On Saturday, Feb 21st, the oldest yacht club in the state of Washington kicked off the 2015 racing season. Not quite living up to its Foul Weather part of its name, but blustery nonetheless, the Girts Rekevics Memorial Foulweather Race/Cruise to Friday Harbor got underway at 0930 sharp on the GPS, just off the tanker docks near Anacortes, where no one was watching because they are all currently on strike. 18 intrepid sailboats tucked in a reef, shortened their headsails and hauled on the sheets for the beat into Guemes Channel.
The current was on flush mode so it was not long before the trimaran, Kinetic Ki, skippered by Bill Bowman lit the afterburner to lead the way into “Hell’s Half Acre” where Guemes, Rosario and Bellingham Channel all meet to stir up quite a chop. The waterline fetch to Thatcher Pass soon had eventual class and overall winners Jah Mon and Avalanche showing their transoms to the fleet in the early going. The ferry riders in the group enjoyed the balmy weather above the waves as competitors sought shelter in the lee of the retired stalwart vessels formerly of the Seattle Bainbridge and Bremerton runs.
The great Rosario escalator caught many in the fleet unaware and they had to tack upwind to regain Thatcher Pass. The epic battle to get through the gateway of Thatcher pass had more than a few crews wondering what if they would have chosen Peavine Pass at the North end of Blakely instead? Then, of course, Blackfoot had to come blazing down from a Northerly position with her kite up and in a backeddy to scare the living daylights out of the entire fleet before she too entered the dosey doh extravanganza at the entrance to the pass now involving about a dozen boats – including the former race leading trimaran.
The Catalina 42 Jah Mon complete with breadmaker, solar panel, 6 kinds of cheese, young vixens, and a full head of steam eased her way around the South tip of Blakely Island put her rail down and left about as much wake behind her as the aforementioned ferries. The Conway kids ably assisted by our Northern brethren from land of ice and hockey were next to blaze West aboard the J-30 Celebration. As J-Bob (Bob Ross of Sail Northwest) would tell you, if you can find a better value in a 30′ boat with a heater and a head door – “Buy It!”
The rest of the herd soon found a weak spot in the fence and poured through in mass and were again in the race. Back to reefs and shortened headsails for the group and by now, fingers were as cold as the hanks and furlers were starting to look like the boatshow special might have been a wise choice. On towards Upright Head for the slide to the finish, the full size kites were the proper call but some crews were just about ready for a cup of courage from the thermos before any more serious sailing nonsense.
Race organizer Chris Roethle, with at least two generations of family on board, tested out the limits of his favorite kite and challenged J-Bob’s advice as his Islander 30 churned up the water and extended her lead over the third place boat to nearly 20 minutes. By now the finish line boat was in place and Brad Blymeyer was ready to greet the arriving crews with a friendly toot on the horn and a smile. Festivities started on the dock in the warm sunshine, bets were paid off, and the stories grew taller as the shadows grew longer. Later it was off to the warm welcome of the San Juan Island Yacht Club and a large helping of lasagna, just like mama used to make. Door prizes including free haulouts were mostly won by the Oregon contingent aboard the Sallie Goodin, our only competitor from Willamina, OR, but, they were willing to share their custom baked cookies in the exchange.
In the end the AYC would especially like to thank the boats that made the deliveries from Orcas, Oak Harbor, and Bellingham and of course those favorite cousins from the SNSYC that meet us each year. Girts’ spirit of fun and adventure along with his competitive streak are alive and well!…:)
Owner Northwest Rigging
Photo’s by Colin Emsley