What I Saw – by Jackie Philpott
At the end of May I was in Monterey. That is situated on a bay, too – The Monterey Bay, which makes it fair game for this column. Ten days from now I’ll be on the island of Kauai, so this column will focus on Hanalei Bay next month. Looking forward to getting warm, I must say. Here in my house in Oakland it’s 65 degrees. I’m wearing wool socks to keep my toes warm, for goodness sake.
California Offshore Race Week
Anyway, in late May I was a guest at Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club (MPYC) which is the host club for the finish line of the Spinnaker Cup. The members have hosted the Spinnaker Cup since 1978 and I can attest to the fact that they do a very fine job of it. Spinnaker Cup is the first leg of what is called the California Offshore Race Week. Sailboats participate in the Spinnaker Cup – from San Francisco to Monterey, then in the Coastal Cup – from Monterey to Santa Barbara, and finally from Santa Barbara to San Diego, which is called SOCAL 300. Yachts can participate in one or more of the legs of competition or all three. If you are interested, read here: https://www.offshoreraceweek.com/
When I arrived at the club the first people I met were Gregor and Diane Cailliet, who are exactly the kind of people you want to meet first thing when you walk in the doors of any place.
The club’s race committee had tables set up right at the front door, and Gregor and Diane were sitting there expectantly, waiting for sailors. The wind had lightened, though, and they weren’t getting any business because none of the boats had come into Monterey Bay yet. So, instead I sat down with Gregor and Diane and we had a nice chat about everything boats. The club was incredibly well organized and everyone was friendly and enthusiastic. They are proud of their club and their history hosting this race.
I asked if it would be possible to go out on a support boat and Gregor introduced me to Rich Beach, who has this beautiful 1984 Boston Whaler appropriately named The Beach.
I had a splendid time riding around with Rich. We were accompanied by professional photographer Michael Fiala and MPYC’s port captain, Chris Light.
The finish line for MPYC is at the end of the Old Wharf, and there was a crowd of people there throughout the night waiting to take the times of the finishers in the race. It was very cold and we were all dressed for snow in heavy coats and wool hats. I was feeling sort of smug for wearing long underwear.
First over the line was the gorgeous S/V Westerly, and let me tell you, her freeboard looks really high from down there on the water in a Boston Whaler.
After Artemis finished, the race to watch was the one between the two Santa Cruz 70s, S/V Catapult and S/V Buona Sera. As they approached the finish it looked like they were going to clip the seawall and disrupt all those stinky sea lions. But they didn’t. Who came in first?
Catapult won by 12 seconds. All that way, only to win or lose by 12 seconds? That’s yacht racing for you.
The MPYC is legitimately famous for its Spinnaker Cup, All Night Chili pot and cornbread, available to everyone all night long. How did it taste? So good!
Peter Hogg, the great Australian multihull racer, still holds the singlehanded record from San Francisco to Tokyo, which he sailed in 34 days and six hours on his 40-foot trimaran, S/V Aotea. Peter once told me how it used to be during “the Golden Years” of yacht racing. When he was a young crew member on boats, only boat owners were allowed into the dining rooms of certain yacht clubs. The crew remained behind, just below the yacht club’s deck, eating aboard.
Has that elitism gone by the wayside in these more enlightened days? For sure it is not the custom at the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club. On this evening, everyone knew the drill. After putting their boats away, everyone, skippers and crews, all came through the door and went straight to the chili, hungry and grateful for the hot food. There’s nothing like chili to warm you up. And there were big chocolate chip cookies, too. Fresh out of the oven.
I left Rich so he could spend the rest of his night guiding the boats to their slips in the harbor. After a good night’s sleep, I returned to the club the next morning for the awards presentations.
Andy Schwenk and his crew on the Express 37 S/V Spindrift V won their division. Rebecca Hinden with her Express 27 S/V Bombora from Encinal Yacht Club came in second in her own division. Greg Nelsen raced with his regular crew Karl Crawford on his Azzura 310, S/V Outsider, being used on this day as a clothesline.
