Both San Francisco Boardsailing Association and local sailors have had some difficulties in negotiating with the SailGP organizers. The event was run in 2019, and the exclusion notice proposed a finish time of 3:00. However, the organizers made an effort to change the hours until 4:00, after the public comment period had closed. That request was turned down by the Coast Guard at the request of SFBA. Their on-water chase boats also tried to clear windsurfers and kiteboarders from a much larger area than the exclusion zone, and were chastised by the Coast Guard and told to stop.
Last October, we agreed to support extension of the closure hours until 4:00. At that time, they told us that they expected racing to be complete by 3:00, and the hour from 3 until 4 was a contingency provision. We asked in return that they make sure that they directed overflow parking from the Saint Francis Yacht to alternative lots, and not to Crissy. We thought we had reached an agreement. We reasoned that if Crissy parking was not usurped by SailGP spectators, extension of restrictions to no later than 4:00 would allow sailors to get onto the water with still enough time to get in a session. Now they propose an exclusion zone that would last until 5:30, and an exclusion zone for on-water spectators that restricts the water area through most of Presidio Shoal, nearly to the Blackaller Buoy, which would essentially eliminate the potential for sailing on May 3. A smaller exclusion area is proposed for May 2 that would allow sailors to tack upwind and reach the center bay if winds are not too northerly.
Sail GP organizers have explained that “...the reasons behind the request [is]…the possibility of a live international broadcast.” While the Coast Guard has broad authority to regulate on-water activities for safety reasons, it appears that the motive behind SailGP’s abrogation of our agreement is to increase their potential for revenue.
The comment period for this rule-making closes March 30. We urge those with concerns to express them to the Coast Guard. The following is part of an e-mail that has already been sent to the Coast Guard.
For sailors of all kinds, the waters offshore of Crissy Field in San Francisco are one of the wonders of the world. There are literally dozens of races held there each year, from the iconic Big Boat series, to the more prosaic Thursday and Friday night kiteboard and windsurf races. The waters are used by many others, including paddle boarders for their iconic race to Ocean Beach, outrigger canoes, kayaks, and fishing boats. Most of these activities occur without disruption to other users, relying on common courtesy and the right-of-way rules of the water to allow users to participate simultaneously. Only a few events—America’s Cup, Fleet Week, and SailGP seek restrictions on other users.
The right of access to the water is so important in California that it is enshrined in the State Constitution. California has taken a number of steps to assure that access is protected, from establishing the nation’s first coastal program to adopting legislation to encourage development of a Water Trail. Crissy Field has been designated under the Bay Plan as an important recreational beach where access for windsurfing is protected, and has also been designated as a Water Trail site.
I am a board member of the San Francisco Boardsailing Association. Our mission is to protect the safety of our members and ensure that access to the water is protected. We work with other groups such as the Bay Area Sea Kayakers to cooperate in our efforts to protect and increase access.
Crissy Field is particularly important to our members. While kayaks and many other craft can be launched at more than 50 sites along the Bay, and while the Bay Trail is an effort to provide continuous access along the entire Bay, there are only a handful of sites where it is possible to launch a windsurfing or kiteboarding rig. Crissy is particularly valuable because of its sandy beach launch, parking areas at both a City and National Park, and grassy rigging areas.