Connor Wins the "Battle of the Bay"
This year's Battle of the Bay in San Francisco was an epic grind. The day started off beautiful without a cloud in the sky and the conditions were ramping up to be super fun for the afternoon with some wind. It was going to be a full day with the a 8 mile distance race in the morning and then a 4 mile course race in the afternoon.
I showed up to the beach, got my race Jersey and my Starboard Sprint 21 1/2 ready for battle. We could only choose one board for both races and the Sprint was the perfect board. Not crazy wind but enough to create some bumps for the Sprint to hunt down.
It was a beach start straight out to a left shoulder turn and like always I lined up on the left side of the starting line to make sure I had good priority going into the first turn. Unfortunately it didn't go as planned with both Mo Freitas and I dropping our boards at the start. We both had to start a few board lengths behind the group and turn the first buoy in the top 20. I knew it was a long race so I wasn't freaking out, but I knew the top five would be trying to break the group. So I made my move heading up towards the Golden Gate bridge and pulled out of the train with my head down heading towards the front pack. I was able to catch the top four guys before we turned the south tower and headed down toward Alcatraz.
After we turned there were a lot of bumps and the top four, including me, started to pull away. I had a good pace, trying to save energy and still keep up with the lead guys. A little bit before Alcatraz we slowed down, which allowed the second group to catch up to us. So we rounded the island with a big train and I didn't want to be anywhere near this group for the final sprint!
I stayed in second place waiting for my opportunity to break the pack and when I was about halfway to the final buoy I caught a few bumps and started to push hard. Michael was able to keep up to the second to last turn around this concrete buoy turn! I whipped the sprint around and had a board length lead going into the last turn. I didn’t let off the gas until I was seconds away from the beach and ran up in First Place.
I was super stoked to win the distance race, in not my ideal conditions, but there was one more race to go!
I had a few hours to kill before the course race so I hydrated up on my Harmless Harvest Coconut Waters and Hammer Nutrition and was ready to go.
The women went first, so I took some notes on the course and planned out my strategy. Once all the men were lined up, I made sure to have a good grip on my board this time and I had a great start. I was second to the first buoy and sprinted upwind. The wind definitely picked up and now there were some epic little bumps and glides.
I made the turn to the next buoy first, because then I was heading downwind and wanted to make a gap right away. I turned my Sprint as quick as possible and started paddling hard downwind looking for bumps. I was able to create a small gap before the next turn and had some clean water going into the next buoy.
It was a right turn straight downwind and I knew that I had to push hard to catch bumps, but at the same time save some energy for the gnarly upwind grind. So that's exactly what I did and was able to create a comfortable lead.
This course race had a Super Lap (which is a shorter lap that you can do once during the race) and two people took that Super Lap while I was heading downwind and came out in front of me. It was good to have some people in front, so that I had someone to chase.
I pushed hard and caught up to second place before heading back downwind. The next guy took a little more energy to catch up to, but I took advantage of all the bumps and glides to the most downwind buoy turn. I got on his inside and went nuts going upwind to start my third lap. This was also the lap I decided to take the short cut or super lap and this gave me an even bigger lead on second place. On the fourth and final lap I was able to just have fun and take everything in - coming in First Place - before my biggest race next weekend.
Winning both races and the overall was super cool - but winning against such tough competition was a huge confidence builder going into next weekend.
I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Salt Life, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Futures Fins, Harmless Harvest Coconut Water, Dakine, Hammer Nutrition, GoPro, Garmin, Waterman’s Sunscreen, OnIt Pro, UB Super and Hi-Tech Sports.
Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and all the volunteers. Great Event!! Aloha, Connor Baxter
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