Breeze On! The first race in the West Sound Sailing Association 2015 series charged off the line with 20 knot winds, sunny skies, 50+ degree temps and even the snow line was down in the Olympic Mountains creating a stellar backdrop – Just 14 boats made it out to race on this heavenly day. Maybe it was the small craft warning that kept them at the dock, maybe it was too warm or sunny to be racing in February, or maybe they just had to mow their lawn… Whatever the excuse was that they couldn’t come out racing Saturday February 28th wasn’t good enough as they missed what could possibly be the best mid distance race of the year!
The Jim Depue Memorial race, hosted by one of the West Sound Sailing Association clubs, Port Madison Yacht club gets going off Point Monroe, the Northeast tip of Bainbridge Island. With the Northerly breeze the first mark in the course, after an upwind drag race, is set inside Jefferson’s Head, rounding to starboard. Then the fleet runs off across the sound to West point, again to Starboard before turning back south and crossing the sound again to the red nun off Eagle harbor and finally returning to Point Monroe for the finish, a distance of just over 16nm.
By the 10am start time the winds were Northwesterly, coming over the bluff and gusting into the 20 knot range. The race committee had a set a full port tack line, no chance of crossing her on Starboard and to make things even more interesting the RC boat (amazing PMYC even has an RC with its 150 person membership) anchored just off the shallowest part of Point Monroe! Leaving only about 90’ below them before you were in 8’ of water on a lee shore – true Island fashion. Not a big deal for the first two classes, as only 5 boats arrived to race in class 2 and 3 but for the 9 boats in class 1 things became a bit tight.
Class 3, the cruising class, starts first and the Rawson 30 Alcyone tried for the starboard tack with the Catalina 30 Annica easily crossing them on port and left Alcyone struggling to bring their bow around in the building breeze before finally getting her across the wind and laying out on port tack for the drag race to Jefferson’s Head. The two boats in class 2 were a bit more prepared and easily handled the port tack line leaving division 1 to figure out how to deal with the short odd starting line with a few more boats.
Skippers in the final start had a choice of dipping the start from starboard tack, but run the risk of getting closed out above the line. They could barge the pin end on starboard and run across the line before tacking to port after the gun or they could risk the shallow waters below the committee boat and come in for the port start. Not an easy choice for anyone out there and dictated more by how much the draft on your boat was than which start was more favored. As you can guess, the big boats lined up for the tight starboard approach and the little boats came at it from port. The new J/88, out for her demo race, came in to the port approach a bit early and couldn’t run down and burn time because of the lee shore, so they pointed their bow right down the line with the C&C 43 Carmanah frothing up the line directly at them – a nervous few seconds. Thankfully for everyone the starboard approach was too hard and the port boats were able to harden up and cross the line cleanly while the big boats on starboard tacked over behind them before settling in towards Jefferson’s Head.
The Northwesterly breeze let boats trim for a one tack drag race towards where the first mark, a large yellow inflatable, is supposed to be – 0.5nm west of the pier on Jefferson’s Head. I say supposed to be because, well, it wasn’t there. Boats searched all over the area it was supposed to be in and found nothing. The classes that started earliest and went to the right spot finally gave up and turned east along the beach while the larger group in division 1 barreled up their transoms and found the same no mark shoreline.
Quickly figuring out the problem, Jan & Skip Anderson aboard the ever present photo boat positioned themselves off the pier on Jefferson’s Head and acted as the mark – once again saving the day for us Puget Sound sailors. The boats that had started at the pin end in the third start or reached off early away from where the mark was supposed to be now had the advantage, able to harden up a little in breeze and round the photo boat while leaving the boats that had gone to the published mark location on a beam reach in the light air under the bluff struggling to get to the photo boat mark. Only the light nimble Sierra 26 recovered from starting well, sailing for the right mark location and then scooting off in the puffs much faster than everyone around them and rounding second behind the Farr 395 Ace in division 1.