Greg and Outsider are famously fast, and he’s well known for the craftsmanship of his work on the fastest race boats on the West Coast. Those are only some of the people I talked with and the boats I photographed. If you are interested in the complete results for the Offshore California Race Week, see here: https://www.offshoreraceweek.com/
2023 Delta Ditch Run
The Delta Ditch Run is a 62-nautical mile sailboat race downwind and upriver from Richmond in Contra Costa County to Stockton in San Joaquin County. Like the Spinnaker Cup, the presumption is that the wind will be at your back the whole way. However, there’s that whole winding river quality that can really put kinks in your sail plan.
Back in 2018 I participated in the Delta Ditch Run singlehanded. That was the year of the 110-degree days. During the race I almost passed out from heat stroke, went below to cool off and drifted over too close to the Naval Weapons Station. Next thing I heard? “Ahoy!!” When I poked my head out of the cabin there were two nice young Homeland Security officers practically rafted up on their patrol boat. Their boat had big engines and they had a huge gun at the ready, in case I proved dangerous. They seemed a little surprised to see me. Very politely they told me, “Ma’am, you need to move.” Apparently, Dura Mater and I were parked in a restricted zone. So, we moved.
I raised spinnaker and sailed without behaving criminally for a while, then DM and I got stuck in the mud just past the Antioch Bridge. If you know the river – and I think you do – you know where we got stuck: Inside Channel Marker #19. Although the sailing instructions for the race do not explicitly state “Keep Channel Marker #19 to Port,” I recommend that you do. My night that year was spent sleeping sideways on my boat just inside Channel Marker #19 on the San Joaquin River. It was a beautiful, memorable evening and remains one of my most favorite of many memories in the Delta. Again, I digress.
The Ditch Run is organized by the Richmond Yacht Club at the start, with the Club’s hoist available to race participants with the smaller boats that are towed from all over the United States. Breakfast burritos and pastries are served in the clubhouse the morning of the race.
So, a week after I watched the finish of the Race Down the Coast, I caught a ride in the Race Up the River in the 32nd Annual Delta Ditch Run. I arrived at Richmond Yacht Club early Saturday morning where I found crews already on the water raising sails on boats without engines. Several dozen small boats were preparing to leave the dock hours before everybody else in order to run the line, practice raising and dropping spinnakers four or five times, and all the other things that competitive racers do before races.
At 7:45 a.m. I chatted with two crewmembers who had just dropped their boat into the water from the club’s hoist. Their boat was the Express 27 S/V Loose Cannon from the Stockton Sailing Club. Andy Goodman is Loose Cannon’s owner, and the team would go on to win the Express 27 division. Andy has a very positive crew who looked like they were enjoying themselves and planned to continue doing so all day. No wonder they came in first.
Then I walked up to the clubhouse and introduced myself to the crew of S/V Tinka. Unlike Loose Cannon’s crew, they were still slouching around, eating breakfast burritos and pastries.
Tinka is owned by Kathryn Wagner, but she has an extraordinarily confident spokesman, Quincy Briscoe. According Mr. Briscoe, Tinka was certain to win the 2023 Delta Ditch Run. Mr. Briscoe displayed the confidence of a start-up CEO in the approach to a venture capitalist. He was quite the promoter for Team Tinka, and they laughed throughout his pitch. Our conversation went like this:
Jackie: Hi, Team Tinka. Tell me how you all met.
Quincy: We began as a karaoke team in Santa Barbara.
J: I see. Have you sailed much together?
Q: Not much, no. But our karaoke friends from Santa Barbara are here with their boat and they told us this race is a lot of fun, so we towed Kathryn’s boat up.
J: Do you consider your karaoke friends your competition in this race?
Q: Not at all. Their boat is named Average. The name says it all. They’re average. So, we will beat them.
J: I see. You will beat them because the name of their boat is Average?
Q: Exactly. Also, we will win because none of us are from California. This is also why we will beat them. Because they are from California.
J: Let me get this straight. Because none of you are from California you think this is your year to win the Delta Ditch Run?
Q: That’s right. Matt is from Indiana, Isabel is from Spain, Gus is from Nebraska, Kathryn is from Switzerland and I am from Oregon. None of us are Californians. We will actually win the race for all those reasons.
J: I see. So you don’t think local knowledge comes into the equation?
Q: Not at all.
J: Do you have a strategy in mind?
Q: Yes we do. We plan to go into the mud at Marker #19.
J: Well, good luck with that. May I take your photograph?
Q: Please do. We’d like it on the record that our team song is “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And there is no “e” in Quincy.
