Brassieres on Top at SBYC’s 7th Annual Red Bra Regatta

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San Francisco sister city Taipei, Taiwan, celebrates the “Year of the Bay” with a Heart of Gold.

San Francisco’s Red Bra Regatta is as much fun as its cheeky name suggests. Now in its seventh year, more than 100 women on 14 boats met on San Francisco Bay to share camaraderie and spirited competition, against one of sailing’s most beautiful backdrops. For the first time, the Red Bra Regatta was sponsored by another stunning, yet relatively undiscovered, sailing destination—Taiwan.

No protest flag? Just use your red bra…

The idea for the Red Bra Regatta was hatched from an amusing protest incident in the Jazz Cup, the annual Labor Day weekend race to Benicia, a decade or so ago. A small group of women created an all women’s fleet within the mostly-male fleet, but one of the group’s husbands was serving as the PRO (principal race officer) for the race. As they charged toward the starting line, the opposing female skippers (jokingly) decided to protest her colleague’s “unfair advantage”—using her red bra. Not only was the protest registered, but the uproarious laughter created a commotion that helped the protesting skipper win the race.

The group continued the tradition in the Jazz Cup for the next two years before founding a new regatta at the South Beach Yacht Club to elevate their skills and share in the fun of sailing.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Festive fun at the 2018 Red Bra Regatta! Clockwise from the top: J/105 Airjaldi crew: Janet McDaniel, Gene Harris, Maggie Heilman, Kim Zimmer, Kira Taylor, Jane Hratko, Vicky Haller, (missing: Samantha Clarke and Logan Ashcroft); Suni Petersen is ready to race in her red wig and tiara; a pirate theme for the Catalina 30 Lochan Ora crew: Lisa Donchak, Marcia Bevers (skipper), Crystal Knodel and Cat Reining; and bow girl Lisa Donchak. Photos: Kara Hugglestone/Sail Couture.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Elan 310 Boudicca with her iconic spinnaker (she’s named after the British Celtic warrior queen), Olsen 911S Squirrel, Wyliecat 30 Iseult, classic wooden boat Kaze, and J/32 Rhapsody reaching the mark. Photos: left and top right Eugene Hu, second right and down Kara Hugglestone/Sail Couture.

Padded or push-up?

Red wigs, berets, headscarves, boas, and of course red bras were a dime a dozen on the dock at San Francisco’s Pier 40 the morning of the event. The Taiwan Tourism Bureau provided competitors with beautifully designed technical t-shirts and then it was time to dock out.

The breeze in October in San Francisco can be temperamental and Saturday, October 20, was no exception. The regatta didn’t get underway until 2:00 PM., but it was worth the wait and beautiful to behold. There were 14 incredibly diverse boats on the starting line, from Liz Diaz’s lovely 1956 wooden classic Kaze (“Wind” in Japanese) to the Wyliecat Iseult with its distinctive boom skippered by Fernanda Castelo, Wendy Hanrahan’s Boogie Woogie, a Philippe Starck-designed Beneteau 35s5, and the fast Olsen 911S Squirrel (ex-Elusive) sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and skippered by renowned San Francisco sailor Joan Byrne.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Olsen 911S Squirrel sponsored by Taiwan leads the fleet in the 2018 Red Bra Regatta. Photo: Eugene Hu.

“Joan’s crew is called Heart of Gold and Taiwan is known as the “Heart of Asia,” so it just seemed like a natural connection and one that would be a win-win for everyone,” said Frances Larose of PR Magic, who coordinated the sponsorship on behalf of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. Frances is a member of the South Beach Yacht Club, and she raced in the 2017 Red Bra Regatta.

“Linda Lin, the executive director of the SF TTB, and I were both delighted to have Joan and her crew represent Taiwan. She is such a strong sailor and a visionary for the expansion of the Red Bra Regatta into the future,” Frances added.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

The ladies have a ball showing off their red bras before and after the race, but it’s all business once the warning gun goes off. Photo: Eugene Hu.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Eclipse and Squirrel race along the San Francisco waterfront in the Red Bra Regatta sponsored by Taiwan. Photo: Kara Hugglestone/Sail Couture.

Joan has a reputation for winning San Francisco regattas and having fun doing it—for the past 20 years. It was a pleasure to watch Joan and her talented crew work together on the water, flying a glorious “Taiwan, The Heart of Asia” spinnaker barreling downwind across the Bay.

