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Bishop Rock 2011

Mon, 29th Aug 2011
By Chalie Jenkins

Bishop Rock 2011
Great Balls of Fire charging after start

The Bishop Rock Race for 2011 lived up to its reputation as the only Southern California Offshore race that really gets you offshore into some of the bigger breeze outside of the Channel Islands. With winds up to 25kts and beautiful starry skies, this was the best race this year that you probably didn’t do.

The race was started at the new time of one o’clock instead of noon at Ship Rock just outside of Two Harbors in Catalina. The breeze was already up to 13kts so the delay on the start wasn’t needed but with the past history of light winds during the start time, the committee decided that they would stick with the time for this year and following years.

Racers Charged out from Ship Rock towards the channel beating to the right hand side of the course for a predicted right shift that was to fill in later in the afternoon. Great Balls of Fire and Geronimo, both J-109’s, stayed closer to the shore on Catalina, working the shifts up the shore and getting a nice push from the accelerated breeze from West End. As the afternoon wore on though the predicted shift filled in and Hasle Free, Rudy Hasle’s J-120, Expression Session, a modified Express 37, and Eclipse, Tim Batchers Carol Marine 1200, took off and shot ahead of the two boats that stayed nearer the island.

At 4:00 pm the fleet reached the first mark of the course, Santa Barbara Island. The wind picked up and the fleet beat into 18 kts, and a short steep chop at the island. Epression Session broke their extension tiller, throwing the boat into a tack and tearing their #3. All boats stayed well clear of the island and the thick kelp beds on the western side and cracked off for an epic blast reach to Bishop Rock on the Cortez Bank. This is where the race gets interesting. This leg of the course can vary from year to year from a spinnaker reach, to a blast reach, with headsails or Jib Tops. This year was a Jib Top reach to the rock and with the high winds at 25 kts and maybe even a little higher, it was a challenge for the boats in the fleet. Tim Batcher the owner of Eclipse the CM1200 said the boat was a real bear at that angle of sail, and with tiller steering, was real workout to keep on course. Great Balls of Fire went with their Code 0 and blasted down the course but couldn’t lay the mark with that sail and did eventually change to a #1 still keeping up a good pace.

The miles on that leg clicked off quickly in the consistently strong breeze, and the fleet got to the rock at roughly around 2 am. A couple of the boats misjudged the size of the kelp bed around the rock and got tangled up in it. It’s a very spooky experience to be tangled up in a kelp bed 100nm from shore in the dark all the while knowing there is some dangerous water around! All the boats managed t round safely and got to the final leg from the rock to home.

This leg has proved over the years to be a different sort of challenge than getting to Bishop Rock. The home stretch starts out in the same sort of breeze as the reach to the rock but as the fleet gets closer to San Diego the breeze gets lighter and can require a lot of patience. The wind held to at least 10 kts until just a couple of miles from the finish.

Some other sites besides sailing showed up on the course. Great Balls of Fire came within 100 feet of a mother blue whale and calf. A little un-nerving but they passed safely by.

As the fleet came in close to Point Loma, the wind shut off completely and some of the boats drifted into the finish. Eclipse sat becalmed for the last two miles and watched as Hasle Free reeled them in for the corrected victory. Eclipse crossed the line first to finish closely followed by Hasle Free who took the overall victory. Great Balls of Fire and Expression Session were only separated by 100 yards as they came into Buoy 1 for the finish. Expression Session had just enough breeze to ghost in to the finish, and that proved to be the last breath of air for the day. It took another 12 minutes for Great Balls of Fire to slat into the finish under main only and absolutely to no breeze. With no current at the mark luckily for Great Balls of Fire, they were able make slow progress over that last little bit and managed to get third place in corrected time. Geronimo, only three miles back, took another 3 hours to finish the race in the dead air that surrounded Point Loma.

This turned out to be a very close race on corrected time with the first three boats finishing within 12 minutes of each other.

Bishop Rock is a tremendous race, and this year was a stand out with great breeze over almost the entire course. Participation was down a bit this year having been scheduled against the Long Point race. This will change next year and participation should be back up for this great race.

Results on Corrected time: 1st place Hasle Free, 2nd place Eclipse, 3rd place Great Balls of Fire, 4th place Expression Session, 5th place Geronimo.

This article was posted on Mon, 29th Aug 2011