From the Fujin Flip

From the Fujin Flip

Fujin is of course a favorite, and several Northwest sailors are lucky enough to race on the high performance Paul Bieker catamaran. In the Caribbean, no less. So it was a little scary when the news came through that Fujin had capsized in the Caribbean 600, but fortunately the news came with the rather important detail that all were safe.

Brad Baker

Brad Baker took the time to chat with me between flights on his way home this evening. It was pretty clear that while the capsize certainly caught everyone’s attention, the level of preparation and the skills of those onboard made the whole thing a lot less traumatic than it could have been.

At about 2200 local time Fujin was in a very competitive position, rounding Saba Island while avoiding a nearby reef. Baker was in the salon helping navigate – at ~20 knots there’s not a lot of room for error. It was puffy and shifty, and when a big puff of about 35 knots hit, combined with a big lift, Fujin flipped, and quickly. Dumping the main in such a situation is of course the primary way to depower, but it happened so quickly, Brad said, “I’m not even sure we could have dumped the main fast enough.”

While all the details are not clear, Baker remembers thinking “Ah, crap, we’re going to tip over. My thought wasn’t about survival at that point. My thought wasn’t about survival, it was we weren’t going to finish the race.” Brad and Mike Leslie and owner Greg Slyngstad migrated to the back of the boat where Fritz Lanzinger was already atop of the overturned boat and was able to help the others up. Personal EPIRBs were activated and rescuers came quickly. One of the keys was that Mike Leslie had the composure to flip the outside lights breaker before leaving the cabin. That extra light helped the situation enormously.

A fishing boat came out, got the crew onboard and towed the overturned boat to Saba. All of Fujin’s crew (Greg Slyngstad, Brad Baker, Peter F Johnston, Paul Bieker, Gina Borza, Fritz Lanzinger, Michael Leslie, Jonathan McKee) were rescued with no major injuries.

One key was clearly the preparation. They had a safety meeting before they left the dock so they knew what to do and where the safety gear was located. “I learned a lot – about myself – in those situations. I learned I don’t freak out. I learned it really is important to have the tools we need to get through an event like that.” It was the first time Baker and Jonathan McKee had been rescued before.


Has this experience soured Baker on catamarans? An emphatic no, although he points out that “the reality is the high performance ones can go past the point of no return and flip. The cruising catamarans are very hard to flip.” Now when Baker teaches the Safety at Sea Course, he’ll have quite a first person story to tell.

Baker and Bieker are confident that Fujin will fly again. I’m planning on talking to Paul Bieker as Fujin is righted and he can fully assess what needs to be done, plus any lessons learned.

Wet Wednesday – More Toliva Shoals Videos and a First Person Tale from Folie ‘a Deux

We’ve already had a few videos this week, courtesy of the Toliva Shoals Race. See Monday’s post and the Facebook Page (and lots of other places).  If you have videos from Toliva Shoal (or other events) keep sending them in. We can make it a Wet Thursday and Wet Friday.

Onboard Kenelm Russell’s Freya 39 Rushwind, his daughter managed to get some footage of a relatively cockpit in a relatively frenetic race. You can get an idea of how much wind there was toward the end of the second video, when there’s but a postage stamp’s worth of headsail out, the main’s furled, and they’re charging to weather. Here are the vids:




And from Alert Reader Allison Garnette from onboard Folie ‘a Deux:

Toliva Shoal 2018

I have been sailing on and off my entire life and never have I sailed in conditions like we had in the South Puget Sound on February the 17th, 2018. I crew on Folie ‘a Deux, a 35′ Beneteau skippered by Jeff and Joy Johnson. With a crew of seven we did not expect to place very high, we just hoped to finish in one piece. As the day progressed, we focused on staying aboard, not breaking anything and not drowning the cockpit. We only succeeded in staying aboard. By the end, we had lost two battens from the jib, fully flooded the cockpit and buried the bow a few too many times. When we started we never would have thought that we’d be the only boat in our class to finish, taking first by default.

