How Can We Save Handicap Racing in the Northwest? Take the Survey

How Can We Save Handicap Racing in the Northwest? Take the Survey

Several months ago I got a call from my friend Andy Schwenk. Andy rolls up his sleeves and spends a lot of time increasing racing participation from “within.” He’s active in Anacortes Yacht Club, the Santa Cruz 27 fleet and, much to the point, as Secretary/Treasurer for PHRF-NW. In the unlikely event you don’t know Andy, he makes his living rigging boats with his Northwest Rigging, so he’s got a vested interest in seeing the sport thrive.

But spend five minutes talking to him and you won’t doubt that it’s not all about business: He’s a true believer in the sport. Many “in the industry” are.

Andy’s concerned. “How can we get more PHRF participation?” he asked. As PHRF treasurer, he was concerned because the number of rated boats has been waning dramatically and has been for a long time. More importantly, the number of sailboats actually leaving the dock to race around here has been nosediving.

Is there a problem?

Yes. If you doubt that, take a look at this past spring’s PSSR (CYC Seattle) registration list. Fifty boats. Twenty eight were in one-design classes, leaving 22 racing PHRF. All that positive spin in the world is not going to change that. PSSC a couple weeks ago had better one-design participation, but two of the handicap classes were three boats each, and one of the other two classes had a rating spread of 126 seconds/mile!

To those of you who have come to sailboat racing lately (bless you by the way), you may be wondering what’s the big deal. There are boats out there, clubs are finding ways to get races off and people are having a good time. But for those of us looking through the rose-tinted and somewhat smoky glasses of the 1970s and 80s, what we see out there now is a shell of what was. Yes, I know that was 40 years ago. But even 20 years ago we’d see ~130 boats.

We old-timers KNOW it’s just a lot more fun with more boats. And more boats also means the sport is sustainable.

Compare the Blakely Rock Races of the late 1970s with todays’. Imagine 300+ boats instead of 60. Imagine re-measuring and re-rating right up until the night before the race. At the beginning of the season, new boats would be on hand in nearly every class, every year. Imagine the number of crew involved as the benefits of stacking the rail became apparent as the boats became lighter.

It was energized.

To many in those days, racing was everything. Now it’s something people squeeze in between hundreds of other obligations. Scaring up even a bare bones crew is often a steep challenge.

And when clubs around the country are desperately trying to maintain solvency, and PHRF certificates drop in numbers, it IS a problem.

Are there positive signs?

You bet there are positive signs.

First of all, handicap is not dead elsewhere. In England, the Fastnet registration limit was reached in a matter of minutes. The Chicago-Mackinac race has about 330 boats, most of which race handicap. Racing is still cool for a lot of people. In our own area the biggest handicap events are races like Round the County, Race to the Straits and Blakely Rock Benefit. Swiftsure still has a healthy entry list but it’s been declining markedly. Southern Straits seems to be holding its numbers.

The ORC racing is a really bright spot. Several years ago many owners in the Puget Sound Big Boat Fleet took serious issue with changes in the PHRF-NW handicaps, and decided to institute the IRC rule at the top end of the fleet. This worked for a while, but not completely. In the meantime the ORC rule was taking root in Vancouver. In the end, the IRC fleet has embraced ORC. This has been cause for great celebration. Racers from both sides of the border can now race against each other without having to deal with any PHRF-NW vs PHRF-BC differences and politics. Moreover, as a measurement system used worldwide, there are no local influences that can be perceived as prejudicial.

At the casual end of the spectrum, one positive sign is the rise of fun races. Obviously, Seattle’s Duck Dodge is the original and greatest fun race, but there are others. Elliott Bay Marina’s Downtown Sailing Series provides nearly 100 crews with free racing, hot dogs and beer. At Charleston they had two “pursuit” classes, where I assume handicaps were figured in the starting times, and only one race per day was sailed.

But there are others that aren’t too casual or too serious. Sloop Tavern YC’s Race to the Straits and Blakely Rock Benefit Regatta are well attended but for many sailors are more about participation than competition. If you turn up with a headsail that would be better utilized as a tent, you don’t feel like you’re out of place. You’re out there and everybody is happy to see you out there.

