If you’re like me, you may have wondered what sailboat racing on the San Francisco Bay is like.
Well, after getting a spot on a boat, I participated in the first of this season’s Jack Frost Series of sailboat races– hosted by Alameda’s Encinal Yacht Club this Saturday. It turned out to be quite an action-packed experience.
The races start about half a mile west of the end of the Berkeley Pier. They are short-course races that last about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the conditions of the waves, water, wind, weather and crew. During the races, groups of about 10-12 boats take several laps around a series of markers.
Members of the Encinal Yacht Club staff the race committee boat, and they have to signal the start of each race, track the boats around the marks and monitor the finish. The boats are grouped in fleets by boat model, which generally means that boats of similar lengths and types race against each other.
I was in the D group, or the fourth group, of boats to sail.
You learn a lot about sailing tactics, maneuvers and sportsmanship through racing. You also get a understanding of yourself, why you like to be out on the water and what you are able — and less able to do — when working as a team member focused on moving a boat as quickly as possible around a course.
And you gain a lot of respect for the efforts of groups like Encincal Yacht Club and what it takes to put on a race, namely lots of planning and other logistical work. In addition, you better appreciate the bay for the crazy mix of micro-climates and conditions that it has to offer sailors.
Finally, you wonder if you’ve pushed yourself enough during such an experience, and when — with your freshly bruised limbs (and/or ego) — you might be up for another nautical competition.
For those who are interested, future races in Encinal’ s Jack Frost Series are scheduled for next year on January 23, February 27 and March 27.
Note: Photo courtesy of http://www.norcalsailing.com 2009.