Life-changing experience leads to yacht racing 

Shana Bagley hadn’t sailed before she was nearly run over by a Muni bus.

Now the state prosecutor is taking part in an around-the-world yacht race that’s on a two- to three-week pit stop in San Francisco.

Bagley is a crew member of the California — one of the identically manufactured 68-foot yachts being navigated through 35,000 miles of open ocean in a 10-month voyage.

Like half of the amateur sailors that take part in the points-based Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, which has been held nearly every two years since 1996, Bagley is taking part in just a handful of the race’s seven legs.

The conditions can be treacherous and risks are real.

The Cork struck a reef in the Java Sea in January and was abandoned.

More recently, while sailing to San Francisco, the California tipped over in 70-knot winds, drenching the crew and equipment, snapping the yacht’s mast and injuring a crew member.

“Condiments were all over the wall,” said Chris Sheldon, who was “asleep with one eye open” when the nighttime squall struck.

“We didn’t know what was working and what wasn’t, so we set off our [emergency-position-indicating radio beacon],” Sheldon said.

The Coast Guard responded to the distress call and dropped emergency supplies to the crew and airlifted the injured sailor to safety.

Other teams shared fuel to help the California chug into The City, where hundreds of amateur sailors are staying in hotels and on their yachts on a scheduled break.

The race is bringing attention within The City to sailing — which Golden Gate Yacht Club Commodore Marcus Young said could help San Francisco secure the America’s Cup race.

“These types of things tend to help build momentum,” Young said.

The California is being repaired in Richmond, and when it sets sail, which is forecast for April 16, Bagley will be on board. She raced with the team last year before returning home to Walnut Creek and now she is preparing to sail with the fleet to Jamaica and then on the final leg to the United Kingdom.

The Marin native hadn’t sailed before a sunny December 2006 day in downtown San Francisco reminded her of her mortality, prompting her to attempt challenges she had long dreamed about, including sailing.

“The little walk sign went on and I stepped into the street,” Bagley said. “The guy standing next to me stuck his arm out and I looked up and a bus went by. Had I stepped fully into the street, I would have been gone. Life is too short.”

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

Competitors left England in September and just completed the fifth of seven legs.

9: Yachts left in the race
160: Competitors currently in San Francisco
40 percent: Competitors that hadn’t previously sailed seriously
$50,000: Cost to take part in all seven legs of the race
312 days: Time founder Robin Knox-Johnston took to sail the world in 1960s
308: Time fleet is expected to take to sail the world

Source: Clipper Round the World

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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