Finally, the increasing activity in some one-design fleets like the J/105s, Santa Cruz 27s et. al., shows there’s still interest in keelboat racing.

Better Racing, Better Boats and Oldies but Goodies

The quality of racing, both handicap and one-design, has improved at the top end of sport. Certainly the level of proficiency in a national J/70 regatta is huge. If you look at the serious big boat programs nationally and internationally, the degree of professionalism is amazing. Pro level sailors are paid well, and as some have pointed out to me, well worth it when amateurs might not have the chops to sail the new high-powered beasts or even stay safe.

There’s a rise in adventure races, the most prominent being the R2AK. While not exactly adventure races, the Van Isle 360 and Round the County are nothing like out-and-back or windward-leewards. On the international scene, the Golden Globe Race next year will feature 30 sailors in small, full-keel throwback boats racing non-stop around the world.

Another positive sign is the boats themselves. At that high-octane end of the spectrum, the race boats are ridiculously cool. The TP 52s are really great boats. Just watch Smoke , Glory, Kinetic and Mist (nee Valkyrie) speed past. And take the Fast 40 sportboats that haven’t quite made it to the Northwest like the Melges 40, Carkeek 40 etc.

It seems a shame that there aren’t more modern cruiser racers out there. Really good dual purpose boats have been coming out the last couple of decades. J/Boats has the formula pretty well figured out for a boat that can both race and cruise, but so do several European builders like Beneteau, Wauquiez, X-Yachts and Dehler, to name a few. There are plenty of really nice options out there with both more comfort and more speed than was possible a couple of decades ago.

And used boats? Oh my. There are so many good used boats out there that are comfy and competitive it can boggle the mind. And with some sweat equity or cash infusion they could become absolute queens.

Around the world there’s a lot of enthusiasm still for the classics. Around here the 6-meters have a nice pocket of activity, while internationally the J/Class is back in force. 12-Meters are still some of the most beautiful creatures on the water and several lead active and pampered lives on the east coast. And, in what has to be the weirdest trend, in Europe the old IOR quarter-tonners and half-tonners are getting complete overhauls and optimizations costing many times their initial cost and being raced very actively and competitively.

Let’s Change the Culture

So, there ARE positive signs. But the fact remains not enough boats are racing handicap in the Northwest. Will writing about it help? I don’t know. Ignoring the obvious and putting positive spin on everything isn’t helping. Jumping into online forums in places like Sailing Anarchy can be very interesting and informative, but I’m not sure they move us toward solutions. 

I have some ideas about what’s wrong, and I’m sure you have even better ideas, which is why I’ve put together a little survey to see what you think are the problems. It’s not controlled or scientific, but hopefully it can provide some insight which I’ll share with the yacht clubs and race organizers. If you have something more to contribute than a few sentences, email me about presenting them as a separate post.

Click Here to take the Survey.

I’ve tried to make it quick and easy, yet cover the big stuff. A couple of notes – there is a big PHRF meeting this Sunday and Andy was hoping to get some preliminary numbers from this survey to initiate discussion at the meeting. So sending it before Sunday would be helpful to him – I’ll get those numbers to him. Also, please forward this post or the survey link to the racers you know, even the ones that don’t race anymore. (We want to get them back in the fold, right?)

Also, I’ve set up a sailish.com forum to talk about these things as the relate specifically to the Northwest. There’s a signup process that I hope isn’t too burdensome.

Cruiser-racer handicap sailboat racing is one of the coolest things we can do. It gets us outside. We can play on a team with folks of the opposite gender. We can include our kids a lot of the time. We can challenge ourselves mentally and physically on an ever-changing playing field. It allows us to use an older boat that might otherwise be just growing a furry bottom.

It’s a shame more people aren’t racing. Let’s see if we can change that in the Northwest.

