Bay Classic / Ultra Nectar Challenge

26th July
Results: click here

The weather forecast was promising with strong winds, so most of us rigged up small sails.
I was the first one to go out to check the conditions. There were a few holes in the wind but there were also some strong gusts which is quite normal at Crissy Field. Overall I was quite happy with my set up so I waited by the start line checking regularly which side was favored. The wind had some big holes near the pin end so I decided to start on starboard to play safe. However, the port starters got a good gust at the start. After less than one minute of sailing I tacked on port but I was quite a bit behind the port starters by then. Tom Purcell was leading the fleet by a good margin. I ducked down below Chris Radkowski. It felt like speed was paying off on port. This year we all kept going towards the middle of the bridge. I tacked early bellow Tom and Eric. That paid off as I made it to the red nun buoy in second place just behind Eric. I had a good battle with Eric going to the next mark by the north tower. As always the wind was really strong and the water pretty wild over there. I managed to get ahead in those rough conditions. I approached the next mark which was the pin end of the start line near Anita Rock in first place, but I got stuck in a lull and Eric passed me. We had a really good battle during the next upwind leg on port. I had to go downwind of a ferry boat to avoid it but Eric managed to get upwind of it giving him an advantage. That is part of racing in the Bay, you have to give way to commercial traffic. We both tacked together on starboard and raced towards the red nun again. I just managed to squeeze ahead and rounded off the red nun in first place. I had another wild ride towards the mark by the north tower in the voodoo chop. I managed to gibe ok and headed back to Anita Rock. This time I made sure I stayed low to keep planning in the light air around Anita Rock. I jibbed around Anita Rock heading to Harding Rock in reasonable conditions. I was doing fine across the bay except that I didn’t see the Harding Rock buoy until it was a little too late ending up about 50 yards west of it. I jibbed to make it to the mark and headed to Blossom Rock by passing just west of Alcatraz. The conditions were pretty fast down there but not too wild. The wind got a bit light just passed Alcatraz but it picked up again so I made it down to the Blossom Rock buoy in one leg. I gybed ok around Blossom Rock and headed to Blunt.
The port reach to Blunt is quite tight so that should be easy except for the strong winds and the chop which are quite wild in this part of the course. I could see 4 kites in front of me. The windsurfers are quite fast on the tight reaches so I was trying to catch up the two kites just in front of me.
I gybed around Blunt without too much trouble despite the rough conditions. As I headed to the R4 buoy, I saw the other windsurfers who were about a mile to half a mile behind me at that point.
I gybed around R4 just behind a kiter. I put my foot down and managed to get passed him while rounding R2. I carried on a bit on port to stay with the pressure. That move paid off. As I approached the western tip of the Berkeley pier on starboard, the wind dropped quite a bit. Nevertheless, I stayed on the plane, gybing near the mark and heading to X.
In the past, I always struggled to spot the X buoy in the middle of the circle but this time, it was replaced by a big yellow cone from the St Francis Yacht Club so it was much easier to spot. The wind was getting pretty light. I ended up about 50 yards upwind of the buoy so I went passed it and gybed to head downwind and rounded the buoy. The wind was light but I could still plane ok. I decided to stay low to prepare for the lighter air near the pier. The wind is always a bit light near the finish at the Classic but this year the wind died completely. Just as I passed the gap in the pier, I dropped off the plane. Mike Zajicek passed me on his kite but crashed a few yards later and dropped his kite. I passed the finish line still shlogging. The rest of the Formula fleet had caught up with me at that point but they were still a quarter of a mile behind. I was over the moon about being the first windsurfer in the Classic but I knew it would be tough for the Ultra Nectar Challenge as the clock was ticking already and I was shlogging upwind for at least 10 minutes before the wind picked up again. It’s incredible that after being stuck in 4 knots of wind at Berkeley, the wind was picking up again to over 20 knots as I was heading up to Angel Island. Steve Sylvester lined up with me on his foil with a Formula board. His speed was impressive in the stiff breeze. It kept me focused on sailing fast as I had no idea how I fared compared to the other Formulas. Although I came back to the shore about 10 minutes before the next Formula, the guys who crossed the Classic finish line after the lull had too much of an advantage to overcome for the UN Challenge so I didn’t do well for that one.  Never mind, it was good to win the Classic anyway!
Thank you to the St Francis Yacht Club and its crew of volunteers for organizing such an amazing event. The Bay is always full of surprises and this year was no exception. Listening to the stories at the prize giving ceremony, you realize how special this event really is. Each story makes the Classic a legendary event!