It was a lot of fun talking with Tinka’s front man. Sadly, they did not win the 2023 Delta Ditch Run. Maybe next year.
The Ditch Run starts just north of the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge. Fred Paxton has been the Chairperson of the RYC race committee for years, and he was in charge again this year aboard the Race Committee boat, a cabin cruiser called The Pelican.
This year I had invited myself aboard Jim Quanci’s comfortable S/V Green Buffalo, a powerful Cal 40. For this race the Buffalo had her full panoply of crew including Jim’s wife, Mary Lovely, their son Stephen and their friends Elizabeth, Ian, Chad and Jeff. Except for me, everyone was a regular crewmember and they all knew exactly what to do. There are a lot of steps that must be synchronized when a big sailboat raises and lowers its spinnaker sail, and this crew did it dozens and dozens of times. No one fell off the boat, not even me, and we didn’t go into the mud once. It was highly impressive.
Jim Quanci has sailed his boat Green Buffalo back and forth across the Pacific a dozen times or more, alone and with crew so I figured he wouldn’t do anything foolish. We would remain upright. It was also a terrific base from which to take photos. All day long the smaller boat S/V Domino stuck next to Green Buffalo like glue. First, she was alongside, then slightly behind. Jim kept asking, “Who ARE those guys? Why can’t we shake them?”
The crew aboard Domino included Austin Book and Ashley Hogan, sailors from Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club. The 30-foot Wilderness S/V Domino was the winning boat in the 2018 Singlehanded Transpacific Race to Kauai, sailed by David Herrigel. She’s a fast boat. My understanding is that Austin and Ashley plan to do the Pacific Cup together next year in the doublehanded division, after which Austin will try to repeat David’s performance in 2025. That’s the plan and we all wish them well. In this year’s Ditch Run Domino placed first in the very competitive Heavy + 2 fleet. If you are interested in the overall race results, check them out here: https://www.regattanetwork.com/event/25707#_newsroom+results
If you have a small boat and you want to have a really good time, check out the competition and prepare yourself for next spring, and the 33rd Delta Ditch Run. Why not?
At the Stockton Sailing Club the bar was busy and this was the drill: Buy tickets for drinks, then pay for a plate. Stand politely in the food line, hold out your plate. Someone will put piles of food on it. Are you particularly hungry? They will put more food on it. Sit on the grass in the cool of the evening, eat your food while you watch the slower boats arrive, like the Wabbit S/V Bad Hare Day, skippered by owner Erik Menzel.
When you finish racing in the Ditch Run, cheer for the boats still on the water. Go to the bar and one of the volunteer bartenders will provide you with beer or wine or a soft drink in return for one of those drink tickets. Now you know how this story ends: With everybody tired, happy and content. The bartenders of this evening were very patient and that’s saying something because there were A LOT of thirsty people.
BAADS Annual Picnic On Angel Island
The weekend after the Delta Ditch Run I sailed over to South Beach Harbor to offer up my boat to ferry people from the Bay Area Disabled Sailors (BAADS) headquarters to Angel Island for their Annual Picnic.
I signed up with Cristina Rubke, who is in charge of the Keel Boat program. Cristina set me up with the Prasad family, Reginald Presad and his wife and six-year-old daughter, the two Sweet Melissas.
I arrived to collect my family at 8:58 a.m. sharp. The Presads had driven up from Patterson, which is 90 minutes away in the Central Valley. Assigned to Dura Mater, they showed up two minutes early in brand new PFDs at the dock on the southside of Pier 40. I read The Standard newspaper every day, and it has come to my attention that the city of San Francisco intends to increase the cost of parking. That would be too bad for families like the Presads, who paid $35 to park for the day. That seems like a lot of money to me.
I arrived at the guest dock alongside Pier 40 and there was the Presad family. I stepped down from my boat and we introduced ourselves. Reggie climbed aboard and I reached down for a big bag they had brought. It was a really heavy bag.
“Wow! This food is heavy!” I said.
“The beer!” said Little Melissa. We all laughed and then we were off.
Melissa Presad drove the boat across the slot. When we arrived at the island the family immediately made their way purposefully to the picnic area. I stayed behind to coil lines, and by the time I arrived at the four picnic tables full of people, Reggie was already cooking at one of the barbeques. Next year, he says, he will prepare curry. I’m sure it will be very good and I am definitely in for this party next year.