Northwest Laser Masters Take on (and win!) Laser Worlds

Northwest Laser Masters Take on (and win!) Laser Worlds

There may be nothing as worthwhile as messing about in boats, unless it’s specifically racing the Laser Master Worlds. For the 300+ “mature” (35 years old +) sailors, it’s a chance to enjoy sailboat racing in one of its purest forms, against an international crowd who are as interested in having an enjoyable regatta as winning it. It’s a long, tough regatta for a sailor of any age and the quality of racing is quite extraordinary.

Pacific Northwest Lasers outdid themselves this year in Split, Croatia. Bill Symes (Portland) won the Great Grand Master Radial, Al Clark (Vancouver) in the Grand Master Standard Rigand Deirdre Webster (Portland) in the Women’s 75+ all won their divisions. But more than victory on the water, the event and venue were by all reports tremendous. Bill and Al both sent in reports, and we’re lucky to have them. Reading Coach Al’s piece really gives an insight into the racing aspect end of things, especially the psychology, within the lead group.

Championships aside, Greg Jackson, who raced in the Great Grandmaster full rig division, had every bit as much fun if he was “making the top half of the fleet possible.” See a little video below.

These photos by Duje Petric were all lifted from the event’s Facebook site. To scroll through all those excellent photo galleries is to see a lot of fit “mature” sailors having a lot of fun with one of the world’s simplest, yet most challenging, boats. Click on any photo to enlarge.

Report from Al Clark

2017 has been busy for me with my full time position at Royal Vancouver YC as their head coach. Duties included coaching our Laser/Radial high school aged sailors. Also I coached 29’ers at their Midwinters in March and Worlds in August. I particularly enjoyed these high level events with some very talented sailors. I love to learn about new boats and get all the pieces together to help them go fast the right way.

The third component has been coaching some of our Race Team alumni, Kyle Martin in his Finn (Miami OCR and Sailing World Cup Final) and Isabella Bertold (Delta Lloyd and Worlds in Holland) .

I watched and competed in about 17 regattas, 8 major events in 2017. So I would say I saw plenty of high level sailing and have come up with ideas over the years how to get to the front of the fleet.

My training for this year’s Worlds (Vacation time for me with my wife Sharon ) was very minimal. I wasn’t sure I had the mental energy to attend but signed up believing that when the time came I would be excited to race.

I did sail a local regatta in early July in Radials and then sailed the US Nationals in Lake Tahoe later that month. I kept in decent shape at my Crossfit gym and riding my bike .

On water training prior to to worlds was a few days in early September, and then it was on the plane to Croatia with the idea of sailing at the site. I had chartered a private boat and was able to start practicing Sunday September 17th, so with the practice race on the Saturday the 23rd, I had the week to work up to race trim.

I bought a carbon top section and had a new sail, and added my own hiking strap and compass (I use the compass quite a bit these days) . Generally I was quite happy with the boat (I really like the new boats from LP) and the gear by the end of the week.

I have marks for my vang, outhaul and cunningham. I find that when I feel the boat is fast with certain adjustments I make a note of it and try to keep that in mind. An example is I had 2 distinct marks on my vang for puffs and lulls in the 6-10 its we sailed a lot in. My outhaul marks are for upwind, a 1-5 scale on my deck.

The practice race (I sailed one lap) went well and I had decided to start near the favoured end then go on the first shift. Andy Roy was first off the pin then tacked , Peter Vessella was fast off the boat and I trailed both of them at the weather mark. I was in about 6th by the end of the run . Generally happy with my execution. The breeze was about 6 knots .

One of the factors for this event became clear after the practice race . The sail out to the race course was going to be about an hour and a half each day with at least an hour sail in . The wind didn’t happen till about noon each day (if it happened at all) so we were going to have long days on the water with lots of waiting . As a coach I am used to this .

The silver lining for me is that all the sailing out then in gave me plenty of time in the boat and I know that as I get the “feel” back I can be very quick in moderate wind in the Standard rig.

I was training whenever I wasn’t racing . Also entering the harbour each day there was no wind so I had a chance to work on roll tacks and gybes.