The Hinckley, Skye, got around first for the cruising class and found themselves slowly reaching away from the bluff in its light and puffy wind shadow while the, still available, J/88 set their chute and slipped right past them in a solid puff as the fleet headed off into the sound trying to find some consistent breeze again. Wind that was tough to find with the NW’erly wind direction and it wasn’t until the boats were a mile or so from West point that the wind finally settled in at a solid 20+ with puffs pushing over 25.
One particularly good puff found the little Sierra 26 Dos in the middle of a gybe and after a uniquely Sierra type masthead chute trimming roll left the swim team once again down and in the water doing their own personal version of self-righting to get their boat back up again (get yourself up on the keel and right this sucker type of self-righting…). Once again the photo boat saved the day and acted as the fleets rescue boat, holding station as they righted the boat, pulling out at least one crew and escorting them back into Shilshole marina, fortunately, just a short distance away.
At about the same time, but a little further back on the course, the new to the owner FT10 Tigger spent some quality time on their ear learning the difference between ultra-light asym boats in breeze and the old rolly sym boats – don’t come up when things get sketchy, come down and run her out. Always a steep learning curve when you make the switch, especially on a windy day for your first race. The crew aboard Tigger wisely made the choice after a few good wipeouts and dropped their chute, licked their small wounds and retired from racing before anything really bad happened.
Casualties avoided the rest of the fleet sailed by, saw things were under control and continued on to round West point and then those that were able to hold their chutes absolutely Lit-It-Up! 3 boats held their chutes from West Point to Eagle Harbor. The leading boat, the Farr 395 Ace, held and reported some good rippin’ at 16 knots, the J/88 (she’s for sale b.t.w.) got some sustained rides at 16 pushing over 18 in the puffs and the J/80 Jolly Green, reporting sustained 12 to 13 with some good rides over 14 knots. At one point, on the J/88, as they were absolutely lit up (I can’t emphasize lit up enough) the chute trimmer looked back at is wife and yelled out “Why wouldn’t you want to buy this boat!” Showing his ear to ear teeth baring smile. It was that windy of a day and that perfect of a wind direction for these 3 retractable sprit asym boats to excel and extend on the rest of the fleet that chose to drop their spins and do the run from West Point to Eagle harbor under main and jib.
Safely around the red nun at Eagle Harbor the now 12 boat fleet began the long beat up Bainbridge Island with winds still in the 20’s and just the beginning of the ebbing current. Leading everyone and extending out in the front was the big Farr, charging to weather with the little J/88 nipping at their heals while behind them the J/35 Great White and the Beneteau 40.7 Starblazer were finally at their perfect point of sail and were powering up the leaders transoms. Big waves, great breeze, wet crew, sunny skies and snow covered mountains out on both sides while the fleet sailed by downtown Seattle before turning west for the finish off Point Monroe – it couldn’t have been a more spectacular day.
The Cruising Class was taken by Bill Walker and crew aboard his beautiful blue Hinckley Skye. Finishing first in his class and correcting to almost 12 minutes in front of the second place boat Anicca, Richard Kerby’s Catalina 30, leaving 3rd to Devon Blankenship’s Rawson 30 Alcyone. Class 2 was taken by Gary Siebert’s Ranger Jabez, finishing first in class and correcting just under a minute in front of the second place boat, Gary Davis’ Thunderbird Swan. Class 1 was taken by the fun loving sailors aboard the Farr 395 Ace, owned by Peter Schorett. Ace was able to hold off the quick little J/88 and even extend a bit on the final windward leg to the finish and hold on after crossing the line first and correcting by less than minute over Sail Northwest’s J/88, sailed by Ben Braden and crew. Third went to the only other boat to fly their chute all way downwind, the J/80 Jolly Green, owned by Mike Poole, correcting just under 3 minutes back from the J/88 for 3rd place.
Full results can be found at portmadisonyc.org
More of Jan’s great pictures can be found for purchase at janpix.smugmug.com