Howling Good Fun at the 2008 Great Pumpkin!

The weather was beyond fabulous. Saturday was ten knots of breeze, 75°F, shorts and tee shirt weather. We got three really competitive races, and positions in the middle of the fleet were really scrambled. Del Olsen (our great PRO from Huntington) was in charge, so the start line was square and the timing was bang on.

Layla and UFO battled it out with a total delta between first and second of three lengths combined for all three finishes (last race must have been about six inches). Trish skippered the first race, and we split helm duties 50/50Too Tuff deserves huge props for their third place, staying close and battling UFO and Layla in the third race. Also, welcome to U20 racing to our new members Jay, Michael, Drew and their teams. The Bay Area fleet is strong.

The GP party was epic, with a great band called the California Beach Boys. Team Layla danced until the band went home. The second day of the Great Pumpkin features a 12.5 mile pursuit race, with reverse handicap start, running around Alcatraz and Angel Island in either direction. We on Layla were trying to figure out the conditions when we saw the fog being sucked in the Gate with a tendril of white whisps stretching all the way to the Bay Bridge. This means wind, and we sure got it!

Most of the U20 fleet chose a clockwise course and headed into the fog toward a hidden Alcatraz. As we passed below Point Blunt the pressure gradually built and we depowered our sail plan one control at a time. Then it really got nasty! By the time we got to The Rock the hammers over Alcatraz were bombing the fleet with over 25 knots. The Layla lightweights (460lbs.) furled our jib briefly as we got launched around the island by the ebb into 30 knots of KAPOW! The two Moore 24s ahead of us were getting slammed all the way onto their beam ends by the gusts.

When we looked back, the pursuing U20s (UFO, Too Tuff and Madison) seemed to have gotten hung up in the hole behind Alcatraz, and Layla got away from her following pack. The jib reach over to Angel was about as much breeze as we could handle with both the white sails. We were sitting all the way in Layla’s stern to keep the bow out, and were flogging the whole main A LOT. Keeping Layla from rounding up required careful steering. As the wind moved aft approaching Raccoon Straits we got some incredible wave rides. Epic SF Bay sailing!

We switched drivers to Trish and set the kite. She made a great current read, and we stayed as close to Angel Island as we could sail and keep in the breeze (I am no longer surprised by Trish’s ability to read the tide—she grew up on the Deben River in England, where the current is often six knots, and the tide up to 18’). The counter current we got hitched into helped us pass about twenty boats in the Strait.

The most glorious sight in the world had to be looking back up Raccoon Straits and seeing about 150 spinnakers filling the entire channel. As we headed toward Richmond the pressure went light and we chased Ben Landon’s Thompson 650, and reeled in a bunch of Moore 24s, a Cal 40, Gordy Nash’s Franken Boat and everyone else except the huge Tuki 40’ catamaran. Then the wind went forward, helping us even more as the symmetric kites wobbled and collapsed. Trish worked waves aggressively as little Layla fought to keep up with 40-footers, a D Class catamaran and most of the Rock Stars in the fleet.

Fabulous racing at the Great Pumpkin!

Written By Tom Burden
Layla #92