The Maritime Report: Off to the races

The Maritime Report: Off to the races

Dave Bloch

There's lots going on in the waters around our island this summer!

This past Saturday, Encinal Yacht Club hosted the 2012 Summer Sailstice, a global celebration of sailing. Around 1,200 visitors from around the Bay Area were treated to a full day of music, food and displays from more than 20 vendors. There were opportunities for sailboat rides and seeing the USA76, a 84-foot, very sleek sailboat launched in 2002 for America's Cup events.

"The boat rides included lots of children and notably a blind woman with her seeing-eye dog. There were Vets with prosthetic legs that got to experience sailing," according to organizer Sam Benson of Encinal Yacht Club. "Many of the people that took boat rides had never even been on a dock, much less in a sailboat." That "first experience" was supported by four "how to get started in sailing" seminars offered by the America's Cup organization.

The annual Boat Building Contest is always fun! There was a live demonstration by the U.S. Coast Guard of a helicopter rescue in the Estuary. And the "Estuary Stroll," a brand new feature this year, brought boats out to do a long oval course from EYC to Jack London Square with an aerial photo taken at 2 p.m.

June is also a big time for sailboat racing. We're not talking about the multi-million dollar operations like America's Cup; there are races around here nearly every day of the week! But a couple of special ones hit the waters this week.

Island Yacht Club's 37-year-old annual Silver Eagle race will take sailors on a full-day course from the San Francisco shoreline up into the North Bay, then down into the South Bay, and then into the Estuary for a finish at Island Yacht Club. The race for faster boats is nearly 50 miles long, with a 32-mile course for slower ones.

The Biennial Singlehanded TransPac is among the best-known ocean races on the West Coast. Sailors leave San Francisco, all alone in their boats, headed for the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, 2,120 miles away. The boats range in size from 50-foot yachts down to the tiny Pogo 2, a 22-foot racer that better get to Kauai very quickly because there isn't much room on this tiny boat for a lot of food or water! (Jerome Sammarcelli's page on the race Website says "I am French, so food is simply 'The Best Dehydrated Food Money Can Buy' ;-) . It’s going to be tough :-(" ) All around Alameda you'll find these sailors loading up their boats with provisions and emergency gear, installing equipment and testing things out.

A really special feature of this race, and one that anyone (sailor or not) can really enjoy, is the "TRACKER" page. Every boat carries a transponder that lets you see exactly where on the ocean they are. That page will have a link to the racers' daily Log Reports; deep and personal comments e-mailed back to shore by each racer. The drama, tension, fear and sheer joy of the experience really comes through in these writings. You won't understand all the terminology (I don't either), but you can feel the extremes in postings like these:

"I've been out here for two full days now ... I've been in a storm. Winds have been a minimum of 18 knots and going up to 25. Waves breaking everywhere. Breaking around me, in front of me, behind me ... I just feel violated. I hit a wave and it explodes and the boat is awash with water. Needless to say I'm wet, everything I own is wet. My pillow is wet, my sleeping bag is wet, all my clothes are wet, the floor is wet and I pumped it out today. My tools are getting rusty still but that's what you have to do." (George, TAZ!!)

"I'm in Kauai after completing my first Singlehanded TransPac. Was it worth it? Yes. Was it everything I thought it would be? No. it was more. Was crossing the line in Kauai the best single moment in my life? It's a distinct possibility. Finishing this race, in that very moment, was the realization of a dream." (Ronnie, Warrior's Wish)

Follow the racers for the two to three weeks it will take, beginning this Saturday, June 30! VIsit and look for the TRACKER and COMPETITOR LOGS pages.