J/Fest San Francisco: More Than ‘Bag of Hammers’ and ‘Box of Rocks’

JuJu bowman putting us right on the line.

JuJu bowman putting us right on the line.

Fleet 1 San Francisco is a competitive set of racers. To do well against peers it will take a combination of great crew, clean boat sailed well, knowledge of how to work conditions and, many say, mastering the start. It’s April Fool's Day and JuJu plus crew are at J/Fest hosted by the St Francis Yacht Club. This annual regatta series is for J/120, J/111, J/105, J/70 and J/24 fleets. For J/105ers, there were three races run on Saturday and two on Sunday.

Let’s first talk about race starts. Day one, skipper tended to a safer route taking us far from the committee boat and entering the line from a second-back row. Come Sunday he must have gotten a good rest in his downtown deluxe hotel room and easy Uber drop-off ‘cause he was hot at the line, hitting things with vigor. Too bad one start resulted in a recall (he was not over early). By the time we hit our fifth and final race he was right up there—positioning the boat first or second in a group of 22.

Sitting on the boat as arew during the start, I admired his navigational progress but I was also looking at things with a photographer’s POV smack in the whirling middle of competition. By the time the one-minute horn sounded for race five, I had committed to buying another camera, a small yet mighty point and shoot; over the course of that weekend I saw several killer shots line up.

The guys are snickering over ‘bag of hammers’ and ‘box of rocks’

Currents Affairs
Comparing the two days, Sunday seemed more eventful—with its multiple race start delays due to incoming tankers, the J/120 fleet making its return toward us, and the whacky washing machine churn that lingered for more than 45-minutes smack through the start line. We got served up more hotdogs that day: windward, leeward, windward, leeward. There were more boat bunch-ups: depending upon the hour, vessels clustered either right down the middle or along the shore to partake in the escalator to the ocean. Marks roundings were more acoustic too, likely due to numerous last minute tacks in front of layline boats.

Sunday had spinnaker set fun too, courtesy leeward neighbors who were closer to the mark. When you’re on the high side trimming back the spinnaker sheet as the hoist is happening, about all you expect to see on the downside is water and the foot of the chute starting to fill. It’s a bit unnerving when a slice of a hull suddenly appears then crews launch into a shouting match. My spinnaker needs to breath and I cannot see if it’s going to snag their rigging, but here goes….ease. Ok all is well.

Speaking of close quarters, on Saturday we also mixed it with another competitor. This time we were leeward, clear of marks, doing a down the middle run. It was evident that the competition was having a little spinnaker fill challenge, but nothing terrifying, so when the boat came rather close, ducking a bit to avoid their boom while still keeping our spinnaker in check was more of a novelty than big threat.

Scattered Thoughts and a Box of Rain
We were too busy for much chatter while racing, but ‘tween race time had some fun exchange. By late afternoon Sunday I keep hearing the same phrases coming up over and over, especially when in the proximity of a certain peer boat. The guys are snickering over ‘bag of hammers’ and ‘box of rocks.’ Are they referring to a slow boat that cannot get the lead out? Are they thinking about clipping Alcatraz? Turns out they cannot read the words on one boat, so those names are their best guesses. Box of Rain, we like your name and I now know what is its origination, but I kinda like the guys’ guesses just a little better. Come to think of it, back on practice day I recall that they were talking about boat names then too. There were two funny ones, Usain Boat was one.

Sailing Newbies, Sort of
Aside from the owner/driver and gal working pit, this set of six had not mixed it up together on a boat. We fared ok at J/Fest; after all, this was our first race together. Read more about our first practice.

Quick check under the boom to see who is on starboard tack.

Quick check under the boom to see who is on starboard tack.

Peregrine heading uphill on a downwind run.

Peregrine heading uphill on a downwind run.