That was a Salty Day. 20 boats made it out for the 4th race in the Shilshole Bay Yacht Clubs annual Snowbird series. They were blessed with 30+ knots out of the south, balmy 55 degree weather, no rain and even the ebbing current running with the wind to keep the waves down. A big switch from the last two light wind races and enough wind to keep two boats from starting and two from finishing on the windy salty day.
The NFS boats started first once again and headed off to the west into the adverse current and puffy Southeasterly winds, holding a steady 27 knots, gusting up to 33, on the first windward leg. Frog Prints and Image led the fleet south to the West Point buoy as class B lined up to start, well, some of class B lined up to start. More Uff Da and Moments were ready at the gun with Freeflyte somewhere behind but Perfectly Strange was seen off the pin end reefing their main, Morphine was struggling with a stuck jib halyard and the Banana Stand was having problems with their backstay, ultimately causing them to retire. Big breeze has that way of magnifying even the smallest problem.
Class C then hit the line with the addition of Morphine & Perfectly Strange and came barreling up the transoms of the first two classes. The Muffin had a huge head of steam to weather but challenging them all the way to weather mark was the world’s fastest Catalina 36, froth flying off the lee bow. Finally Class D, the big fast class had their go at the line and wouldn’t you know it, the upwind machine, with something like 26 people in the rail, Bravo Zulu, almost caught up to Muffin & Mata Hari, before the weather mark.
More Uff Da, after taking a second try at the mark due to the current, made it around and hoisted their chute first and took off downwind with Muffin hot on their tail and the Catalina and Beneteau just behind them while the sport boats in class D continued to drag their light boats to weather looking forward to making up some distance on the downwind sprint to Spring Beach. But the sprint was short lived; by the time the leaders reached Meadow point the 30 knot southerly had become 6 knots and then very quickly petered out completely and spun to the NW, becoming a light finicky 4 knot drift fest.
A big wind hole developed between the fleet and the leeward mark, as the leaders slowed down and tried to figure out which way to go the fleet following was able converge up into the leaders and learn, from one particular Farr 30 how not to get themselves into a pickle – the inside right shore was the way to go, the outside in the current was bad, very bad. More Uff Da, Muffin & Bravo Zulu leap frogged each other as they searched for the mark at the edge of the wind while watching the Melges 24 Rogue planning up to them as they struggled along towards the GPS coordinates of the mark. At one point Muffin, the current leader, yelled over that they can’t see the mark anywhere but would turn at the coordinates and everyone should follow.
It wasn’t until the boats were less than 100 yards from the mark that it became visible and everyone scrambled to get their sails ready to hoist and douse before turning back to the north in the light southerly breeze. Not light for long though and no more than five minutes into the beat to the finish the winds were back to 25 out of the south with bareheaded jib changes and flogging mainsail reefs all across the bay.
The ebbing current was deceptively strong and boats that held the left side of the course seemed better than those that headed out into the sound. Yet somehow, the little Melges 24 that had made up so much ground on the downwind leg was able to drag their boat to weather finishing just behind the 2 Farr 30s and Beneteau 40.7 to take the win after correction, both in class and overall – well done Rogue. They hit the dock with smiles all over their faces yelling “I think we broke everything today!” Still not raining, still windy and still warm – an amazingly salty snowbird day.