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Author: Steve K
Subject: 2016 DH Farallones Story
Info: (1014 views) Posted: Monday 3-28-16 07:23:17 PM
Thanks for the prompt and heart stirring writeup, Oliver. Great writing. SDK

:: 2016 DH Farallones-Not for the Faint of Heart
::
:: After a two hour delay we finally got going. The ebb in
:: the middle was going to be a little bit less
:: advantageous than if we started on time but our plan was
:: still to try to play the middle of the bridge and
:: entrance before making our run to the islands. There was
:: a little bit of a pile up at the pin end of the line as
:: everyone seemed to want to be out. We were in perfect
:: position to box everyone out. Ray was right above us and
:: he had some contact with Wetsu but we were able to sail
:: to leeward with good boat speed and fairly clean air.
:: Ray was over the top of us and when he tacked onto port
:: out into the middle that cleared the way for us to do
:: the same. It was El Raton, Abigail, Motorcycle Irene,
:: and Ergo on port headed towards Sausalito, with the rest
:: following suit.
::
::
:: As we got about two-thirds of the way to the North
:: Tower we were looking to tack back out into the middle.
:: Irene had already gone back onto starboard to clear his
:: air and we followed suit. El Raton punched it all the
:: way in under the North Tower. We did a few tacks in the
:: middle and were now crossing through the gate. To our
:: surprise, Will got underneath the South Tower and easily
:: crossed us on port tack but we both put a real hurting
:: on El Raton. We basically tried to play the middle the
:: entire way out the entrance. As we got out, Will started
:: hugging the Marin Headlands and staying further inside.
:: We couldnít quite figure that out as we thought the
:: current was bad inside. We traded tacks with El Raton in
:: the middle and were now both nearing the Headlands. We
:: got really headed and decided our plan was to work back
:: out more towards the left/middle side of the course so
:: we split with Ray. We felt this paid huge for us as they
:: looked to be in light air. We put in one more tack back
:: to the right side as we approached an adverse current
:: line well before Mile Rock. We knew the breeze would be
:: coming up so we had started the race with the three
:: strapped down on the fore deck (as did El Raton) and now
:: did a quick sail change from the one down to the three,
:: tacked back to starboard, and were ready to beat towards
:: the islands. Ray was to starboard of us and Will was
:: much further inside up by Point Bonita. Ray hoisted his
:: three directly after us and a few minutes later we saw
:: Will doing a bare headed change. My Dad always says,
:: ďItís better to do the sail change when you can, than
:: when you have too,Ē and our timing was perfect.
::
::
:: The breeze was building probably to about 15-18 knots
:: and as we approached the Light Bucket it was maybe in
:: that 18-20 knot range or more. The boat was going well,
:: we were sailing right along with Ray and Will to the
:: North of us. As we got a few miles North of the Light
:: Bucket the breeze really started to build into the 20+
:: range on a consistent basis and I could no longer find
:: Motorcycle Irene to the North of us? We found out later
:: that he broke his forestay. Thankfully everyone was
:: okay. Our competition was Ray and Steve on El Raton,
:: parallel and to the North of us. We had sort of left the
:: rest of the fleet behind and had no reference on any
:: other Expresses. Some of the larger boats with reefed
:: mains started to go through us as the extra weight was a
:: huge benefit in these conditions. At this point, we
:: started seeing wiser men than us turn around and head
:: back for safety.
::
::
:: The breeze continued to build! I would say when we were
:: about 8-10 miles or so from the islands we noticed Ray
:: had started to crack off a little bit more. He clearly
:: had better boat speed than us and started to roll over
:: us. There really wasnít a whole lot we could do. He had
:: done a phenomenal job of putting himself North out the
:: Gate. (He did the same thing last year) As the breeze
:: built further, to the 22-28 knot range, we eased the jib
:: slightly to help us push through the seas and try to
:: keep boat speed with Ray and Steve. As we footed off we
:: felt like we were keeping pace but they had to be a half
:: mile ahead of us now. We continued on the starboard
:: board all the way to the islands.
::
::
:: Ray sailed up underneath to the South of the islands
:: and then put in a tack underneath to get back to the
:: North side. We sailed up to his lay line and followed
:: suit. The conditions had freshened to an extreme. I
:: would say it was consistently 25-30 knots with gusts in
:: the 35-40 knot range. I was driving and it took me two
:: attempts to tack the boat back to starboard (I am a
:: little embarrassed about that lol but thatís just how it
:: was out there). As we sailed on port, the islands did
:: not provide the protection in sea state and breeze that
:: we had hoped for. It was still full on. Mas, a Moore 24
:: directly in front of us, lost their life raft, which was
:: an ominous site to see given the conditions.
::
::
:: Ray well over-stood what you would think to be a normal
:: lay line before tacking back to starboard to make his
:: rounding. You just could not point per normal given the
:: breeze. The two Moore 24s near us followed his line and
:: we tried to cut it a tad bit sooner to make up some
:: ground. Ray was leading, the two Moore 24s, and then us.
:: I got a little bit un-easy and made my Dad put in one
:: more hitch out away from the islands. We probably would
:: have made it but I wanted to play it safe as putting
:: yourself in sticky situation in these conditions just
:: didnít seem to be worth the risk. This definitely hurt
:: us and probably gave away any chance we had at catching
:: El Raton down wind. Such is life.
::
::
:: We tacked back to starboard and were now rounding the
