Hamlin wins 18ft skiffs in San Francisco

The 18′ Skiff International Regatta wasn’t quite a changing of the guard, Howard Hamlin, 53, was the winning skipper for the third time in five years -but if runner-up Samuel (Shark) Kahn, 17, is the wave if the future, that’s fine with Howie.

‘It’s great to see Shark doing so well,’ Hamlin said after wrapping up the title with first and second places Saturday. ‘Maybe it will draw other young kids into the class.’

Kahn passed former winner John Winning, 54, for second place on the last day, and the Australian indicated that he, too, would welcome an influx of youth, although he will continue to campaign around the world ‘if the body’s up to it.’

Saturday saw the lightest winds of the five-day regatta—15 knots over the middle of the course and 19 at the leeward mark—but it was still a test of skills and equipment.

At the start of the day Winning’s Yandoo was the only boat that hadn’t flipped all week, but that distinction vanished midway of the second three-lap race around the 1 ½-mile windward leeward course. While attempting a jibe one of his crew accidentally knocked the tiller out of his hand and over Yandoo went. Winning read that incident as a signal to call it a regatta and head for the beach.

That left the race to Kahn, with Hamlin finding himself second in a race he didn’t even have to sail.

‘We were just trying to stay out of everybody’s way [in fourth place],’ Hamlin said, ‘and then we got a puff downwind and there we were.’

Kahn fell back to third after finishing fourth in Saturday’s first race, but recovered with a purpose to improve on his third place of last year.

‘Second place is awesome,’ Kahn said. ‘The first race we were a little nervous and stressed. The second race we realized we had to sail really hard to put a boat between us [and Yandoo]. We were just kind of lucky. I didn’t know what happened to John.’

Hamlin ended the week winning five of the last seven races, and the victory sustained his spectacular roll sailing a variety of skiffs this summer. He already had won the European 18 Skiff title on Italy’s Lake Garda, finished a close second in the 505 worlds in Great Britain and won the International 14 Nationals at Long Beach—all with different but exceptionally strong crews. This week it was Mike Martin of Newport Beach, Calif. and Trent Barnabas of Australia.

Next month Hamlin will compete in the I-14 Worlds in his hometown of Long Beach, Calif.

‘This was a great series against Yandoo and Shark,’ he said. ‘It was really tight all the time and it was windy all week, which is what we live for.’

The class leaves town for another year with its legend of camaraderie intact. As usual, there were no protests—is there ever?—and during the week even teams that had dropped out of races with broken boats were back down on the beach at Crissy Field helping more fortunate opponents carry their craft up through the sand onto the grass staging area.

Saturday morning Great Britain’s Peter Barton and crew Martin Borrett returned the bowsprit and dagger board they had borrowed from rival Pegasus Racing’s arsenal of equipment, not to mention the boat Hamlin loaned them but by week’s end was too damaged to continue.

Hamlin won his two JJ Giltinan world championships in that boat but figures it’s still repairable as a loaner, if it means putting another competitor on the water.

Barton plans to return.

‘Sailing a skiff on San Francisco Bay is like hiking on the slopes of Mount Everest,’ he said. ‘Sailing upwind and downwind is achievable, but across the wind is the death zone. You can survive there momentarily but you can’t live there.’

Winning had a warning for potential new campaigners: ‘In many classes you can read a book and go out and do it. They’ve made sailing too easy. The difference makes this class special.’

This is one of the class’s three major events each year, along with the JJ Giltinan World Trophy Championship in Sydney and the European champion held last June on Lake Garda in Italy.

FINAL STANDINGS (10 races; two discards):

1. Pegasus White, Howard Hamlin/Mike Martin/Trent Barnabas, Long Beach, Calif., Newport Harbor YC, (2)-(3)-2-1-1-2-1-1-1-2, 11 points.

2. Pegasus Black, Samuel (Shark) Kahn/Cameron MacDonald/Paul Allen, Honolulu, Waikiki YC, 1-2-3-(5)-3-1-2-2-(4)-1, 15.

3. Yandoo, John Winning/Andrew Hay/’Geoff Bauchop, Sydney, Aust., Australian 18 Footers League, (3)-1-1-2-2-3-3-3-2-(DNF/8), 17.

4. DeLonghi, Grant Rollerson/Simon Nearn/Dan Wilsdon, Sydney, Australian 18 Footers League, (DNF/8)-(DNS/8)-4-3-4-DNF/8-5-6-3-3, 36.

5. Vodka Cruiser, Patrick Whitmarsh/Mark Breen/Ben Glass, Alameda, Calif., Monterey Peninsula YC, (DNF/8)-(DNS/8)-7-DNF/8-5-4-7-4-5-4, 44.

6. West Marine, Peter Barton/Martin Borrett/Ian Turnbull, United Kingdom, Royal Lymington YC, (DNF/8)-(DNS/8)-5-4-6-DNF/8-4-DNF/8-DNS/8-DNS/8, 51.

7. Skiff Sailing Foundation White, Chad Freitas/Dan Malpas/Matt Noble, San Francisco, St. Francis YC, (DNF/8)-4-6-(DNF/8)-7-DNF/8-6-5-DNF/8-DNF/8, 52.

Complete results and photos: www.stfyc.com (click successively on Regatta Information … 2006 Racing Calendar … August)

by Rich Roberts