Epic Race to the Straits

Once again, Sloop Tavern YC’s Race to the Straits has outdone itself. One hundred twenty five boats entered the Saturday-Sunday/Seattle-Port Townsend-Seattle, the weather cooperated for the most part and orcas made an appearance. Really, it doesn’t get much better than this. The staggered start made for interesting finishes. At Shilshole around 1600 the finish horn was going off incessantly while the horizon was dotted with dots of color, all the way across the Sound.

Check out these Mocha photos (with help from Jan Anderson). (Yes, and check them all out here.) It didn’t look fun at all……

The success of this event, now 16 years old by my count, is really noteworthy. It combines several aspects that are rarely featured in Northwest racing. It’s strictly shorthanded (single or double-handing) with a great destination/overnight stay and handicaps figured at the beginning rather than the end of the race.

Having once again missed the race, I tapped Ryan Helling of Swiftsure Yachts, who sailed his 31′ “house” Velella to help out with some Monday morning tactics.

We had a bit of current push Saturday morning and maybe 4-5 knots at the start until No Point. There, the current changed and it got a bit fluky as we made our way to the Whidbey side. It was light in the cove south of No Point and we did well to cross a bit early and stay in breeze. It started shifting west after we gybed along the Whidbey shore south of Double Bluff and we ended up on a jib pretty quickly as the northerly filled down. We short-tacked the Whidbey shore to Bush Point, then crossed over. Breeze was probably N 12-14? and stayed consistent to the finish. 

On Sunday we had great breeze from the start, maybe 6-8 knots. It was pretty much a straight shot from the start line to Marrowstone. There was some ebb in the morning and we started on starboard headed for the bluffs on Marrowstone, then jibed and headed for the point. Of course it paid to stay in and out of the current along the shore, although it was variable in along the beach and some boats did better staying out a bit in slight negative water but more consistent breeze. As the ebb waned we crossed to Whidbey a bit earlier than some of the boats ahead of us and hit the beach around Mutiny Bay. I think we played that pretty well, keeping a good line to the halfway point at Double Bluff without sailing too much extra distance into the bay. From Double Bluff it was across to No Point and we played a little higher lane to keep moving but some boats made a low lane pay off. It got fluky south of No Point and the fleet scattered. From our perspective, the boats that did well really banged the Kingston shore and did well when the breeze filled back in and they had a nice hot angle across to the finish. Funny how that seems to always work.

I’m sure there were lots of stories, but from Ryan’s vantage point in the middle of the fleet and in a small but tough class, it sounds like a lot of fun. There are far too many classes and stories to cover in this summary, you’ll just have to look at the results. But it is worth mentioning that Great White, Grayling, Moonshine, Elixir and Muffin had very convincing class wins. The closest class, appropriately enough, was the J/105 class where More Jubilee and Dulcinea traded top spots on the two days and finished only a minute apart on combined times (Dulcinea on top). In fact, the first four boats in the one-design class were within 20 minutes on combined times.

And, in case you missed the orcas….


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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