:: islands. You know how usually when you turn down wind
:: and your apparent wind decreases significantly? Yea,
:: well, it still felt like it was blowing like crazy! We
:: were two sail reaching with the three up and the wind
:: forward of the beam. There was no chance of setting the
:: kite. Normally we set behind the islands, douse, get
:: back to the North and then re-set. There was no chance
:: of that today. Now that we were somewhat flat, we
:: started pumping all the water out from the interior of
:: the boat and were on our way.
::
::
:: My Dad wanted me to drive about 75 degrees but when I
:: looked back at the islands this made no sense to me. I
:: knew we were not sailing high enough. We had to get
:: further North if we were going to get over to Marin upon
:: our entrance. We bickered about it a little bit as we
:: flew along at 7-12 knots with speeds as high as 16-18
:: knots. It was breath taking speed with water everywhere
:: and the Express 27 showing you why it loves the big
:: breeze. Catching a big wave on a 25-30 knot puff and
:: using our big rudder to stuff it down as you accelerate
:: has got to be one of the greatest adrenaline rushes out
:: there. Absolutely phenomenal stuff! For the first time
:: ever, I buried the bow once or twice only to see her pop
:: out and accelerate like a 505 skipping along down wind.
::
::
:: Finally, my Dad admitted that our compasses were off.
:: We calculated by as much as 20-30 degrees. They are
:: brand new and were dialed in incorrectly. Luckily I had
:: sort of been ignoring him and working up to the North
:: when I could as he was down below warming up and drying
:: out a little. After an hour or so having the time of my
:: life sailing the Express like an overpowered Laser he
:: took over and I went down below to warm up and try to
:: find some dry gear. We keep all the seats and wood on
:: our boat (cough cough to some other owners) so it was
:: much more comfortable down below even though we had
:: about six inches of new water filling the bilge again
:: and spray dripping in consistently.
::
::
:: About 20 minutes after I stripped down it was BAM! We
:: had been hit by an enormous blast of breeze and rounded
:: up. I was more or less standing vertical on the leeward
:: seat staring up through the windward window as our rig
:: was just being thrashed and the sails/rig shook
:: extremely violently. Definitely a little bit scary but
:: when you are out in the Ocean you donít think like that,
:: you just keep pushing. I tried finding anything I had
:: dry to put back on and sure enough I was being yelled at
:: to come back up as these conditions were a two man job.
::
::
:: We were now flying in the channel with ship after ship
:: and even a cruise ship going by us every 20 minutes or
:: so. We were close reaching to stay up above Ocean Beach.
:: We got our good radio out to monitor speeds as we were
:: cold and wet but having an absolute blast. Consistently
:: hitting 14-16 kts over the ground as the sun started to
:: set and darkness was upon us.
::
::
:: As we started to get into the entrance our main concern
:: was finding Mile Rock. Oh, there it is, where is the
:: flashing light? Oh well, we are good. Five minutes
:: laterÖ.oh crap, thereís Mile Rock. We had to harden up a
:: touch to get around it but it was no big deal (FYI NO
:: LIGHT). There was quite a bit of ebb here, as we
:: expected, and we needed to get inside near Baker Beach
:: for relief. We found relief but did not go all the way
:: in because the wind was not backing, as it normally
:: does. We did not want to have to beat up to get around
:: the South Tower. As we got closer to the bridge we got
:: some great right to left relief to push us around the
:: Tower. The breeze was starting to back off and it was
:: probably only blowing 8-12 knots now.
::
::
:: We were absolutely exhausted and my Dad had a pretty
:: severe finger injury that had torn back open. We had
:: lost Ray and I did not have the halyard tied onto to the
:: spinny. We said screw it, letsí just two sail it to the
:: line and go home. We gybed onto starboard to get inside
:: on the city front and ride the flood relief to the line.
:: It was ripping in our favor. In only 5-8 knots of breeze
:: (maybe more/less, my mind had been re-conditioned at
:: this point) we gybed back out to get around Anita Rock
:: and then back one more time for our trajectory towards
:: the finish. We finished around 830PM I think.
::
::
:: We tip our hats off to Ray Lotto and Steve Carroll on
:: El Raton for showing why they are still the killer combo
:: to beat in the Ocean. We thought we were the last boat
:: to round the islands but heard Matt Krogstad and Daniel
:: on Tequila Mockingbird at the 9 PM check in as we sailed
:: back to the CYC. Congrats to them for sticking it out
:: and finishing. To add insult to injury, the wind
:: completely shut off at Little Harding and we had to put
:: the engine on to get home lol. When we got to the dock,
:: we literally tied the sails to the boat with sail ties
:: and headed home. We had left it all out on the water!
::
::
:: For perspective on the breeze, at 750 PM the Light
:: Bucket recorded a one minute maximum wind velocity of
:: 29.4 knots and another weather service I checked showed
:: the Farallones as having wind velocity of 35 knots and
:: 27 avg at 2 PM, 39 knots and 30 avg at 5 PM, and 41
:: knots with a 33 avg at 8 PM.
::
::
:: Thanks to the race committee and all the other boats,
:: especially the Express 27s and Moore 24s, that tried to
:: make the trek. The next day I was extremely sore. I felt
:: like I had just squatted for the first time in three
:: months but had a real sense of accomplishment. You buoy
:: race the Express for competition, day sail it for fun,
:: and go in the ocean for the challenge. We own the best
:: boat on the face of the Earth and I will certainly
:: remember this race for many years to come. What an
:: experience.
::
::
:: Oliver Kell

:: Abigail Morgan 18394

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