Southern Straits Race Wrap

Southern Straits is often a great race, and by the sounds of it it was this year. We’re lucky to have Peter Salusbury report on the race soon after finishing a strong second with his amazing Longboard. Enjoy the photos Peter and crew supplied, plus more photos courtesy of race chair Sonia Telford. If anyone has tales/pix/video to add, send them along and I’ll incorporate them into this post. Here’s Peter: 

Southern Straits Race 2017 started with a packed clubhouse at the race host, West Vancouver Yacht Club, for a pre-race dinner and weather briefing. Bruce Hedrick had been watching the weather models all week and while he couldn’t make it the evening to present it himself, you could have heard a pin drop in the room as his detailed weather forecast was shared with the 200+ people in the room.

Thankfully, the overnight rain let up first thing in the morning and start off Dundarave Pier featured a slowly oscillating NE to SE wind of around 5 knots.  The long course boats started first with the NE wind prevailing initially with Longboard leading the pack on the rhumb line while the the two TP52’s, Smoke and Kinetic, gybed south to take advantage of better ebb current looking for the SE which eventually would settle in.  As the morning went on, the southeasterly built to 10 to 15 knots as the fleet took the long port tack gybe to Sister’s Islet.  The wind eventually built to a steady 20 knots with the big division 1 boats rounding Sister’s in the middle of the afternoon. 

Leg two back south to the TA mark started in the 15 knot SE which slowly lifted to an easterly so you could parallel the Vancouver Island shore until about the Wincheslea Islands.  From there to Entrance Island was a slow transitional zone with light airs, shifting breeze from NE to SW to no breeze at all.  As always, there were winners and losers through this stretch but the boats that stayed offshore a little seemed to benefit from the post frontal southwesterly that eventually asserted itself south of Entrance Island.

Entrance Island to the TA was a starboard tack fetch in 15 knots of breeze – very fast sailing conditions.  After rounding TA, the next leg to Halibut bank was too tight for many boats to carry a kite in the 15 to 20 knots of breeze but if you could carry one, it paid big time to sail low with a reaching kite and benefit from a slow lift and lightening breeze on the approach to Halibut Bank.  From Halibut Bank to the finish line was a one tack fetch again in the 15 know southwesterly which lasted all the way to Bowen Island where there was one final massive transition zone. The boats that did the best led their fleets south on a port tack to stay in the dying SW and eventually were rewarded with a solid easterly coming out of English Bay. 

So overall, a very fast and mostly dry race – much drier than anticipated interrupted by two to three significant transition zones that if you were good and a little lucky, really paid off in the results.  (Race results here.) It was a classic Pacific NW race where the faster the boat, the better you did on the Long course for sure, and the standings suggest that applied to the Medium and Short courses as well.  Kinetic and Smoke had a good battle going on all race with Kinetic eventually prevailing to take line honors just before 3 am on Saturday and the overall course win in both PHRF and ORC.  It was David Sutcliffe’s first win in Straits race either as crew or skipper and good primer as he gets ready to take Kinetic south this summer to take on the Transpac Race.  Stu Dahlgren’s Westerly from Royal Vic Yacht Club did a nice job staying ahead of Paul Lamarche’s always well sailed Neptune’s Car from the first leg onwards to finish third.  Another well sailed Vancouver Island boat, Colin Jackson’s Jackrabbit, had a great battle with our very own Longboard, eventually correcting out 3 minutes to win Division 2 on the Long course in PHRF. 

The Medium course was from the start to Sister’s and back to the finish line with the perennial favourite, Jim Prentice’s Diva taking line honors and another Vancouver Island boat, Beats per Minute skippered by Eldin Miller-Stead winning overall. The short course boats had a very quick race to Ballenas Island and return with the almost unbeatable Incisor skippered by William Phelps once again taking the overall win finishing just after midnight right behind the line honors winner Hurricane sailed by Matt Lane.

As always, a big shout out to the Race Chair, Sonia Telford, and her 90 volunteers who made this race a huge success. It was great to see so many boats from Seattle and Vancouver Island making the trek north and the race did create some great sailing memories. Hope to see everyone back for next year which is the 50th anniversary of Southern Straits Race. And finally, a huge thank-you to Bruce Hedrick for the pre-race weather forecast posted on sailish.com.  

–Peter Salusbury

Kurt grew up racing and cruising in the Midwest, and has raced Lasers since the late 1970s. He has been Assistant Editor at Sailing Magazine and a short stint as Editor of Northwest Yachting. Through Meadow Point Publishing he handles various marketing duties for smaller local companies. He currently is partners on a C&C 36 which he cruises throughout the Northwest. He's married to the amazing Abby and is father to Ian and Gabe.

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