The first two days of the regatta (Sunday and Monday) we had no wind so there was a lot of catching up with old friends . Monday was cancelled early so after chatting with some of the guys I was walking home and noticed there wad a late afternoon breeze so I went sailing for a few hours . I really like sailing everyday when I’m at these events , even for a short time.

The Tuesday we had a decent sea breeze (12 knots) by the time racing started and many of the favourites were near the pin at go. Andy Roy was smokin’ fast in this start and I made up my mind to stay with him. This ended up being a recall. In the next start I was motivated to go hard near the pin again and was near Andy and a number of other favourites. I realized that my speed was good and my height also . I arrived first to the weather mark then sailed too conservatively on the run and rounded third . I fought through the race and was better on the final run , I had a 5 boat length lead down the final reach. Unfortunately I picked up a bag on my rudder and was passed by 2 boats .

Race two I made adjustments and again was pleased with my speed. I won this race with a good gap and felt, as I sailed in that this was one of my best sailed first days at a master’s worlds (nerves had been an issue) My self talk was to execute the game plan without fear. Keep the “what ifs” at bay. Examples are don’t go to the lay line to early and have faith in the decision your making .

Wednesday was slightly lighter wind but again 2 good races. I was a little too conservative in race one but was generally happy with a 4th , Andy won that race. The next race was Andy leading again at the top mark, I snuck into 2nd on the rounding and I sailed smarter on the run and rounded close behind Andy going out to the right. I hung with him (happy with my height) then decided to carry on after Andy tacked , this got me into the lead, I extended down the reach and won race 4 .

So after 2 days Andy Roy ,Tomas Nordqvist, Peter Vessella , Wolfgang Gerz and Nick Harrison were all sailing well and the battle was on for the Championship .

Wednesday there was no racing

Thursday brought again little wind and lots of waiting on the water with one race. This turned into a pivotal race. I started near the pin even though my compass was saying square line, even a bit boat favoured. I never came back from this and with plenty of scrambling ended 10th. Andy sailed a nice race and could have led but a big righty came in late up the first beat, so Tomas won this race . So now we have a close battle for the podium with others ready to pounce.

I decided that generally this race was one that I left the game plan and that I would ignore it and focus on the good races I had sailed .

Friday there was no racing , we actually had a breeze come up but ended up being to unstable and with the 175 Standards, we needed 2 hours to get in before sunset, pressure was building. There were a number of sailors that thought I had it won because the forecast for the last day was poor and no racing after 3.

I kept to the routine and sailed out to the race course Saturday. I will say that the long waits and the broken up regatta between races was difficult and I was pleased that I entered the final race with a positive mind set. I was determined to be on my front foot going hard, same as all the races that I did well in

We had one race with a late moderate sea breeze that was enough for me to be in the hiking strap (always good). I had a midline start that turned into a decent rounding at the weather mark (5th ). I passed Tomas on the run and headed left in 4th with the two leaders well ahead . Tacking on the shifts up the beat (many were going left) , I gained and was close in 3rd with a good gap to the rest of the fleet.

Andy and Tomas now had their own battle going on and I only had to keep my head. I ended 2nd in the race and was relieved that I had not let myself down by sailing poorly, but had risen to the occasion. Andy did what he had to with Tomas ending 2nd overall, Tomas 3rd .

My post mortem for the event is that the psychological aspects of competing are of utmost importance. There are a number of factors that helped me succeed – boat speed and height (when needed), executing quality starts, solid lane sailing tactics on the first beat, aggressive tactics on the run, hitting shifts on the second beat (and remembering that what seemed to work on the first beat doesn’t always work on the 2nd) , pushing hard to the finish .

It was amazing how much nicer it is to have a countryman and friend (Andy Roy) nearby on the race course when I wasn’t sure about a strategy. We fed off each other in terms of confidence, discussing tactics etc. at the end of each day.

Looking forward to the Worlds in Ireland next September

–Al Clark

Report from Bill Symes

My wife LauraLee and I have just returned to planet earth from one of the most dramatic sailing venues I’ve experienced in more than half a century of sailing, the Croatian coast. Split, Croatia’s second largest city and site of the 2017 Laser Standard Men’s and Masters World Championships, rises up from the remains of a 3rd century Roman emperor’s palace against a towering backdrop of granite cliffs, facing a cobalt sea and a string of islands surrounded, even in October, by swarms of white sails. Very cool.

