On August 1, Southwestern Yacht Club held the 2nd Annual Three Mark Fiasco! The unorthodox course in this pursuit race put skippers’ and tacticians’ skills to the ultimate test because boats could start and finish from either direction and round the three marks in any order and in either direction.
As the wind picked up at the start, we saw skippers repeatedly changing their minds as to which direction to start. The start/finish line was near Shelter Island in San Diego Bay, and the rounding marks were buoy 11 near the bay entrance, the FM19 mooring near Harbor Island, and the Coronado Bridge itself. As soon as you thought you knew what most boats would do, the fleet seemed to move to the opposite side of the line. Was this tactics or mind-games?
When the gun sounded, the first set of boats headed south toward buoy 11. Their strategy was to avoid the increasing ebb later in the race but at the cost of no initial spinnaker run. It turned out that 60% of the fleet agreed with starting south, but would it pay off? Others in the fleet headed north toward FM19 and the Coronado Bridge. That path promised an initial spinnaker run and the hope that the wind would clock before their leg to buoy 11, which they hoped would add an additional spinnaker run late in the race but at the expense of fighting max ebb on the way back.
The north-bound boats quickly had to make their next tactical decision — should they cross the current and round FM19 first or head to the bridge and round FM19 on the way back? Just like the starting decision, boats split on this decision, too. In the end, the less traveled path paid off. Among the award winners, 62% went north at the start. This meant following the strategy from last year would not have helped because last year most of the fleet went north and most of the award winners went south.
The winner of the PHRF Overall perpetual trophy was Maleficent, skippered by Christopher Bennett, and the SWRF perpetual trophy went to SeaYa, skippered by Mike McNabb. For the outcome of all classes, see the race results. While racers enjoyed complimentary food and beer, along with a steel drum band, debates continued over what was the right strategy for the race. These debates will likely continue until next year, when skippers and tacticians will again have a chance to answer the question, “Which way should we go?” [Photo by Cynthia Sinclair.] – Jeff Rodriguez.