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BYC Competes to be Best in the World

The first-ever San Francisco Sailing League Regatta commenced the weekend of June 8-9, with short notice from St. Francis Yacht Club about a significant new event. This occurred on a busy weekend when the entire Bay was either sailing to Stockton in the Delta Ditch or racing J/105s at Encinal, but Berkeley Yacht Club pulled together a team of Cyril Guiraud, Zack Parisa, Malina Meissner (on Saturday), Sofie Mravcova (on Sunday) and myself as skipper. The event is part of a rapidly growing worldwide program that has gained immense popularity in Europe.

The league's format is akin to Champions League soccer, featuring different divisions where teams can work their way to the top. It would be like allowing minor league baseball teams to earn their place in the major leagues. The SF Sailing Leagues was introduced as a wildcard event, offering the winning club the opportunity to travel to Vilamoura, Portugal in September, to compete against various other clubs to determine “the best club in the world.”

The fleet consisted of several local clubs along with two remote clubs, San Diego Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club. Both days experienced strong flood currents, making upwind strategy primarily focused on playing the left side closer to shore. The starts were congested, resembling dinghy-style maneuvering luffing high and outside of the Race Committee boat. Given the brief race durations, it was crucial to reach the shore for current relief while avoiding getting pinned out to tack back onto port. The combination of the strong flood and a very short starting line made it challenging to approach the line without risking hitting the pin.

The first day began with relatively light winds in the morning, but it soon picked up to a consistent 18 knots of breeze and puffs up to 22, which is the maximum wind speed suitable for the club-owned J/22 kites. In the late afternoon, the Tango flag was raised, signaling the implementation of the 'no spinnaker' rule.

However, Race Committee made the decision to end the day prematurely as boats began to lose control and spin out.

The debrief was led by the chief umpire, Doug Sloan, a seasoned professional with extensive experience in these types of events, particularly in match racing in Long Beach and beyond. He is likely to officiate as the chief umpire this weekend at the Lipton Cup hosted at Encinal Yacht Club. The session focused on reviewing rules, addressing questions, and analyzing contentious calls and maneuvers, all aimed at enhancing everyone's skills. At times, discussions became intense, notably during a heated exchange between our team from Berkeley Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club. As tensions eased, the team was treated to another round of beers, except for the underage talent from BYC, Malina Meissner. We believed NYYC had fouled us, prompting me to signal for a penalty by flying the 'Y' flag, although I realized I had requested the penalty too late which led to a recollection debate and waving fingers.

Sunday kicked off with strong winds once again, marked by the display of a Tango flag by 1:00pm. With a 10:00am start and approximately nine races scheduled for the day, the teams wasted no time diving into the competition. A close call between BYC and RYC at the leeward mark led to a tense on-water confrontation between the two teams, resulting in mutual flagging before we narrowly avoided colliding with the ponytail of Olympic hopeful Lucy Wilmot, who eventually led her RYC team to an overall victory. Despite the intense moment, the green flag was raised, indicating no fouls for either team and the race continued. Later in the day, NYYC skipper Emily Maxwell executed a daring maneuver by jibing in strong winds onto port, ultimately outmaneuvering StFYC's favored skipper, Ryder Easterlin, at the finish line.

Overall, the competition concluded on a positive note with most everyone enjoying themselves. Despite a minor incident resulting in a bloody chin from a major collision, the event was deemed a significant success. Our crew performed well and was in contention for victory in almost every race, and felt we left a lot on the racecourse. Given the opportunity to practice on J/22s for a week, perhaps BYC could have secured a podium finish or even represented the US in Portugal. It was a fantastic event, underscoring the importance of racing across various platforms and competing frequently.

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