We arrived as the guys from the just completed Standard Men’s Worlds (that’s the one for the younger, fitter, full-time sailing crowd) were leaving town, and the city was gearing up for the onslaught of 350 Laser “masters” (minimum age: 35; maximum age: unlimited), their significant others and assorted entourages. We were greeted with a gala opening ceremony on the city’s waterfront promenade – the Riva – complete with welcome speeches by the mayor and various local and Laser Class grandees, live performances by folkloric singers, a really loud audio visual spectacle, and vast quantities of food and beverage (the first of many).

Unfortunately, the wind in Split turned out to be somewhat less robust than the hospitality. We settled into a daily routine of waiting all morning for the offshore breeze to die, then waiting all afternoon for the sea breeze to fill in. The first two days it never did. Racing finally got underway on day three, with each fleet completing three races in light-moderate conditions. The pecking order quickly emerged, with the usual suspects topping the leader board in most divisions.

In the 62-boat Radial Great Grandmasters fleet (65+), I ended the day with finishes of 4-1-16, leaving me in third place behind a couple of Australians, current world champion Rob Lowndes and former world champion Kerry Waraker. Day four produced enough wind for two more races and 4-1 finishes for me. More importantly, I was able to drop the 16th, which boosted me into second, two points shy of the lead. The next day, on a dying breeze and shortened course, I managed a third bullet and moved into a two-point lead.

The forecast for the next couple of days was for no wind and, sure enough, after drifting around for 3 hours on day six, we were sent in without a race. Now the regatta was mine to lose; another abandoned race on the final day would not have been an entirely bad thing. But the race committee was determined, and they sent us out at noon to wait on the water while they prayed for wind. Their prayers were answered at 2:55 pm, five minutes before the deadline for last warning gun. We took off in an 8-knot breeze, and despite my initial anxiety and a mediocre start, the momentum was now on my side, and I was able to work through the fleet and take the race and the championship.

A couple of timeless bumper stickers.

Laser Masters Worlds is like an annual reunion with several hundred of your best sailing buddies, always in some wonderful place you’d have never thought to visit were it not for this event. For masters, the après sailing revelry is just as important as the on-the-water action. Not that the racing isn’t serious business; the field always includes former world champions and Olympic medalists, and the competition at the front of the fleet is intense. There’s a bumper sticker for Laser masters that says “Cheat the nursing home. Die on your Laser,” and these guys are living it. I can’t think of a better way to go.

(For a full regatta report and results, go to laserinternational.org. For Laser geeks interested in the more technical aspects of the racing, check out an upcoming article in Doug Peckover’s blog Improper Course.)

 

–Bill Symes

Greg Jackson may not have been in any of those podium pictures, but I can guarantee he had as good a time as anyone there. Here’s a little video of him talking about the event for a non-sailing crowd. Well worth a chuckle or two.

Bill Stange and the “Wetsnail 32”

Hula
This old brochure shot dates the Columbia back to cross-cut chutes and square-topped staysails.

We’ve got some really good sailors in the Northwest. Bill Stange stands out to me because he can take an unlikely boat and do great things without a boatload of pros or a boatload of Kevlar doilies. Over the last few years his Columbia 26 Tuesday has cleaned up on many a race, leaving more than a few heads shaking. “Who still races a Columbia 26?” one might ask. There might be some others, but Bill Stange is the only one I can find.

If you think a Columbia 26 is an unlikely choice, consider Stange’s Westsail 32. The Westsail 32 traces its origins to a Colin Archer type pilot boat as adapted by William Aitkin with deck modifications by Bill Crealock. At 20,000 lbs. the Westsail is a lot more than big-boned, she’s “massive.” But Stange has re-taught many of us an important lesson: Yep, it may be hard to get heavy displacement moving, but it’s also hard to stop it. Oh yeah, and waterline matters.

