Olympia Chamber of Commerce employees were scrambling all over town Monday morning, February 23rd – scrambling to collect and put together all the amazing images and reports from Saturdays Olympia Yacht Club Toliva Shoal race – “A Chamber of Commerce day,” laughs Garry Greth. The weather was exactly as predicted by Northwest Yachting’s Bruce Hedrick in his pre-race weather blog (nwyachting.com) – “This should be an absolutely banner weekend for boaters and that will be especially true for the sailors doing the Toliva Shoal Race out of Olympia…it looks like this could be one of those great Toliva Shoal Races where the tide, wind and weather will all come together to produce what should be a great race.” With sun, 50+ degree temps, current going the right way and winds out of the north at 12 to 16 knots 63 boats arrived for Saturday mornings start.
Confusion can abound at the beginning of the south sound races with their compressed 2 class starting sequence and boats can be rushed up to the line a bit unprepared after noticing their flag flying. Yet the conditions couldn’t have been better with the standard starboard lifting tack out of Budd inlet and then getting sucked through Dana passage with the ebbing current. Short tacking’s easy with the current pulling you along and the fleet quickly rounded Johnson point, quicker than many have experienced in the past.
“Aboard Koosah,” says Dan Knowlton, “we knew it was going to be a great race because Jam, the fastest boat in the fleet usually passes us in Dana Passage, but today they passed us just after we rounded the McAlister Creek buoy. That is a difference of three miles from previous years!” Once around the point the Nisqually reach was just that, a tight reach with the NE’erly breeze. Some tried their spinnakers but they didn’t last long on the way to the Nisqually mark before it was time to tack their way up to the Toliva shoal buoy and the turn past prison island, through the Balch passage, and down past devils head towards Budd inlet.
“We rounded the [Toliva Shoal] buoy and set the spinnaker for the run toward Balch Pass where the current would be starting to flood.” Says Dan Wierman, returning to racing on his J/35 Great White. “Often with a northerly, this would be a reach, but with so much easterly, it was a run and the wind stayed fairly steady through the pass… We had a great run down Drayton Pass. At Devils Head, we could see a lot of boats go wide, but with the easterly bent to the wind, we chose a tighter course around Devils Head and reached toward Johnson Point.” Unlike previous years the NE bend to the breeze allowed boats to hold their chutes from Devils Head to Johnson Point and the entrance to Dana Passage before the long port pole run to the finish through Budd Inlet.
One boat cut the beach a bit tight through Balch pass – “They were getting prepared to jibe their spinnaker,” says Dan Knowlton, “just after passing the McNeil Island boat dock and they went aground! Jan and Skip Anderson on the photo boat came to their rescue and nudged them off of the muddy bottom. Once off, Lightly Salted continued sailing since the weather was so great and crossed the finish line and then retired from the race.” Think on that for a few minutes. A Toliva Shoal race that the conditions are so good that you run aground, get assistance to get off and then sail the rest of the course before retiring for accepting assistance! That is a stellar day.
Alas, the winds did begin to die down as the sun set over the Olympic mountains and as the vibrant colors developed along the horizon the few boats left on the course dropped their canvas and motored in towards the clubhouse to join in on their stellar after race party and warm stew their volunteers had been preparing all day. People from around the country often wonder why Pacific Northwest sailor give them a blank stare followed by a sly smile when they are asked “when does your racing season start out there?” Start they say? Well it never ends…
Full results can be found at the Southern Sound Series Website (ssseries.org) but first place in the biggest class on the course, the Non-Flying Sails Cruising Class went to the Ericson 38 Balder 2, owned by Joe & Myra Downing. Correcting over 12 minutes in front of Joel Rett’s Ranger Maranatha leaving Dave Knowlton’s Pearson 36 Koosah just a few seconds back in third. The Flying sails Commodores class was once again taken by that beautiful flat deck Cal 40 White Squall, owned by Roger Dietz. Correcting just a few minutes behind them in 2nd was Gerald Valeske’s big Jeanneau 43 Steamy Windows, leaving Skip Broadhead’s Dufour 44 Integrity another 10 minutes back in third.
Rod Tharp’s F/32 Pax the Space Spider easily handled the one boat Multi-hull fleet, once again taking 1st and last in the one boat performance. PHRF-2 was sailed away with by those well versed sailors aboard William Weinstein’s Riptide 35 Terremoto!. Correcting almost 10 minutes behind them in 2nd was Tucker Smyth’s Synergy 1000 Silver Heels leaving 3rd, another 3 minutes back, to Ron Holbrook’s big J/133 Constellation. Charlie Macauly’s G&S 1 ton Absolutely once again took the hotly contested PHRF-3 by just over 6 minutes after correction on Denny Vaughn’s Benneteau 40.7 Bravo Zulu. Another 2 minutes back in third was the Brian White’s J/35 Grace E.
The little ULDB class, PHRF-4, was once again taken by Brad Butler and crew aboard the Sierra 26 Dos. Over 8 minutes back in 2nd was the Olson 30 Sidewinder owned by Brad and Mike Jones, leaving 3rd to the modified Soverel 33 Flim Flam owned by Fred Crietz & Dave Martins. The small PHRF-5 class was won by the mighty Muffin, a Santa Cruz 33 owned by Garry Greth. Correcting less than 2 minutes behind them in 2nd was the always fast J/29 Slick owned by Bob Mayfield leaving 3rd to Scott Schoch’s Merit 28 Nirvana. PHRF-6 was won by Peter Stewart’s Cal 33 Cherokee, doing something not often seen by leaving Dennis Clark’s J/27 LXII a few minutes behind him in 2nd and J. Rosenbach’s Beneteau 35s5 Bodacious almost 5 minutes back in 3rd. Finally PHRF-7, another small 5 boat class, was once again taken by that slick sailor, Mark Harang, and his crew aboard the Evelyn 26 Nimbus. Laying down a dominant performance by correcting over 28 minutes in front of the next boat in their class and having the best corrected time in the race Nimbus left 2nd to Tom Davis’ San Juan 28 Suddenly and 3rd to Roger Edwards Ranger 32 Kaitlin.
Just one more race left in the 2014/2015 Southern Sound Series, the Gig Harbor Yacht Clubs Islands Race, March 21st. See you there.
Photo’s by the Amazing Sean Trew