June 6, 2015 - Delta Ditch Run 2015

by John Ross ~ GOTCHA

Another fabulous Delta Ditch Run (DDR) occurred on June 6, 2015. It was the 25th Anniversary of this 67.5 mile downwind gybing and speed exhibition. Winds were from 14 knots to 32 knots while the skies were clear. Temperatures in the 80s kept everyone warm as the 153 racers headed inland.

SC27 boats that joined the fray this year were Dynaflow (Brian Piazza), Don Quixote (Craig Smith), RIO (Tom Faraola), Worry Knot (Joe Wagster), Mistress Quickly (Evan Diola), Your X (Jon Kim) and Giant Slayer (Dave Garman), who drove down from Seattle!

The ECHO Division (SC27s and a few other similarly rated boats) started just north of the San Rafael Bridge at 10:50 a.m., immediately following the Express 27 fleet and just ahead of the Moore 24 fleet. Mistress Quickly got off the line first at the committee boat end in the downwind start and pulled ahead of the fleet by 50 meters as their spinnaker was immediately raised in the 18 knot SW breeze. Dynaflow, Giant Slayer and RIO were not far behind. As the fleet approached the Brothers’ Islands, Mistress Quickly was stretching out their lead while RIO, Don Quixote, Worry Knot and Dynaflow were grouped together for the chase. Not far behind that group was Giant Slayer and Your X. As the boats caught wind waves, they surfed along nicely at speeds of 7 to 10 knots. Gybes were tenuous at times, in fact it was about this time that Don Quixote experienced an unfortunate knockdown and dropped significantly behind the fleet. All RIO thought they could hear was, “Oh, no, ?@!&%$!”

Mistress Quickly worked her way up to windward of the fleet and was closest to the shore. Down the course towards the Carquinez Bridge was a large tanker sitting at the fuel dock near Rodeo, CA. and it looked like the fleet that didn’t head inland now had a distinct advantage. However, Mistress Quickly, with some experience onboard, caught a header along the shore, did not have to gybe and sailed around the ship! As this was going on Worry Knot and Dynaflow worked their way up to RIO as the group approached the ship and the Carquinez Bridge. This is where the waves were the biggest and the winds were in the mid 20s. Very exhilarating sailing began to take place as boats were surfing the steep, short waves and approaching speeds of 12 to 14 knots. During this time some of the SC27s were passing some slower Express 27s and Moore 24s. Flying boats and water were everywhere!

Once the boats passed under the bridge the waves diminished somewhat but the winds were still strong. They came howling over the starboard side hills to the south, so it was critical to watch boats ahead to see when the gusts were coming.

Mistress Quickly was maintaining their lead along the river while the battle for second place heated up. Worry Knot and RIO traded places numerous times as they chased down the lead boat. As this was happening, Don Quixote, who was flying a #3 headsail along with the spinnaker and main, was closing in on the two jousting boats after coming back from a 1000 meter deficit after their earlier knockdown! Craig Smith, Don Quixote’s owner, attributed his speed to lots of spinnaker and main trim practice. Additionally, he used the #3 for stabilization downwind and lowered it on the reaches. He said he had it up and down constantly “like a drape!”

It wasn’t long before Don Quixote, Worry Knot and RIO all were racing bow to bow while they ground down the lead Mistress Quickly had to about two hundred meters. Giant Slayer, Your X and Dynaflow were not too far behind. The winds were now very strong as the crew of RIO observed an Ultimate 20 snap its mast in half to port. On starboard, another boat lost its mast near a Moore 24 that rounded up – carnage!

At this point the Moore 24 Pegasus (received 1st place) passed the group fighting for second place. After a few minutes later, RIO took itself out of the running near mile 48 by death rolling into an unplanned gybe. Two crew members were hit in the head and the tiller cracked during the mishap. After sorting the boat out and determining the crew was okay they limped along with a #3 up, no spinnaker, until the tiller could be repaired.

Taking advantage of RIO’s plight, Worry Knot and Don Quixote continued to chase down Mistress Quickly. Joe Wagster, of Worry Knot, said his crew did a fine job calling waves and catching wakes to enhance their surfing speeds to help them try to catch the leader. It was after the Antioch Bridge and before mark #19 that Don Quixote did indeed catch the leader! Soon after that is when things got a little screwy. When Worry Knot rounded the mark they lost control of their spinnaker and it was flying from the top of the mast like “Old Glory”. Obviously they lost some distance they had gained on Mistress Quickly. Even more untimely was Don Quixote failing to round the mark on the appropriate side! Craig admitted that he wasn’t paying attention, nor could he see the number on the buoy.

Since the river became much narrower as the fleet approached the Stockton Sailing Club, the winds subsided somewhat and the water was much flatter. Chutes went up periodically and then down as the river meandered along in different directions. It was during these conditions that Mistress Quickly regained the lead from Don Quixote, who kept on racing even though he missed the mark. Mistress Quickly was able to stay ahead of Don Quixote until the finish while Don Quixote stayed ahead of Worry Knot.

Upon finishing, Craig Smith, of Don Quixote, reviewed the sailing instructions and discussed mark #19 with race officials. Since he passed mark #19 on the wrong side he then retired from the race. As the official results were sorted out and the Race Committee posted them, it was found that Don Quixote was given 7th place in the SC27 fleet and Worry Knot finished second.

A discussion with Evan Diola, Mistress Quickly, about his success in the race resulted in the following “teaching moments”. First, he nailed the start and immediately pulled ahead of the fleet. Second, he sailed with a well-trimmed boat and kept his sails trimmed well at all times. Lastly, he sailed from corner to corner, which means he sailed less distance than most other SC27 racers. The fact that he did not broach was a credit to him and his crew; Trimmer/Tactician Jotham Fisher Smith, Foredeck Chris Jackson, and Pit Rachel Cherry.

Overall it was a memorable Delta Ditch Run that lasted just over 8 hours for the SC27s. Here are the final SC27 results: Mistress Quickly – 1st, Worry Knot – 2nd, RIO – 3rd, Your X - 4, Giant Slayer - 5, Dynaflow - 6, and Don Quixote - 7. The after race party at the Stockton Sailing Club was extremely fun and well-managed, and they should receive kudos for helping to put on one of the premier races in California. Also participating in a huge manner was the Richmond Yacht Club in Pt. Richmond, CA. Congratulations to both clubs! The SC27 sailors that participated this year are hoping that many more boats join the fray next year and we have our own SC27 fleet of ten or more boats – think about it! ~ JR