My absolute favorite memory of the day is from when I was working the leeward jib sheet as we hardened up just south of the shoal mark. We were heeled over at a good 30-40 degrees, there were at least 3′ swells with impressive white caps and then we got hit with a gust of who knows how many knots. Needless to say, we had lifelines in the water, waves coming over the windward rail and water pouring into the cockpit. I ended up thigh-deep in the Sound bracing against the water crashing into my chest as it sheeted across the deck and over the rails. It was fantastic!

Throughout the race we learned about the capabilities of both our crew and our trusty vessel. Most importantly, we found that we can keep calm and still have fun when faced with such exciting conditions. I have to commend each and every sailor who came out for the race and made 2018’s Toliva Shoal the most memorable yet.

Alison Garnett, Folie ‘a Deux

Ed. Note: Thanks, Allison. It sounds like an exciting, but not too exciting, race for you guys.


Fujin Capsizes in Caribbean 600

Fujin Capsizes in Caribbean 600

Greg Slyngstad’s American Bieker 53 multihull Fujin has capsized during the RORC Caribbean 600. All eight crew are safe.

Stephen Cucchiaro’s Gunboat 60 Flow stood by until Dutch/ French authorities organised a rescue vessel. Preparations are now underway to transfer all crew to the safety of Port Saba.

RORC Race Manager Chris Stone issued a statement on behalf of the race organisers, The Royal Ocean Racing Club:

“On Monday 19th February at 20:20 AST, Fujin capsized close to Saba Island and the eight-man crew were observed standing on the up-turned hull. All of the crew are now safe. Stephen Cucchiaro’s Gunboat 60 Flow stood by while rescue agencies co-ordinated the rescue efforts.
Jens Kellinhusen’s German Ker 56 Varuna altered course to assist, but has now continued racing. The Coastguard at Fort De France Martinique has been co-ordinating the rescue.”

The highly experienced crew on Fujin from Seattle, Washington, USA include the skipper Greg Slyngstad, the boat’s designer, Paul Bieker and Olympic Gold medallist Jonathan McKee.

Fujin’s Crew: Greg Slyngstad, Bradley Baker, Peter F Johnston, Paul Bieker, Gina Borza, Fritz Lanzinger, Michael Leslie, Jonathan McKee.

Ed note: I’ll be adding details asap.

Shaw Island Winter Classic – The “Other” Wild Race

Shaw Island Winter Classic – The “Other” Wild Race

A shout out for the Shaw Island Winter Classic… 

Hey, while the South Sounders were getting a little tough love from Mother Nature, up here in the San Juans we had our own go round with the elements. President’s Day Weekend is always the date for going around Shaw Island in the winter, when there is wind, more likely than not.  2018 was no exception. 21 boats registered, which is right about the average over the years.  

Photos by Matt Nelson and a nice guy on a fishing boat for the photos.  

Despite the breezy forecast, the race started just after the ferry departing Orcas had cleared the course, in light and patchy breeze, with the fleet heading east through Harney Channel. As soon as the fleet rounded the corner into Upright Channel it was a whole ‘nother world. #1’s were quickly peeled to #3’s, and much of the fleet put in a reef to bash south towards San Juan Channel in 25-30 kts. Sir Isaac, the unmistakable, schooner-rigged Burns 47, saw 37 knots, which seemed just fine as they sliced upwind double-handed under jib and jigger. Several of the under 30’ fleet quickly turned tail back home to fight another day. The bigger boats quickly reached San Juan Channel and were able to crack off a touch for a fast, close reach towards Wasp Passage. Time Bandit, the local J/120, led the way, and even they had a few knockdown wipeouts as the puffs slammed onto the water after tumbling over San Juan Island. The most surprising thing to me, at least, was that I had to reach for my sunglasses, as the heavy morning rain gave way to glorious sunshine and increasing breeze. Wasp Passage is a notoriously fickle, narrow section of the course that has served up many a winner and loser over the years, but with the wind blowing straight up Wasp Passage, this year, the only question was kite or no kite. Most boats, satisfied with 10+ knots over the water, opted for some version of wing on wing, after accounting for the small margin for error the narrow waterway provided. Eager to make up for the extra time needed to beat upwind for almost 2 hours with a 24’ waterline, only Spadefoot and Wild Rumpus opted for the “go big or go home” option.  Spadefoot had a satisfying run seeing 15 knots on the fun meter, followed quickly by the boom on centerline and the kite streaming back against the spreaders, followed by another quick burst, threading the needle between sailing too low and collapsing the kite or running into the wind shadow of Shaw. Wild Rumpus had a “Wild” ride that ended beautifully, but prematurely (see photos).

