“Carnage” is a somewhat overused word in the world of skiff sailing, but after witnessing countless upwind and downwind wipeouts on the San Francisco City front, including roundups, windshield wipers, pitch-poles and near cartwheels on day one of the 2009 29er National Championships, I have a new appreciation for the word. Saturday’s conditions were near epic, as the marine layer kept the temperatures down and the leading edge of a fogbank brought strong winds . . . building during race one and topping out at 20 knots sustained by race three.
The new moon brought on a midday ebb tide predicted at 4.8 knots, which resulted in downwind hull speeds approaching 25 knots along with some impressive takeoffs in the high frequency chop . . . and too many spectacular crashes to count! Conditions were severe enough that, at the end of the day, only 10 boats in 25 boat championship fleet were left on the race course and only 7 of those had actually managed to complete all five races. S till, the post-racing fleet camaraderie was evident back at St. Francis Yacht Club as competitors exchanged stories and showed off blue fingertips and toes. A number of competitors set new “personal best” speed records and are undoubtedly sifting through the reams of photos taken by Erik Simonson of H2Oshots.com looking for their own airborne 29er. Sunday’s final day of racing was a bit more manageable, but still plenty of fun, with solid mid-teens breeze and moderate ebb for races six, seven and eight.
Max Fraser and David Liebenberg are the 2009 29er National Champions, with six bullets and a total of ten points, dominating the U.S. Nationals in their seafoam-green hulled wonder-skiff. Sterling and Hans Henken sailed an outstanding regatta, taking Second Place honors overall and also winning the Junior (under 18) Team 1st Place trophy. Sailing consistently and closing with a second place finish in the final race, JP Barnes and Chris Rast captured Third Place trophies. Julia Paxton and Nina Malingri, who were all smiles all weekend, won the Top Women’s Team honors. David Bolton.