John Liebenberg takes the Bull by the horns

A Pretty good set of Saturdays for John Liebenberg – 1st wins the crewed Lightship last Saturday and the following Saturday, he was first to finish in a 30+ boat fleet of El Toros in the 58th Annual Bullship Race. He may have taken only 50 minutes to get across from Sausalito to the San Francisco Marina and finished about 10 seconds ahead of Will Paxton who placed second. In third was Jim Savatone, sailing a wooden Toro he built recently.

John said he “Started on the shore, stayed on shore to the point then stayed right. Will went further left because he expected ebb and did not find the ebb that he found at other times. Will had a 20-30 second lead when we separated.”

Jim Savatone sort of put tactics on autopilot saying, “Followed Will is what I did. You pick a mentor and stay with him.” His mentor is a third his age.

Now why did last year’s winner Max put off his trip back to Connecticut (for a 29er Clinic –He is national Champion in that class)? “Perfect
conditions 4-8 flat water. There was sun-clear as a bell. You could see the Gate -no fog. I didn’t have to do a single tack or jibe the entire race. My one saving grace was I stayed inside the current line. I’ve gotten swept out the Gate and [also] won this race so my goal was somewhere in between. “ ....No doubt somewhere in middle of Bay in a 7’11” pram he probably said something like, “This is nice.”

Will's close call with the tug

Will won the cold and rainy 2009 race and his Dad (Fred) was second. Today Fred was way back. He camped with Chris Nash near Alcatraz. All Fred could say was, “We looked real good for about 2 minutes. I didn’t listen to my kid.”

This Bullship is a family & friends affair & word gets out fast. Even before the awards celebration Teresa Paxton passed texted congratulations from her daughter, Julia, at the New York Maritime Academy to her nephew, Will. Julia will probably then text David Liebenberg about his Dad’s victory which David will then pass to his mom in Vallejo Race. John hadn’t yet called. In spite of all this instant communication the guy taking finishes didn’t have a watch out, so we’ll never know if John actually broke John Amen’s “ 46 minutes and change” record.

New horns for grill

Liebenberg, Paxton & Savatone

Article and photos by Seymour Dodds