Ronstan San Francisco Bay Challenge 2011 update from USA 4

San Francisco Bay Challenge 2011
Ronstan San Francisco Challenge 2011 update from multiple US Windsurfing National Champion Steve Bodner.

While the Ronstan San Francisco Challenge is always billed as the San Francisco 's Classic baby brother, this year it lived up to beyond anyone's expectations and was one of the windiest long distance races ever run on the San Francisco Bay. With gusts hitting 37-39k on the way back from Berkeley, it was not only a survival outing but a winner takes all drag race between the kiters and the formula boards.

For the first time, outside the Ronstan bridge to bridge race, the kite and formula windsurfers lined up against each other for the ultimate bragging rights on the Bay and it came down to just 14 seconds. One mistake at the end of the race was all it took for kiter, Adam Koch to edge out Xavier Ferlet on his formula board for the top spot.

Analyzing the results, neither the kites nor boards dominated like one would thing but the standings showed a well matched battle between the two crafts with the boards taking six of the top 10 spots and the kites taking the victory but placing another three kiters in the top 10.

This year’s race was not for the faint of heart. The Bay was full of white caps as far as they eye could see by the 1:10 start. We started off with a quick windward leg with the fist mark set even with the presidio shoal buoy. I got a clean start at the boat on starboard knowing it would just be a quick beat before needing to flop over to avoid over standing the top mark. I arrived with Seth just in front of me and Adam on his kite just behind me. We turned the corner and were off blazing downwind through some of the ugliest, gnarliest voodoo chop the Bay could serve up. I realized it was going to be a tough race when I was spending most of the time in my leeward strap just to cope. Below Alcatrez and somewhere above the Berkeley pier I blew my gybe and Percey, Eric and Xavier went blazing past. The front of my board completely pearled into the set in front of me despite gybing like a total sissy. I guess it serves me right. five minutes later another rouge set knocked me right off the back of the board but luckily I was able to water start out of it and only let Ben get by. As we made our way down to the bottom of the Berkeley pier the kites had a good lead but I could see Seth holding on to the top formula position. Suddenly he stopped and was just drifting downwind completely out of the race. It was only later that I found out our best potential for the win had broken his boom and was forced to retire. Time to step it up as this race was only 1/3 over despite already taking a huge mental and physical load on my body.

As I rounded the leeward mark, there were three boards and a few kites in front of me as we began our port tack beat up towards Angel island. I decided for some separation and tacked back crossing the pier and going as far as the leeward edge of TI. I managed to find some flatter water but as soon as I broke the point of TI the port tack beatings began again. It was almost straight into the square chop. I was getting worked but needed to settle things down for the long beat ahead.

I just couldn't find a comfortable position as I borrowed a harness from Seth just before the race after realizing my harness bar was going to break. Harnesses are such a personal thing. Ask any of the top racers and they all have a different harness and swear by its ability. I was just trying to cope but realized my form was just not cutting it. With these long distance races, it’s essential you can find a comfortable position to take the rapture the SF Bay serves up.

I scanned the horizon only to see a white frothy mess the whole way up. I had doubts at even being able to sail back upwind as I was getting stalled out trying to depower and pinch the board up into the wind for control. The wind was gusting well into the mid 30's and the chop was just brutal. I found a nice little eddy around the southern edge of Angel island that scooted me up and worked the shore the rest of the beat up. I knew there was a strong flood on the city front so I wanted to avoid that area at all cost. The gust were strong there and I could see the guys in the lead really having trouble. Unfortunately I took it a bit too far and overs tood the finish. Trying to sail a formula board on a beam reach with a 67cm fin in 30k plus is probably the most uncomfortable position you can put yourself in. No amount of sheeting out works. To top it off their was a second kiteboarding event that just started. 70 plus kiters were on their way downwind directly through our finish line. These guys were not to most accomplished kiters by any means but just looking to have a good downwind run before their charter bus would take them back home from Berkeley. I guess it just adds to the accomplishment of finishing but I was cursing some of those kiters out trying to duck between their lines, boards and flogging kites in the water.

At the end, I managed a respectable sixth place overall with a final time of 1 hour, 23 min and 15 seconds but was well off the pace finishing four minutes behind the top finisher. All and all I was happy to survive this race knowing it took most of the fleet well beyond the normal 1:20 min to finish. The last finisher clocked in a three hours and 34 minutes - an unbelievable time to have spent battling the Bay.

Final results here

Steve Bodner website