The 2019 Master Mariners Regatta experienced a reassuring surge in participation, following years of concerning decline. “Racers saw quintessential San Francisco Bay breezes and early summer afternoon sun,” says Cory Lancaster, vice commodore and 2019 regatta chair. Notable entrants included Mayan, the storied Alden schooner; Macora, a gaff cutter recently relocated from Los Angeles; two Kettenburgs; and a number of smaller boats. “Also in attendance was nearly every large sailing charter vessel on the Bay, plus the locally designed Birds and Bears. A new non-competitive parade class was also introduced this year.” Hosted on Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 25, the event commenced with a flag-fluttering boat parade along the western end of the San Francisco Cityfront.

The start line between Golden Gate and St. Francis Yacht Clubs sent off the Bear boat division at 12 noon. Russell Katz and family are caretakers of #35, Renegade. Under his leadership, this 1946 beauty has run the regatta course since 2011. “Bears are the smallest boat in the regatta at 23 feet LOA, but comprise the largest single class to participate. The past several years we have had between five and nine boats in the race,” he says. “Things are always close and exciting, with various different boats winning the Gerry O’Grady trophy for the Bear class.” Most recently, the prize has rotated among Huck Finn, Magic, Chance, Kodiak and Panda. For 2019, recognition goes to Tim Maloney on Magic.

Continues Katz, “Regatta conditions were perfect — just enough wind to move us along nicely, but not so much that you got beat up. We had a good race other than some spinnaker issues during the hoist. Conditions prevented us from being able to fly it, but we still finished only 10 seconds behind the second-place boat, which did fly its spinnaker. Not too bad for a boat that was in the boatyard two days before.”

Renegade sailed lean, with only skipper and mate; normally the entire Katz clan is onboard. “Since 2011, the kids have been racing with us. Once the boat was in sailing condition, and Christine and I felt they were old enough to participate, the youngsters hopped onboard.” Wooden boats have always been a passion of Katz, who notes that his wife and kids are very supportive. “They have helped get the boat to where she is today. The kids have done anything from reefing out the seams during her original refit, to crewing, sanding, and varnishing.”

In the four-boat Marconi 3 division, sailing a 15.6-mile course, was the IOD Youngster. Jennifer Thornton, all smiles experiencing her first San Francisco Bay classics boat race at the tiller, says, “Sailing is so much fun when you are that close to the water. You really are in the elements! Luckily water conditions were not too choppy for our mostly reaching day.” Owner of a Schock 35 at Vallejo YC, she enjoyed the day’s proximity to other boats. “We came in second — a surprise because we did not see Folly all day.” Folly finished first, earning the Home- ward Bound perpetual trophy. “Versus our competition, we were able to round more closely to the marks, then come out to the windward side. One thing I’ve learned from Ron Young, owner of Youngster, is that the smallest amount of sail trim makes a significant difference on a boat like this — down to one fourth or even one eighth of an inch.”

Brian Boyd competed in the Ocean 2 class (yachts over 30 feet to less than 40 feet on deck with an NC PHRF rating), alongside three sister Farallone Clippers and two other vessels. At the helm of Hana, he sailed with a crew of seven — most of whom he had met at a Latitude 38 Crew Party.

“We completely blew the start and were actually west of the committee boat, pointing toward the Golden Gate, when the gun went off,” says Boyd. “As a result, Hana was dead last over the line. We made up ground by the time we rounded Blackaller Buoy by staying high of the mark.” From that point forward, Hana hung close to Mistress II and Neja, trading places back and forth the rest of the afternoon. a led the fleet east of Angel Island. “I gave back that lead on the beat to Harding Rock. Neja stayed ahead of us on the downwind run to the finish and took first place.”

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Mistress II and Hana continued to switch leads, often just a few feet from each other as they approached the sea wall at Treasure Island. “At the turn toward the finish we lost the spinnaker sheet shackle and Mistress II pulled ahead. But then they had a kite over-ride, so we passed them about 200 yards from the line. This was first time Hana finished number one in the FC fleet!”

A newer gem on the course, Beau Vrolyk’s Mayan was previously owned by rock star David Crosby. Crosby sailed her throughout the Caribbean islands, via the Panama Canal to Sausalito, and then to Tahiti and Hawaii.

This cockeyed spinnaker configuration on ‘Freda B’ actually seems to be working. © 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

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