In the end, Division I was taken by the slow boat in the class, Chinook (Cal 39), and Wild Rumpus (SC 27) went big to take Div. II where finishing was the major accomplishment.  Only half of the entire fleet finished, and sadly, two rigs were sacrificed to the wind gods. 

Results here:

By Justin Wolfe  (Ed. Note: Thanks Justin for coming up with this – it helps so much!)

Some Breakdowns Happen When You’re Headed Home

We’re not quite done yet. My friend Mike Powell recently bought the J/33 Keet with partner Brian Lawrence. I’ll let him tell you the story:

We had finished the Shaw Island race in 30+ kts for most of the race and were on a great run home with the kite up, running deep out of Obstruction Pass and heading across Rosario Strait. Wind had died a bit compared to the race and was in the 25+kts range. The boat broached to weather and spun around the pole when it dipped in the water. That set up a forced gybe and the rig broke like it was a plastic straw right at the lower spreader then again below that, not sure which went first. It’s hard to describe exactly what happened.

No one was hurt or even acted shaken much after the dis-masting (it had been such a roller coaster on the race that this didn’t feel that much different) and we had plenty of water around us to take a moment and consider our next move. The plan was to secure the rig to the starboard side of Keet and get all lines controlled or out of the water so we could use the motor. We cut the head off the spinnaker as we couldn’t reach the mast head or get the halyards to move. We then cut the head off the mainsail and cut it along the bolt rope to remove windage, we were still moving at 6kts. More mooring lines lashed the mast in place and secured the still in-tacked shrouds and forestay. 

Once we were squared away we motored home and still made it before sunset after the race. Fortunately another Bellingham boat Intuition with the Johannessens’ and crew onboard stood by while we secured everything and escorted us home.

Ed. Note: Mike’s gutted, and I’m gutted for him.

Toliva Shoal Race a Boom-buster

Toliva Shoal Race a Boom-buster

There’s nothing like a little carnage to get the racing blood boiling. The Toliva Shoal Race, third in the South Sound Series, was raced on Saturday. We can talk about race tactics, but it seems like it was mainly an exercise of survival on the course. Details are still coming in, and apologies for anything inaccurate or missing, but here’s what we have so far:

Broken finger onboard Korina Korina.

Broken boom on Equus.

Blown up chute on Cherokee.

Lost rudder and engine issues on Zig Zag, had to be towed from the McNeil Island area.

Torn main on Les Cheveux Blanc.

Lost backstay on Flying Circus.

Rig issues on Bodacious.

By all accounts Bruce had it right on Friday’s Brief, and the gusts that knocked boats silly sure seemed to be in the 40s. The wind came through on bursts, taking a what seemed like a challenging but under control run into a broach crisis. The boats that made it to Toliva Shoal then faced a brutal upwind. Some came in under headsail alone. There were 19 finishers and over 50 entries. Winners included Jam, String Theory, Leucothea, Lightly Salted, Redline, Folie ‘a Deux, Cherokee, White Squall and Jolly Rumbalow. Results.

