Great Vallejo Race keeps on sailing
122nd version of event features 40 more boats than in 2021
Over the last 122 years, many things have changed in Vallejo. One thing that hasn't however is the Great Vallejo Race — a twoday event which kicked off Saturday morning.
The sailing competition, which first began in 1900, usually marks the beginning of the sailing season in the Bay Area. The race most often starts near the Berkeley Circle on Saturday morning, rounds a single weather mark near Alcatraz, and then heads to Vallejo, usually under spinnaker for the remainder of the race.
According to the races's website, the challenge is to maintain speed through the shadow of Angel Island, find the best combination of wind and current past the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and East Brother Light Station, and then avoid the mud shoals on the east side of the San Pablo Bay.
As the boats enter Carquinez Strait, they bunch together, making the turn into Mare Island Strait. Because of the topography of Mare Island, as well as the fact that it sits at the mouth of the Napa River, local knowledge can make the difference as the yachts maneuver toward the finish line on the Vallejo city waterfront. Winds vary from light to heavy and become exceedingly shifty.
This year's event came a little earlier than usual, as the 2021
race was held in August due to COVID-19.
“I think that was the biggest challenge — getting all the sponsors lined up again because it seemed like we had just hit them up only a few months ago,” Vallejo Yacht Club Commodore Jeremy Haydock said. “But I've been really impressed with how the sponsors came out, whether it was Mare Island Dry Dock, Factory OS, Lind Marine, Mare Island Brewery, Southern Land and so many more I'm forgetting. They all made this year possible.”
Haydock said he loved being involved in the race each year, because each year a different person would help run it and put their imprint on it.
The amount of boats competing was also up in 2022, with 118 boats registering, up 40 from 2021. There was 132 boats in 2019 and 165 in 2018 and 2016. Boats and its crews came from all over the Bay Area, whether it be Vallejo, Oakland, Alameda, San Francisco or Sausalito, according to Haydock.
The boats raced in eight different divisions with some of them better quicker than others.
“I think the race numbers are up this year because people are now willing to come out more from the pandemic,” Haydock said. “People want to come out and party and have a good time. We had a little more publicity this year with an article in Latitude 38 so that also helped.”
While much hasn't changed over the past century and a quarter with the race, the one thing sailors did wish could be different was the conditions with the wind on Saturday. Although the day was unlike the overcast August event and featured a bright day without many clouds, there wasn't much wind. Due to this the majority of the boats at the 10:55 a.m. starting time didn't get to Point Pinole until approximately 1 p.m. and into Vallejo until around 1:30 to 2 p.m..
Manning the press and photography boat for the second consecutive year was former Mayor Bob Sampayan.
“For me, this is all about the people,” Sampayan said. “I love the excitement of the race and the camaraderie of the boating population,” Sampayan said. “It amazes me to see the speed of some of the boats and how the crews work so well together as a team. It's not an easy thing to do. If you don't have great teamwork, you don't have a fast boat.”
Sampayan often let out a “wow” when watching many boats tilt to the point where it looked as if it would surely capsize only to keep going at tremendous speeds.
“Nope, no,” Sampayan said, with a laugh. “Can't get me to do something like that.”
The former mayor said watching all the boats was a thrill, but he also looked forward to talking with sailors at the Vallejo Yacht Club at the conclusion of the race.
“I love meeting all the folks, and listening to all their stories,” Sampayan said. “Oh, and what great stories they have to tell.”
For more information on the race, visit https://www. vyc.org/the-great-vallejorace.