Good Clean Fun: Small Boat Winter Racing on San Francisco Bay

A few years ago a sailing pal decided to gather the flock for a rubber duck race, his flock being the local J/24 gang. He, at the timing deriving a groundswell of income from teaching sailing lessons, set no entry fees, fancy forms to complete or complex rules for this event. Entry boats needed to be 24-footers or less and the owner was to not touch the tiller—the crew must drive. There were to be three, four or five short races, and competition would be halted if wind kicked to 20-knots or higher. Sausages, triangles and distraction beer ducks were to be placed on the course, and an RC boat would be solicited and staffed with the brightest interpretive minds.

Official Mocumentarian Yet Again
Devoted to the duck, the 2017 Crew You Regatta will be my third year to serve as official regatta photographer. Weather conditions in the designated race region have been rainy and cool with mild winds, but my weather app view for Sunday forecasts a circle overlaid with puffy clouds and no dotted lines emanating below. No rain = good for cameras. I'm hopeful we'll have decent winds. During my first year to cover this event racers were handed an E ticket; last year racers received As
—I gave the weather gods Fs cause there was no effort on their part.

The E Ticket Year of 2015
Keep your rubber suit on for 2015. This was non-stop tip and clench, dip and drench. Plenty of style points awarded that day as rail riders did what they could to get a grip. Recall that it’s not the routine guy at the stick; the premise is to get more sailors familiar with steering, particularly during race conditions. San Fran served up not only great wave motion for a photographer, but splendido winds that kept spray in the air, ample gusts to give plenty looks 'o surprise expressions on faces. By race three the atmosphere was truly howling; once conditions hovered near 25-knots the execs said it was time to bring the birds into the nest.

This was just the time when a series of the day’s best images were to be captured—plus a lesson on teamwork and display for when the main should be let out. I say best in that most viewers love to see sailor-in-peril photos. As our skipper cuts to the finish there are a few on deck, one in the pit and I hear someone was below already prepping a James Bond favorite. Readers should know that no one was hurt during this rake to the finish, not even the small mascot duck affixed to the RC bow. Know that the man on the downside made a strategic slide into the bath (says he had ample time to vacillate on a decision before taking the plunge). Sad thing: add insult to no-one-was-injured, this crew did not cross the finish line.

Nada, Zip Wind in 2016
Last year, conditions saw a pendulum swing to an opposite zenith: near nada, next to zip. Sighs of wind now and then hitting one knot. Race one had a start with two boats beak-and-beak at the line. Then, from 11 boat lengths aft, moves a straggler coming on strong at four times the speed of the others, ie., roughly 1.2 knots versus less a .3 knots for the dueling duck racers. Needless to say, not much excitement en route to mark one. If watching a slow boat race is like watching paint to dry, this was like watching the wall to be painted while someone shops for paint colors. A shortened course was eventually called and raft-up with drink started earlier than anticipated.

This Sunday, November 19, will witness a migration back to Brooks Island. With no fewer than five and no greater than 47 entries, it’s anyone’s guess what pressure will be dished up in our pre-Thanksgiving Day duck romp.

If watching a slow boat race is like watching paint to dry, this was like watching the wall to be painted while someone shops for paint colors
Smiles all around if you look closely. This is San Francisco Bay, November and the water is still 57-degrees. Boat number altered to protect the innocent.

Smiles all around if you look closely. This is San Francisco Bay, November and the water is still 57-degrees. Boat number altered to protect the innocent.

non-stop tip and clench, dip and drench
Racers may opt to reach for a beer that is tucked inside the rubber duck out on the course.

Racers may opt to reach for a beer that is tucked inside the rubber duck out on the course.