According to Kenelm Russell, who’s done “nearly all of them,” this one was the windiest. Not too much for his Fast Passage 39, which he sailed as a family affair including sons, daughter and brother. The mainsail had to come down when the reefing line snapped, and two windows were knocked out because of flailing sheets, but none of it was too much for the Fast Passage Rushwind. Rushwind, after all, has been around the Pacific twice and up to Alaska. (Note to self, now that’s a cruiser racer. They still exist!)  He notes that Balch Passage was memorable. “It was frothy white – like sailing through foam,” Russell.

In a race like this, it’s best to let the pictures and videos give the explanations, so I’ve included a lot of them.


First off, from Jan Anderson’s album:


Sean Trew caught the action as well:

Here’s a video from Jim Larsen taken at Boston Harbor:

Here’s a video from the Ericson 32 Finally Free:

And here’s another by Mike Gowrylow:

If you want to share more – send them to me or share to the Facebook Page! (You do “Like” sailish on Facebook, right?)

Bruce’s Brief’s: Weather for 16, 17, & 18 Feb, Breezy Toliva Shoal Race

Bruce’s Brief’s: Weather for 16, 17, & 18 Feb, Breezy Toliva Shoal Race

Oh boy, you better sit down and get out the AED because you almost never see these three words in the same sentence: Toliva Shoal and Breezy! The models all seem to agree, we are gonna have some wind this weekend with the slight possibility of snow late Saturday and early Sunday, so if you’re going on the race you had better prepare accordingly. This includes a potential wind chill of 15-20°F which is no joke.

As you can see from the surface charts we have a relatively weak low-pressure system with an attached frontal system working over us today to be followed by a much stronger system tomorrow. The front associated with tomorrow’s system will pass through near dawn leaving us with a strong post-frontal, onshore flow. This will mean strong SW breeze over the south and central Sound with steady winds of 20-30 knots with gusts to 45 knots and this will hold for most of Saturday, even over the Toliva Shoal Race Course.

The other good news is that we’ll have favorable tides with the ebb starting just before the race starts. In this run, reach, run scenario you will probably make it to the Toliva mark fairly early which means you’ll need to be thinking ahead and be constantly planning for that next leg, especially the leg from Johnson Pt to Buoy #3 at the Flats. This will be a shifty reach where you’ll really want to have the barber-hauler rigged on the port side before you leave the dock because once you’re racing you’ll be too busy to rig it. There will also be plenty of rain which will knock visibility down so be sure to have the compass courses posted for each leg.

It will almost certainly be a hard beat from Toliva Shoal back to the finish. It tends to be lighter going through Balch Passage however if the breeze is on I would be tempted to stay with the #4 or your small jib rather than trying to do multiple headsail changes. Just power up the main. The crew will also like short tacking in there with the smaller headsail. You’ll want to work the Devils Head side of Drayton Passage to stay in flatter water then hold starboard tack all the way across to the flatter water below Johnson Point. From there to Boston Harbor it will be stay on the favored tack and HIKE, HIKE, HIKE! Once you get into Budd Inlet, you’ll want to favor the west side for flatter water and the puffs will be lifts on starboard tack.

This will be a good one just make sure the jacklines are run and everyone is wearing life jackets and harnessed up before you leave the dock.

And then there’s Sunday! By early Sunday morning, the breeze will swing around to the north-northeast and blow just as hard from that direction. Probably 25-35 knots in the north and central Sound, and the eastern end of the Straits, and 15-25 knots in the South Sound. This will also be bringing that very cold air down from the BC interior. Maybe wait until next weekend to do that delivery from Olympia to points north.

Have a great weekend, just be safe out there.


Al Clark on the Mend After “Proper” Heart Attack

Al Clark on the Mend After “Proper” Heart Attack

Al Clark, very successful Northwest sailor and head coach for the Royal Van YC sailing team, is recovering after a heart attack while in Florida. Thanks to Seattle sailor Jay Winberg for bringing this to our attention.

Al says: “Yes I did have a proper heart attack, was in hospital in West Palm Beach because I was at the Florida masters midwinter regatta. They installed a pacemaker. Now I’m back in Vancouver resting, and it should be a few more weeks and then I’ll be back to work. All indications are that I should be able to be active going forward.”

