenkins, the headsail trimmer for Chick & Alexis Pyle's Beneteau 36.7 Kea.

Once they had their feet firmly on solid ground, however, the crew on Kea could look back on a very strong start to the regatta. Despite sailing in conditions that Chick Pyle said were among the most challenging he's ever seen in San Diego, Kea won both races in the 8-boat 36.7 class and holds a two-point lead over Concussion, skipped by Gary Tisdale and Don Finkle, who have once again trekked out to the San Diego NOOD from Upstate New York. In third is Steven Ernest's Aimant de Fille, which finished third in both races. The other five boats, oddly enough, are all tied with 12 points.

When asked what was most difficult about the conditions, Chick Pyle described large swells that, on the downwind legs, could get the boat surfing fast enough to run over its breeze.

Sharing those difficult conditions with the Beneteaus was the 11-boat Flying Tiger fleet. Phillip Infelise's Mile High Klub and John Paquin's Elusive are tied for first have each scored a first and a second.

Slightly closer to shore, where the wave action wasn't nearly as dramatic, Brian Camet took the early lead in the Etchells class with a similar scorline to Infelise and Paquin. He has a three-point lead over Chris Busch, with just two points separating second from fourth.

Blissfully unaware of what their fellow regatta participants were experiencing offshore, the International 14s and Ultimate 20s snapped off three races on the flat-water of South San Diego Bay. America's Cup veteran Charlie McKee leads the International 14 class with 6 points. Kris Bundy is second with 11. In the Ultimate 20s, Trent Watkins has a one-point lead over Grand Wooden.

Tomorrow, the regatta will double in size as another 8 classes join the fray and they could be meet by some rather stiff winds. The forecast is calling for 15 to 25 knots, and possible rain showers, for Saturday and Sunday.