Reggie Presad is a veteran of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, a Navy man who worked on one of our country’s nuclear submarines. He grew up in Fiji and has beautiful facial and body tattoos. After the picnic on our sail back to South Beach in 20+ knots of wind, the Melissas decided to go below to get out of the cold. In between reefing, as we struggled with lines and winches, Reggie and I had time to chat about life. He told me very interesting stories about his time in the Navy.
Reggie is very resourceful. He has traveled to over 60 countries, and has taken his family everywhere with him. He has converted to Hindu and it has, he says, helped him to understand his place in the world. He has even petitioned the Dalai Lama to help him get into Tibet.
The family attends every sports event they can. They sometimes receive free tickets from the Palo Alto Veterans Association but alas, not to the San Francisco Giants. The family would love to attend a Giants game. If you have three tickets that you might be interested in offering to the Presads, email me here and I will make sure they receive them. And if you have the ear of the Dalai Lama? See if you can put in a good word.
BAADS needs volunteers for its small boat sailing on Saturdays. If you are interested click here and fill out the form indicating your interest and availability: https://www.baads.org/volunteer
The Wooden Boat Show At The Corinthian Yacht Club
June was a month full of weekend sailing. On June 18, Dura Mater and I sailed over to the Corinthian Yacht Club and spent the night at the end of O Dock. We were invited by Shelly Willard, who is the liaison between the Master Mariners Benevolent Association and the Corinthian Yacht Club. She and Randall von Wedel did much of the hands-on coordination while I was there, freeing up slips for the wooden boats for the evening. Randall and Oskar (“with a ‘K’ like the grouch”) caught my bow and stern lines when I arrived. That is always so appreciated when the wind is high. Thank you, gentlemen.
Friday night I interviewed Wesley Nunez aboard his Bear boat, S/V Flotsam, and the next morning I had a nice chat with the three owners of the Frisco Flyer, S/V Olive.
I also interviewed members of the Board of Directors of the Master Mariners Benevolent Association over breakfast at the Salt & Pepper Restaurant. I’ll be writing about those interviews and the Wooden Boat Show in a future column. I took lots of great photos, too, which was easy to do because the boats are so beautiful and the people so enthusiastic.
23RD Biennial SingleHanded Transpacific Race To Kauai
Finally, on June 24 the Singlehanded Sailing Society had its Aloha Luncheon for the sailors, family and friends of the 17 sailors of the 2023 Biennial Transpacific Race (SHTP). The next day, a Sunday, they sailed out the Gate. In true SSS style, the “Luncheon” consisted of sandwiches from the Point Richmond Market and Deli (Buy Local!) with cookies and rhubarb cake. The motto du jour? Enough is as good as a feast. Depending upon your reference points, that phrase can be traced back to either the gospel of Matthew or Mary Poppins.
On Sunday morning a photographer friend and I sailed out the Golden Gate in order to take photographs of the racers. The photo here is of S/V Elizabeth Ann, a Westsail 32 with skipper Gary Burton at the helm. This is Gary’s second SHTP.
There are a lot of fine amateur photographers out there: Cinde Lou Delmas, Steve Green, Greg Ashby and Bob Johnston. Already bouncing around outside the gate was Erik Simonson on his zippy RIB, steering and taking photos at the same time. Erik is one of the best photographers in the West Coast sailing world, as evidenced by this site here: https://www.sfbaysss.org/forum/showthread.php?2913-Start-Photos (Add your photos.)
By the time of this Bay & Delta Yachtsman magazine’s publication in early July the SHTP race will be over and all the sailors safely ashore. I will be in Hanalei Bay for ten days during which time I will write about and post more about that particular race. I’ll also take lots and lots of photos.
If you are power boat owners shaking your heads (“Doesn’t she have any friends with power boats? I want to read about power boats!”), be comforted by this fact: While in Hanalei Bay I will be aboard a RIB, collecting sleep deprived sailors as they arrive in the Bay at all hours of the day and night. What kind of RIB? Well, I’ll find out once I get there and I promise to describe every inch of it. Patience, grasshoppers.
Thank you for reading. If you have anything you would like to share, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as I would like to hear from you.
Enjoy your time on the water and let’s all be careful out there.