Digging a little around the web, I found this quote from Laser sailor Andy Roy posted on

Good news update for everyone: Allan is improving nicely, although still in ICU. He has had a pretty sore chest from the CPR. Sharon (Ed-Al’s wife) had a long conversation with a Vancouver cardiologist who walked through everything that’s happened (she has been in contact with the Florida doctors). The doctor has an Olympic speed skater as a patient who has a heart arrhythmia condition similar to what has hit Al. The doctor thinks he’ll be ready for discharge by the weekend and be back to coaching and racing Lasers in about 8 weeks. Fabulous news!

A few months ago Clark won the Grand Master Standard Rig class at the Laser Master Worlds in Croatia. He even wrote about it here. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him on the water soon. At that time he can maybe teach us the distinction between a proper and improper heart attack. 


Wet Wednesday Videos – The Sea Nymph Lives, Meadow Point Kite Boarders

Wet Wednesday Videos – The Sea Nymph Lives, Meadow Point Kite Boarders

This week we have a couple very different videos. The first one, courtesy of the Volvo Ocean Race Turn The Tide on Plastic, absolutely screams irony. Remember the two women and two dogs that were rescued amid the fawning morning shows back in October? Well, while they have spent the intervening months trying to explain why they drifted for seven months in a seemingly sound enough boat eating oatmeal and pasta, their boat has been happily bobbing around the Pacific. Apparently neither they nor the US Navy saw the sense in scuttling the boat (which for the safety of other mariners should be done) or thought it was so close to sinking it would take care of its own sinking. As is often the case, the boat held together. The mast (which they felt couldn’t be used) was still standing, and other than some obvious water in the boat, Sea Nymph seemed quite intact. Certainly intact enough to sink a boat hitting it in the open ocean. As Tide‘s skipper Dee Caffari puts it: “We are asking you not to litter the oceans with plastic and here we have a whole yacht floating aimlessly in our oceans!” Caffari’s entire post follows the video. Talk about unnecessary plastic in the ocean…..


What should you do when you see a yacht floating with no of signs of life? Well that question was asked onboard Turn the Tide on Plastic yesterday.

We were sailing within sight of Brunel and to weather we saw another yacht close to our track. We looked through the binoculars as there was no sign on the AIS software and we contacted race control. We called on the VHF with no response and race control confirmed there was no active SAR in the area. We sent up the drone with James, our on board reporter, for a closer inspection and to get some identification for the vessel.

We collected some images and sent them back to race control and they confirmed the vessel was the abandoned vessel, Sea Nymph. Many may remember a big news story in the US, last autumn, regarding the rescue of two women and a dog from the vessel on their way to Hawaii. Well this was that vessel all these months later. She was sitting pretty low in the bow and her mainsail was washed over the side but the rest of her looked like she would make a nice cruiser.

We discussed salvage rights for a while and estimated that the race director would not give us redress if we towed her to Auckland while racing. So there she sits a hazard to shipping, a risk to islands, reefs and atolls and slowly not going anywhere.

We are grateful we saw her during the day as this could have been a very different story had we come across her at night. She was floating stern to us with no lights or signal being given out, there is no way we would have seen her. ]

I just hope now we have given authorities her position there is a chance for salvage or for scuttling her to prevent a far worse disaster in our oceans. We are asking you not to litter the oceans with plastic and here we have a whole yacht floating aimlessly in our oceans!

Dee and Team Turn the Tide on Plastic


The second video was on the exceptionally sunny and somewhat chilly Sunday past. The kite boarders were giving Meadow Point beach walkers quite the show, so I pulled out my phone. Some were foiling boards, some were not. You can get a close look at their gear and setup right there, and of course get some close views of takeoffs and landings when the waves are just right. It’s not too often placid Puget Sound serves up kiting conditions, but when it does it’s quite the spectacle.

