18' Skiffs Hamlin wins Ronstan Bridge-to-Bridge

'18' Skiffs, windsurfers and kite boarders start at the foggy Golden Gate Bridge; Bay Bridge at lower left' Rich Roberts &copy Click Here to view large photo
Howard Hamlin and his crew of Mike Martin and Paul Allen flew out of the fog late Friday afternoon to earn the 18' Skiffs unprecedented respect on windy San Francisco Bay. 18' Skiff International Regatta Day 4 San Francisco

Victory over a flock of kite boarders and windsurfers not only was the first for their class in St. Francis Yacht Club's 11th annual Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race but boosted Hamlin's Harken-sponsored team into a tie at the top of their 11-boat fleet in the seventh annual 18' Skiff International Regatta, which concludes Saturday.

Kinder Care Home Nursing and a kite boarder fly past The City - Rich Roberts&copy Click Here to view large photo

The race, following the skiffs' usual windward-leeward contest along the city's beach front, is a 5 1/2-nautical mile downwind dash from under the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge inside the bay. It was sailed in following winds of about 20 knots against a strong ebb tide that made it a rough ride.

Hamlin, from Long Beach, Calif., has come close to winning the race in recent years, only to be edged out by the kite boarders, who usually handle the windsurfers. He said, 'These are the best kite sailors in the world, and to beat them . . . I always thought that we could beat them in light wind, but this was big wind today.'

But first Hamlin's boat had to deal with the regatta leaders, the Gotta Love It team of 22-year-olds led by skipper Seve Jarvin---and it wasn't the young Australians' day. They capsized twice in the first race among 18s before they were forced to drop out with a broken tiller extension.

Then, with that repaired, they appeared to be leading Hamlin in the Bridge race when they capsized again, eventually finishing fifth among the 18s. That left them even with Hamlin at 14 points with the last two races scheduled Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. PDT, conditions permitting.

It's been a tough week for everybody. No boat has started and finished every race.

Local Natural Blues 18' Skiff and a kite boarder fly past The City - Rich Roberts&copy Click Here to view large photo

Friday's conditions were such that three boats flipped before even reaching the starting line for the regular race, and recent European champion Grant Rollerson sailed a strong win, with Hamlin second.

Then came the Bridge race, starting just outside the Golden Gate, which has been obscured by mid-summer fog all week, although the city was bright and beautiful. As most of the other 18s sailed closer to the beach, Hamlin's team followed a longer but faster course down the middle of the bay.

'It was the fog line,' he said. 'The fog was where the [best] wind was, right along our course.'

Allen, the forward crew, said, '[Trimming] the spinnaker demands your full attention-it's in your hands whether you nosedive into a wave or not---so I had no idea how we were doing in the race until just before we finished.'

Martin, the middle man, said, 'I'm the guy who gets to look around. We got a really good start right at the [committee] boat. Paul was calling waves and I had my eye on the puffs. We were pretty much full throttle the whole race, although we did throttle back late.'

Winning team Harken 1 (l-r) skipper Howie Hamlin, Mike Martin and Paul Allen - Rich Roberts&copy Click Here to view large photo

Standings (after 8 of 10 races; one discard)
1. Gotta Love It, Seve Jarvin/Sam Newton/Tom Clout, Sydney, Australia, 1-1-1-1-4-1-(12/DNF)-5, 14 points.
2. Harken 1, Howard Hamlin/Mike Martin/Paul Allen, Long Beach, Calif., 2-2-2-(12/DNF)-2-3-2-1, 14.
3. SLAM, Grant Rollerson/Matt Noble/David Mann, Perth, Australia, 5-9-3-2-3-4-1-(12/DNF), 27.
4. Active Air, Matthew Searle/ Dan Wilsdon/Archie Massey, Sydney, 6-3-6-6-(12/DNF)-2-4-2, 29.
5. Kinder Care Home Nursing, Brett Van Munster/Paul Montague/Ayden Mezies, Sydney, 4-4-4-3-1-(12/DNF)-12/DNF-6, 34.
6.Panasonic, Jonathan Whitty/Tom Anderson/John Herman Winning, Sydney, 7-7-9-5-6-(12/DNS)-54-3, 42.
7. Harken 2, Joey Pasquali/Chad Freitas/Rory Giffen, Santa Cruz, Calif., (8)-6-8-7-7-5-3-(12/DNF), 44.
8. Yandoo, John Winning/Andrew Hay/David Gibson, Sydney, 3-5-5-4- (12/DNF)-12/DNS-12/DNF-12/DNF, 53.
9. Cabot Cheese, Patrick Whitmarsh/Danny Cayard/Joe Penrod, San Francisco, 9-8-7-8-5-6-(12/DNF)-12/DNF, 55.
10. Natural Blues, Dan Brandt/Cooper Dressler/Pike Harris, San Francisco, (12/DNF)-10-12/DNF-9-12/DNF-12/DNS-12/DNF-4, 71.
11.Skiffsailing.org., Jonny Goldsberry/Jay Scott/Andy Casey, Alameda, Calif., (12/DNF)-12/DNF-12/DNF-12/DNF-12/DNF-12/DNS-12/DNF-12/DNF, 84.

St. Francis Yacht Club www.stfyc.com

by Rich Roberts

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