Bruce’s Weather Brief for SYC Blake Island Race

This could be the weekend that if there ever was a weekend to be out on the water and to be sailboat racing, this is the one. The setup is just about perfect as you can see from the surface forecast charts with a 1027mb high pressure system setting up inland of SE Alaska thus directing an offshore flow over the Pacific Northwest which will result in higher than normal temperatures and maybe, just maybe, some great breeze over the Sound. Put your sunblock on before you leave the house!

For the Blake Island Race this could be one for the books with breeze at the start and lasting the rest of the day. With this kind of wind the tides will have minimum effect. It will pay to remember that the current is constantly ebbing out of Colvos and as you approach Blake Island you will notice that the ebb will last longer and be further north even as the flood is supposed to start just after 1110 hours. The flood at West Point may start even earlier because of wind generated surface current. The good news is that with the abundant sunshine and the flood you’ll be able to easily see the wind hitting the ebb tide and creating that ruffled appearance on the water.

Tidal Current at West Point

0725      Max Ebb                 1.27 knts

1110      Slack

1417      Max Flood            1.32 knts

1814      Slack

Before you leave the house in the morning you’ll want to check the wind at West Point and the wind history to see if it’s been holding from the NE all night and what it’s currently doing. Then check the rest of the stations further down the Sound and ferry wind. When you go out the south end of the breakwater at Shilshole you’ll want to grab the bino’s and check the flag at the light house at West Point. The reason for this is that it will dictate where you start on the line. If, as I suspect, the breeze is from the northeast at West Point you’ll want to be able to start in clear air just about 1/3rd of the way down from the pin on starboard tack. You’ll want to hold the starboard gybe ending up just outside the West Point Buoy with the ability to gybe to port and aim at Alki Point. This will keep you in slightly stronger breeze as you head down the Sound. You’ll hold the port tack until you either get lifted above Alki or you can gybe and lay the south end of Blake Island. Remember you can round Blake Island either direction, however in the northerly I can’t remember ever seeing it work to round the Island to port.

As you head towards the south end of Blake remember that in the northerly there is a huge light spot that extends from the south end of the Island to about ¼ of the way to the ferry dock at Southworth. As you get about ½ way across the Sound towards the south end of the Island go ahead and take another gybe to port until you can gybe back laying that imaginary point marked by the star in the picture.

The star marks the spot
Between the star and the island is death – at least for the wind.

You do this in the Sound where you’ll have more wind and less adverse current coming out of Colvos. Try not to sail between the star and the Island as the dead spot is much wider and there is an eastward flowing current along the south end of the Island.

Once you’re on final towards that point, it’s time to get set up to get some serious momentum built up for coasting through that light spot. That means having everything set up so that when the spinnaker you’re reaching with across the bottom end of the Island collapses and blows back into your face you can get it down quickly and easily so it won’t act as a brake.

Blake to Restoration Point.
Blake to Restoration Point.

You might keep the headsail down until you’ve gotten through that dead spot and into the northerly that’s on the backside of the Island. That way it won’t act as a brake as well. Once the wind is back and the current is pushing you to the north, get the headsail right up and start beating.

The short course is up the west side of the Island but that tends to be flukey in close so just try to hold the starboard tack which should lift you as you get to the north end of the Island. If you find yourself being headed on starboard and the wind speed dropping take a short tack to the east until you can tack and lay the beach on the south end of Bainbridge about a ½ mile west of Restoration. In the picture you can see the darker water (more wind) holding all the way up to Bainbridge with minefields on either side. You want to get up to that shore to take advantage of the back eddy that flows east along that shore.

Blake Island #2
Look for the dark water on the west side of Blake.

Once you are on port and you’ve cleared Restoration Point if you’re not aimed at Elliott Bay Marina take another short hitch up on starboard until you can tack to port and be aimed somewhere between Elliott Bay Marina and Four Mile Rock. Remember the rule as you approach the beach south of West Point and don’t get inside of a line drawn from the lighthouse to Four Mile Rock. The tide may be flooding but it will still be plenty shallow in there. As you approach the bluff on port it will get puffy and there will be some knocks however hold on to the port board as long as you dare so that when you tack to starboard you are headed right at the Lighthouse. This will keep you out of the building flood tide. At West Point remember that the bar extends slightly further to the west this year. Hold starboard until you can tack to port and be well off the beach on the north side of the Point.

As you go in towards Shilshole remember the restricted zone at the entrance to the Ship Canal but get up in there so that you can take the starboard tack lifts as you approach the finish.

The same great conditions should also make the summer Vashon Island Race another epic event with possible record times since there probably won’t be that huge light spot from Robinson down to the finish at TYC.

For the 505’s in Bellingham, look for some light air in the morning but when the wind stabilizes from of all directions, the west, get ready for some great sailing.

For the rest of you cruisers, enjoy weekend and get to your favorite anchorage early, the marina at the North end of Blake Island is already almost full.

Have a great, safe time out there.



Bruce has raced and cruised the Pacific Northwest his entire life. He earned a Bachelor's of Science from the University of Washington in Biological Oceanography and learned meteorology "to keep from getting kicked around on the race course." Bruce spent nearly two decades as Associate Publisher for Northwest Yachting Magazine, retiring in mid-2015, and was the chairman of the board of trustees for the Northwest Marine Trade Association in 2014. (photo of Bruce driving Playstation is a bit dated, but cool)

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