Bruce’s Brief for February 9-11, Nice Chilly Weekend Ahead

Bruce’s Brief for February 9-11, Nice Chilly Weekend Ahead

Put a mark on your calendar, as of today we are BEHIND in the amount of rainfall we would normally have on this date for the month! We are however still 2.3” ahead for the year. The good news is that we should have a pretty nice weekend, the only downside is that it will be chilly.

As you can see from the charts we’ll have an offshore flow developing from the high pressure (1042mb) that is building over the interior of British Columbia. This will bring cold air out of the Canadian interior and certainly into the northern part of the Salish Sea. This flow will ease on Saturday. Being the first day the ridge is established we’ll have a nice northerly in the Sound overnight and then ease as the day goes on. We’ll have a weak front move through the area Sunday with the offshore flow returning for a brief visit Monday then switching back to an onshore flow on Tuesday.

For those of you leaving town on Thursday to do the Islands Race next weekend, (Long Beach Start, Catalina and San Clemente to port, finish in San Diego) I would pay particular attention to the 500MB chart and that 549MB upper level low centered over your race course and watch how that moves as you get closer to the start of racing.



Star Fleet Loaner Program & Clinic

Star Fleet Loaner Program & Clinic
A start at the Star Worlds

The Puget Sound Star fleet is a wonderful anomaly. It boasts some of the finest skippers to ever touch a Star tiller in Bill and Carl Buchan, and is one of the more welcoming fleets around. When I came to Seattle nearly 30 years ago one of my first races was on a Star by invitation of Foss Miller. It’s clear Foss and the fleet are still eager to build the Star fleet and community, initiating a loaner boat program for the season.

Local sailors Derek DeCouteau and Jaimie Stewart working upwind. Local photos by Jan Anderson.

The Star itself is somewhat of an anomaly. Designed in 2011 by Francis Sweisguth, it’s an overcanvassed (by yesterday’s standards anyway) 22′ chined keelboat. Once upon a time it was identified with the Olympics, but it’s been in and out of that designation a couple of times (currently out). I’m not sure Star sailors care that much. Now they even have the professional Star Sailors League. The best sailors still look to this class as the ultimate proving ground for tweaking, tactics and teamwork. Stars glide along nicely in 5 knots of wind and can pound in relatively big seas and 20 knots. To sail them at their best in those conditions, size and strength matter. No, it doesn’t have a sprit (or spinnaker for that matter), and doesn’t reach at 20 knots, but it remains the premier puzzle for the elite of the sport. The relatively small keel rudder combination and the sail area configuration put a premium on getting everything juuuuuuussssst right.

Locally we have the Puget Sound fleet dry-sailed out of Shilshole and wet-sailed fleet of classic Stars in Budd Inlet (Olympia). (I’d like to know about other active fleets in the Northwest) The Budd Inlet Fleet has a great program of getting butts in boats as well.

So, it comes as no surprise that the Puget Sound fleet is reaching out to potential Star sailors with these programs.


Ever want to try sailing a Starboat but didn’t know where to start? Now you can!

The Star, an Olympic class boat for a century, has spawned some of the best sailors in the world. Many of them are right here in Puget Sound.


The Star is incredibly fun to sail, and the fleet is friendly and always ready to help a newcomer out.

The Puget Sound Starboat fleet currently has 3 Stars available for loaner use, and is hosting a Star training clinic as well. Details below:

  • Cost: Port of Seattle dry storage fee: $232.54/month.Insurance is covered.
  • Contact Info: Questions or set up, contact Foss Miller: (206) 999-9385,, or John Loendorf:
  • Recommendations: Some sailing experience is required for the helmsperson. Crew should be somewhat athletic.





Star Gold Medalist Olympians, Bill Buchan and Carl Buchan, are running a Star clinic in June!

Everyone with a loaner boat is welcome to participate in this special event.

It’s amazing to have a local learning opportunity with two people who, between them, have won two Olympic gold medals, and seven World championship titles!

Details TBA – Contact Foss Miller for more: (206) 999-9385,