In true Snowbird fashion, local sailors took to the water Saturday December 13th looking forward to balmy calm weather on the water with friends – a welcome change from the previous few days of extreme winter storms. Light and balmy it was after the low cloud cover burned off, revealing that oft spotted Norwegian Daystar blinding the sailors as they sailed back south from the windward, errr reaching, err leeward mark that was the southern NOAA buoy.
Up from race one in the series, 35 boats entered for the December race and things couldn’t have been gentler on the racers with just enough wind to get around the course. With a start off the north hamburger at Shilshole, south to the green entrance marker, north to the southern most NOAA buoy, back through the starting area, up to the green entrance marker and then back to the finish. Just enough corners to keep the those active bowmen busy and a long enough course to keep the racers out on the water for enough hours to avoid getting home in time to do any chores – another perfect day.
For the start the racers were met with a 4 knot’ish Southeasterly, those winds coming out of the cut to the east of Magnolia, with the Hamburger to Starboard meaning everyone had to remember to round the marks to starboard, not port. The NFS boats lead the charge and leaned to the right side of the course away from the breakwater. Then the first spinnaker class started with the Moore 24, More Uff Da, nailing the port tack start at the inside committee boat end while the rest of their class struggled to get across the line on starboard before arriving at the breakwater and tacking over to Port. Behind them the small class C ghosted across the line followed by a now 12 boat fleet in class D – crowding the starting area. Being the fast boats, their first task is to sail through the fleet ahead into clear air, then leg out in the second half of the race, not an easy task in the light air on Saturday.
With all the rains of recent, the fresh water current was flowin’ hard out of the ship canal causing a few problems for the boats that didn’t overstand. As their bow pushed into the current a close hauled line that had them just making the mark turned into an extra tack with the bow into the current to get back up around the mark. Huge gains were made by staying high, in the eddy by the breakwater and then reaching down around the mark before gybing over and pointing the bow back towards Meadow Point.
At this point More Uff Da was legging out on the last bit of the Southeasterly breeze but behind them a Southwesterly breeze was creeping up the sound that the later starters captured by sailing out to the West, into the new breeze and strongly ebbing current, surprisingly strong, and most likely due to the large amount of fresh water the rivers are dumping into the Sound. But then the winds began playing tricks all around the fleet. The boats compressed as they hit the front edge of the breezes after Meadow Point, but the boats to the right, inshore, found a building easterly breeze and reached along under spinnaker while at the same time the boats that had gone outside changed to jibs and were tight reaching along on a building Westerly!
All the while the current was building as the fleet moved north, the westerly eventually won out and began shifting back to a Southwesterly and those boats that played the right side too hard ended up realizing they had to sail back upwind, against the current to the mark. A tricky situation compounded by the fact we were rounding to starboard. Boats were coming in on port, rounding the mark into the current stream onto Starboard while boats were crossing their path on a port approach, tricky for everyone. The 2+ knots of ebbing current caused many a boat to round wide as they were swept past the mark leaving others an “open door” if they could quickly swing their bow in, one boat tried this un-successfully, realizing too late that, yes, the bow was clear, but the pole hadn’t been retracted yet – Ooops!
But not much harm done and the Southwesterly piped up enough that a couple of the crew could sit on the high side as the boats made the long sail south against the current. Better breeze on the outside but more adverse current, good eddies on the inside, but a little less breeze, tough choices and different ones for everyone as once again the wind began to lighten and by the time the first 10 or so boats made it around Meadow point the wind dropped down again to just enough to keep moving forward with the crews back hiking on the low side.
The two Farr 30’s snuck away just enough to round the last mark and point their bows back at the finish as the wind died down. Bravo Zulu, gave it her all and rounded a bit back from them, not able to quite keep up with the lightweights in the finicky breeze, but doing ok for being one of the big girls in the pack. The winds steadied out of the south with just barely enough strength to keep the spinnakers filled on the way to the finish, but those boats that hadn’t made it past Meadow point before the wind lessened had a long way to go, against the current, to get to the finish before the time limit ran out. But the sun was out, temps were in the high 50’s and darn it, you were on a boat out sailing in December! Can’t ask for much more than that.
Amazingly, by the time limit, only 4 boats hadn’t made it across the finish line and after a tasty and swarthy happy hour at Anthony’s the RC showed up with the results to a welcome cheer of satiated PNW sailors. 1st place in the NFS class went to the Call 27-2 Backslider , owned by Larry Senn. Finishing over 15 minutes in front of the 2nd place boat Blue Duet, a Bavaria 42, Backslider handily won after correction leaving the Dufour 34 Frog Prints back in third. Class B was won by the start in front, stay in front philosophy of the Moore 24 More Uff Da, owned by Ben and Jennifer Braden. Second went to the Moore 24, Morphine, and third to the Santa Cruz 27, Banana Stand. Class C was once again won by Ken Chin and crew aboard their Olson 911, Kowloon. Only behind them in second by a few minutes was the J/30 Outlaw leaving third to the fastest Catalina 36 in the world, Mata Hari. Class D ended up with the battle of the Farr 30’s with Grady Morgan’s Project Mayhem holding on for first by just 20 seconds over their compatriots aboard Deep Pickle leaving third to the Bavaria Match 35 Vela Volta, correcting just 2 seconds in front of Bravo Zulu to capture the last spot on the podium.