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Bullship, A Fine RYC Family Tradition

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  • Photoboy
    Story From FP courtesy NorCal Sailing and Lyons Imaging:

    Who will be Vencedore this year? That was the big question in Saturday's fifty-seventh running of the Bullship, the classic El Toro stampede across the Slot from Sausalito to San Francisco. As the boats left the dock at Sausalito Yacht Club to sail to the starting line off the Horizons restaurant, all looked calm, a little too calm for the 0900 start, as the wind was fickle and light. At the loud ten-minute gun before the start (good morning Sausalito!) a wind line quickly formed to the south, finally reaching the start line with perfect timing. And they were off, with the race to be sorted out in the first quarter mile.

    Some starboard-tack El Toros head out for the Slot. ©2010

    The majority of the fleet went right in the shifts while a breakout group went to the left. The leader of the left was Max Fraser, who made the bold move right off the line. He maintained the lead all the way into the Slot. The race across the Slot was a reaching drag race, and, as the boats stretched out the leaders were already heading for the finish less than an hour after the start.

    And this year's winner of the coveted Perpetual BS Race Trophy is the young Max Fraser.

    Be sure to watch our time-lapse video of the race at To learn more, see

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  • Photoboy
    started a topic Bullship, A Fine RYC Family Tradition

    Bullship, A Fine RYC Family Tradition

    Take a home built 7’11” sailing vessel with 49’ square feet of sail and insert a jovial sailor in a calm body of water and you have bliss. Take a hundred of the them and have them mosey out of the calm waters that is Richardson Bay and have them sail all the way across one of the busiest commercial shipping lanes, with 50 degree water, treacherous currents , big wind and bigger fish, you have an instant classic!

    Conceived in 1936 at the Richmond Yacht Club in 1936, based loosely on the Sabot and home made with plywood, the El Toro became the poor man’s way of sailing. But the kids liked them, and their friends liked them and today the El Toro has populated to a 11,000 plus fleet. While carbon fiber and fiber glass have replaced plywood as the construction method of choice, the 3’10” wide 60 lb hulls weight and dimensions have remained the same. With a calendar of events that runs year round, mostly on more protected bodies of water, Let's take a closer look the Big Roundup of the Season The BullShip.

    RYC’s resident bullship den mother, Vikie Gilmour fills us in:

    “Well, it didn't happen last Sat. because mother nature blew us off. We will try again on April 24th.
    The Bullship is about 55 years old. It is always the Saturday after Easter. It started when some friends decided to race each other across the gate on a bet. It grew until one year we had about 130 boats and the Coasties got a little worried and limited us to no more than 100 El Toros and one "Cowship" escort boat for every 4 El Toros on the water.

    There are prizes for the Maiden Voyager, Oldest finisher, first wooden boat, first woman, Tempest Storm, the stripper, used to pass out the trophies and the Buena Vista Cafe used to come down and make the Irish coffee for us at the finish line. Skippers had to be 21 years old to race because one Irish coffee ticket was given to each skipper. Now we have to buy our first Irish so the "committee" lowered the age to 18.

    The committee that runs the event is made up of volunteers that organize the cowships, race committee, trophies, sweatshirt participation prizes, the coast guard permit, supply the safety committee, and keep track of the yearly awards. We have had the majority of the fleet flush out the gate 4 times. Last year we had 39 boats start and 30 of them went out the gate. Only 9 finished. Emmitt Murphy, 40+ years ago landed on Alcatraz when it was still a prison.

    The record for the fastest crossing, 48 minutes, is held by Vaughn Seifers. Hank Jotz has won it 7 times, Jim Warfield 4 times, and Dennis Silva 3 times. I even won it once. Our oldest sailor is Pete Blasberg aged 87 with Duncan Carter only 80 but having raced it more years than anyone else, 44 years. Dennis Silva and I have raced it 41 years. “

    Thanks Vickie! We'll look for your 42'nd crossing on the 24th!

    All images courtesy Peter Lyons,