I told Round the County newby Paula that this race could either blow dogs off chains or be a completely soul-sucking calm. RTC came through with both, though it held back on the biting cold that sometimes makes things challenging for those who have live nerves in their extremities. And, as usual, last weekend’s RTC proved to be a wildly entertaining race and nothing less than a great reason to live and sail in the Pacific Northwest.
Bruce Hedrick’s forecast was remarkably accurate. It blew dogs off chains for the start and the beat south through Rosario Strait. The fast early starters and the big boats got to enjoy a big air reach for some time after turning right at Davidson Rock, popping kites as the wind started to drop. But drop it did, and a calm descended on the fleet. Onboard the J/133 Tango we ended up around the accursed Lime Kiln Lighthouse when the currrent decided to send us back two boatlengths for every boatlength gained. White Cloud and Madrona held a little further off the point and managed to overcome the current.
Check out all of Jan’s photos here.
A couple of other class winners I kept an eye on were Alex Simanis’ Evelyn 32 Poke and Destroy and Jimmy and Robin Roser’s Cal 39 Chinook. Jimmy Roser knows the Islands about as well as anyone. He and Robin own and operate Baja Boat Works, which installs and maintains mooring buoys, among other things, all around the San Juans. “We were out in front with Alex (Simanis). Then our number 1 came out of the track and flew behind us. It was a mess.” They managed to cross the halfway finish line in first, but weren’t able to finish the full course. Fortunately for them nobody in their class finished the full course that first day.
And Poke and Destroy? Simanis’ RTC actually started this summer. When he pulled P&D to paint the rudder, he happened to wiggle the keel. It wobbled, and further inspection revealed the sump lamination was failing. CSR Marine did its magic with the repair. There was some delaminating balsa core in the decks that had to be dealt with as well. “The boat’s a LOT stiffer now,” Simanis says, which came in handy on that hard beat. With a code zero (Simanis operates Ballard Sails , after all) P&G was launched enough to finish with only a handful of boats, and really big/fast ones at that, ahead, and won the day Division 3 easily.
Day two brought the seemingly inevitable light air spinnaker start off Roche Harbor. As the fleet compressed along Stuart Island’s shore, it became an epic battle as to who could manage the traffic jam the best, with big gains usually followed by big losses. The smart money (including Chinook) stayed offshore from the mix and came clear of Turn Point cleanly. On Tango we played the traffic game most of the time, but our best move was bailing out just before Turn Point and taking transoms to get away from the mess.
P&G played the point well, but then took an ill advised tack into the the shore after Turn Point. “Pretty much the whole fleet passed us,” Simanis said. “We were third or fourth from last.”
As predicted, after the fleet got around Patos Island to head south it enjoyed another hard beat. Here the boats with an extra gear for upwind work thrived. Things got squirrely near the finish at Deer Point on Orcas Island, especially for the TP 52 finish. Staying away from the wind holes at the finish was key.
Chinook won her class, as did P&G. Valkyrie beat the three other TP5s to take the win in ORC. Onboard Tango we had a very satisfying second day, having ground down the competition on the breezy beat and losing only to Terremoto by four seconds. Terremoto managed to win the class ahead of the Melges 32 Mischief and White Cloud, which had two excellent performances. Results here.
Round the County rocked. You’ll want to ready when registration opens for 2017. The spots fill up quickly, and with good reason.
Ed. Note: An earlier version had Jason Rhodes aboard Mischief, when in fact he was on Valkyrie. Many apologies and many thanks to Joe Cline and Bruce Hedrick for straightening me out.