Because the boats were so different, the performance handicap racing fleet (PHRF) formula was used to calculate the results. Each boat is assigned a handicap based on size and weight, which means the boat that crosses the finish line first doesn’t necessarily win. Once all the boats had finished the race, skippers and crew headed back to the dock and up to the club for the party and the results.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Après race celebrations begin! Top: Team Squirrel, on the cabin top, left to right, Graziella Solinas, Karen Clarkson-Colombo, Collette Meyers, Elizabeth Little, and Joan Byrne (skipper), on the lower rail: Lisa Anderson, Angie Liebert, and Mara Guttman; bottom left, Team Boudicca Lisa Caswell, Cathy Moyer (skipper), Petra Gilmore, Jenna Recupero; bottom right, the Iseult crew: Phaedra Fisher, Patricia Corcoran, Yuning Pathman, Fernanda Castelo (skipper). Iseult was on loan from Larry Mayne, Sequoia YC Staff Commodore. Photos: top, Joan Byrne; bottom row, Kara Hugglestone/Sail Couture.

Yacht club celebration

On the dock and in the yacht club, the champagne bottles were a-popping! We enjoyed a short presentation by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, which is celebrating the “Year of the Bay”—including pristine coastlines, stunning islands, bay recreation, and the beauty of the ocean itself. Taipei and San Francisco are sister cities and also both members of the exclusive “Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club,” made up of only 43 bays worldwide.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Clockwise from top: Later the racers were treated to one of South Beach Yacht Club’s beautiful sunsets; Petra Gilmore in the regatta tech shirt each racer received one from Taiwan; adorable O’Bear was a popular party guest, here with Logan Ashcraft, left, and Collette Meyers, right. Photos: Kara Hugglestone/Sail Couture.

Interestingly, Taiwan is both the world’s largest producer of sailing parts and a spectacular sailing destination. Taiwan spokesperson Frances Larose inspired us with imagery of scenic vistas, creative festivals, gourmet cuisine, and blue water sailing! Taiwan yacht clubs host regattas throughout the spring and summer, with several premiere events in April and May.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Taiwan’s Northeast Coast National Scenic Area is a popular sailing destination, with spectacular and unique sea-eroded land-forms, golden sand beaches, and incredible Pacific Ocean views. Penghu (next to the island of Taiwan) and Dapeng Bay (South of Taiwan, Kaohsiung) are the two top destinations for sailing. Both regions host regular summer regattas. Photo: Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Taiwan’s beautiful Turtle Island, or Guishan Island, which is also in the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, is a favorite destination for whale-watching from April to October. Photo: Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

With Taiwan added to all of our “To Sail” lists, it was time for the awards! Fernanda Castelo took home the top prize in the non-spinnaker division. Fernanda is an inspiring and passionate advocate for the sport. The president of California Inclusive Sailing for sailors of all abilities, she uses a wheelchair on land, but you wouldn’t know that from her skill on the water. Joan Byrne, proudly flying the Taiwan kite, triumphed in the spinnaker division. I love that two such important women sailors won, Fernanda, who makes dreams come true regardless of the challenges, and Joan for supporting the sport of sailing so well and so long. It was a phenomenal day for female empowerment.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Regatta Co-chairs Winnie Kelly, Joan Byrne, and SBYC Rear Commodore and PRO Andrew Lorenzen present the award in the non-spinnaker division to Fernanda Castelo (skipper and President of California Inclusive Sailing with the mission of sharing a love of sailing with people of all abilities), Patricia Corcoran, and Yuning Pathman. Photo: Gerard Sheridan.

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Winnie Kelly and Andrew Lorenzen pose with the winners of the spinnaker division Squirrel: Mara Guttman, Joan Byrne (skipper), Lisa Anderson, Karen Clarkson-Colombo, Collette Meyers, Elizabeth Little, Angie Liebert, Graziella Solinas, and O’Bear.

The event concluded with a delightful raffle of travel trinkets, stadium blankets, and Chinese Zodiac figurines based on birth year, the latter I actually won. My table enjoyed reading about the Asian zodiac and accessing its accuracy, which we agreed was right on—just like the Red Bra Regatta!

red bra regatta taiwan tourism

Red Bra Regatta racers celebrate! Photo: Gerard Sheridan.

Many thanks to the South Beach Yacht Club organizing committee, all the fun-loving and talented competitors, and most of all, to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau for supporting women’s sailing in such a wonderful way.

Make sure to register for “Race for Adventure”–a great opportunity to win a free trip for two to Taiwan! It is a new contest taking place from November 5–25 for adventurous sailors and other travelers from San Francisco, Seattle and Denver. Anyone age 21+ can enter this sweepstakes contest to win a trip for two to beautiful Taiwan, the Heart of Asia. Just go to, watch the short video, and answer the trivia question in the enter-to-win grid below.

This article is sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

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