No question, fall is here and it’s time for one of the most challenging and consequently one of the most popular races in the Pacific Northwest, Round The County. It’s not easy to get there and it won’t be easy to get home from if your homeport is somewhere other than Anacortes. Details.
It may be gorgeous today but after having had the wettest October in history, 9.8 inches of rain compared to a normal 3.25 inches, we can probably expect more of the same for November, our traditionally wettest month. So if you liked October, you’re going to love this Saturday!
As you can see from today’s surface chart and the Saturday AM chart we have a fairly active front headed towards us on Saturday. Start logging your barometer readings when you get to the boat today. The problem will be that after the start (0830±) when the front passes and the barometer starts up, the breeze will drop the closer you get to the finish on the west side of San Juan Island. All of this will be compounded by the tidal currents, so let’s start with a known and then we’ll get the dartboard out.
0824 Flood 2.14 knots
1403 Ebb 1.03 knots
0806 Flood 2.01 knots
1409 Ebb 1.07 knots
2351 Ebb 1.64 knots
Kellett Bluff (Haro Sraits)
0708 Flood 2.01 knots
1350 Ebb 1.39 knots
0702 Flood 1.88 knots
1344 Ebb 1.14 knots
*And yes, I know that with the tides in the Pacific Northwest it’s supposed to be an hour later just remember that we change over to Pacific Standard Time at 0200 hrs Sunday morning.
So right now it looks like breeze for the start, with about 2 knots of tide right on the nose. You’ll want a safe starboard tack start trying to leave yourself a opening so you can tack to port and get headed to some tidal relief along the Blakely Island shore. You’ll short tack your way south watching your COG and SOG. After you’ve hit the anti-water don’t spend a lot of time waiting to tack back to port to get back to the beach. This will all be very interesting because of the reverse start. You’ll have to be constantly thinking two to four tacks ahead so you can find your clear air lanes to work your way south to Davidson Rock. Also, if you’re starting with a #1, think about having it in the port groove so if you have to change down you’ll hoist the #3 on starboard tack and then tack change back to port.
Once you’re at Davidson Rock it will be time to crack off and head towards the halfway mark at Salmon Bank where you must call in your time. So before the start have your barber hauler line rigged for port tack so you won’t have to have too many people off the rail when you decide to reach off. The sprit boats will be able to set sooner than the S-sail boats so you will need to know when you can set. After the mark at Salmon Bank the breeze will begin to back off and you’ll start seeing tide against you if you are too far off the beach. This will be another case where it will be super important to have your head out of the boat and use the boats around you to help guide you up to the finish. The problem here is that there is a back eddy that runs north up the beach from Salmon Bank almost all the way to the Lime Kiln light so you’ll want to ride that as long as you can as the breeze starts to drop and the ebb begins to build against you offshore. There will also be less wind the closer you get to San Juan Island so you’ll be working hard to find that happy medium between less wind and positive water.
As you approach the finish in light air be sure to have your #1 tee’d up and ready to hoist as the breeze can get very shifty in close to the finish. Just remember last year’s start on Sunday. Try to be finished before about 1400hrs on Saturday.
Sunday looks like a pretty nice day for a race as you’ll transition from the post frontal southwesterly in the start to a the pre-frontal southeasterly for the beat from Patos to the finish. Expect the breeze to build from the southeast from about 1400 hours on and make sure your navigator knows which buoys and rocks you have to leave to starboard.
The start will be downwind which will make finding clear air a challenge, that’s the bad news. The good news is that you’ll have the tide with you, just don’t sail too many extra miles to get outside into the stronger tide. As you get to Turn Point don’t cut it too close as there is a distinct light spot in the lee of the Island immediately after the Point, that runs almost the entire length of Stuart Island.. If you get into the light air, it can be a painful gybe to get back out into the breeze. Again, knowing the compass course to Alden Point and sticking to it will be a help. Some boats will tend to hold to the south of the rhumb line, you’re better off to sail the shortest possible course.
After Patos you’ll probably have the tide with you for the beat to Lawrence Point on Orcas Island. It will be long port tacks and short starboard tacks as the water will be smoother closer to the islands. Make sure you have your barber hauler set-up for port tack when you get to Lawrence Point for the reach to the finish. There will be better tide outside of the Peapod Rocks however it’s a shorter distance to sail between Orcas and the Peapods to the finish. If the prefrontal breeze isn’t fully developed there can also be less wind in there.
Then there’s the trip home after the Race. If you’re down from Vancouver, no problem. As long as you’re ready to sail in 25-30 knots of southeasterly. If you have to travel south on Sunday night, the east end of the Straits of JdF will be rough. If you can travel under the Rainbow Bridge in La Conner, go to La Conner, spend Sunday night and then leave at first light on Monday. The breeze will stay out of the southeast at 10-15 for most of Monday and Tuesday before it gets light, less than 10 knots, for late Tuesday, through Wednesday and into Thursday. Thursday afternoon the next front be approaching.
Have a great race and be safe.
Ed. Note: Once again we’re indebted to Bruce Hedrick for this info. And he isn’t even sailing this year! I’ll write up an account of the race early next week from my view aboard Brian Duchin’s and Kelsey Sheldon’s J/133 Tango.