We were lucky to escape the clutches of a tricky start line as the combination a building flood, inconsistent wind, RC postponements and a cluster of late starters all conspired to ensnare us before we could get away, yet somehow we managed to separate from the mayhem with a desire to find remnants of ebb. Later we were saddened but not surprised to learn a bunch of teams retired, unable to pass the start line as the flood simply became too much.
Once we got out into what remained of the ebb it was like we'd been shot from a cannon and past the Golden Gate Bridge we immediately were able to settle onto the rhumb line course, first close hauled and then a close reach when the wind backed southeast. We averaging over 10kts SOG for the next hour and a half. Drew and Gordie on the F27, Papillon had nailed the start so Amy and I worked hard to stay in touch and after awhile we managed draw even, sailing side by side for miles as we picked our way through the fleet of monohulls. The conditions were super mellow for the DHF and we were neither cold nor wet along the way. We found that if we traded off driving every half hour or so we kept fast and consistent and Amy had time to warm up a stew for lunch between driving and navigating and I time to watch for crab pots, other boats and navigation aids. For us there's still a lot of work to do to learn each other's stuff but for a team that's only sailed together a couple of times we were able to do a lot of things right too. We passed lots of boats along the way and at one point Amy said that by every indication it seemed the ocean was welcoming me back or something to that effect.
We sagged south of the approach buoys, left the "Lightship" to port, 8 miles from the GGYC and it didn't seem long before we could make out the silhouette of South East Farallon. Drew made a couple of sail changes that slowed them down and we finally put him behind us as we picked off the last few monohulls. Khimaira and then Ma's Rover finally got by us the final few miles before the island, obviously recovering from what must have been poor starts.
This winter's abundant rain has left the Farallones with a distinct green hue and cleansed away years of whitewash of which remains only the faintest scent of guano as we approached from leeward. We felt thankful to witness the rare beauty not to mention the abolition of the nearly oppressive smell that normally permeates the leeward side.
And although we were racing, we still had time for a moment of silence for lost friends as we slipped past the lee of Maintop Island.
Wingit was the fourth boat to round SE Farallon with only two trimarans and California Condor ahead and as we eased sheets past the south side of the island now on port tack for the first time in 26 miles, we scared up a couple of well fed common murres barely able get airborne. The murres plight caused me realize I hadn't heard the cry of the now endangered marbled murrelets along the way; there used to be so many of them in the gulf in years past. On the plus side we did see several humpback whales spout and Amy glimpsed a humpback tail as it slipped back under the surface.
Being one of the first boats to round was exciting and we worked hard to find the right setup to keep the boat moving through the conditions. A bit of a scramble around and the kite was up and drawing well; we were sailing home. Despite our best efforts Drew and Gordie on Papillon charged up from astern and we managed to hold them off for a little while but they got past and gave us a little sailing lesson (along with a few monohulls who passed us back too) which of course resulted in a kind of the-agony-of-defeat feeling about a few miles from the finish. We'd sailed well but Drew and Gordie had managed better.
The good news is the bad feelings didn't last much past the bay bridge and once the wind eased we secured the Mainsail, pealed our gear off and cracked open a couple bottles of stout I'd stowed on the boat Friday night in honor of St Patrick. Thus, with only a kite up, our mood got a lot better as we ran down the estuary to the marina. I have to say that was an interesting conversation we had as shadows got longer and our kind day came to an end.
Amy, thanks for a fantastic sail and for being the wonderful person and sailor you are. I can't wait to do it again.
And congratulations Drew; we hate you but that's okay because we're over it already. ( :
Dave Wilhite & Amy Wells