There’s another important lesson here. One can race just about anything. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Bill was kind enough to write about his recent Edmonds YC Foul Weather Bluff win. Here’s Bill:

     So you want to find out what it was like racing the Westsail 32?

     18 miles of fun was had, that’s for sure. The race started with a dead run from Edmonds to The Scatchet Head buoy. Interestingly, there was no “short course” for the slower rated boats to sail, as the race committee sent everybody on the same course. We expected that we would be passed soon after the start by the much faster boats starting after us. We started our 20,000 pound 32-footer in the second start. Under spinnaker, we quickly got past the first starters who were not flying spinnakers, and we were leading the fleet (first surprise of the day!) None of the boats starting after us seemed to be getting much closer on the run, so we rounded the Scatchet Head buoy in first place, (second surprise of the day!) followed closely by the always well sailed Bingo. OK enough of this Westsail leading the fleet stuff, right? Well, our third surprise of the day was that we actually stretched our lead on the second leg to Pilot Point, and had a fairly comfortable lead. Leading the fleet on the way back to Edmonds, we were finally passed by Dragonfly and then the TP 52s. They were fun to watch as they blasted by, but we were now doing our own healthy 6.5 knots right towards the finish line! We received the shot gun blast and later the bullet glass trophy for first to finish in class. We also corrected out to win our class by about two minutes over Gay Morris’ fast Shark Fayaway.  The final surprise of the day was when they announced that the first place overall winner was our beloved “Wetsnail” 32 Hula!!!

     So… was it the rating? (ed. note 239) or the different wind conditions for different starts?  …or can a Westsail really sail?  All I can tell you is that it was really fun to be next to some sailboat skippers as they looked down their noses at our lowly Westsail when they slowly realized they couldn’t keep up.   

     Ratings aside, there were 65 total boats in the race, and 30 of them lost to a Westsail 32 on elapsed time. Ouch!

     -Bill and Darlene Stange

 Westsail 32 HULA

PS we still own Tuesday the Columbia 26 and keep her on Lake Union.

Going for the Bot End of the Line in PSSC Big Boats

Going for the Bot End of the Line in PSSC Big Boats
The MarkSetBot

The story for this year’s Big Boat Pacific Coast Sailing Championship (PSSC), put on by CYC Seattle last weekend, has a lot more to do with mark sets than mark roundings. Principal Race Officer Charley Rathkopf was beta testing the MarkSetBot. Robot marks? Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

This self-propelled floating mark can be instructed via computer through the web, to hold a GPS position. It’s electric trolling motor, autopilot and cell phone work together. “Once you get it in the water and all connected, it worked great” Rathkopf reported. There are still some kinks to work out, but hey, that’s what beta testing is all about.

This wasn’t just Rathkopf’s doing. CYC members Bob Combie and Hans Spiller were instrumental in getting the club selected as a tester, and getting the Midwest product on Northwest waters.

Rathkopf reports that the bot could change position very quickly when directed, but didn’t have enough battery power to get itself back to Shilshole after a full day of holding position on the water.

Another beta tester had claimed they really needed a bot like this because “we have to set marks in 100 feet of water!” I’m sure their heads shook in disbelief when they heard Puget Sound marks are set conventionally, and successfully, in many times that depth.

As good as the CYC crews have become at setting marks in deep water, and they are amazing, as a Laser sailor I’m all in favor of something that speeds up the process. It gets cold out there sitting around wet waiting for the line to be reset!

All the photos in this post (and many others) are by Jan Anderson. I’d like to make a personal plea to you owners and crews to go to her web site and order (yes, pay for) photos. She works very hard at her craft and gives us all the chance to relive our races time and again. Click any photo to enlarge.

Of course there was excellent racing in light breezes all weekend. In the J/105 class, Erik Kristen and More Jubilee won the series without winning a single race. In the Melges 24 class it was Kevin Welch’s top shelf MiKEY program with the clear win. Worm Lund and Snappy Tom won three of the races to seal the victory, and in the 8-boat J/80 Crazy Ivan won handily.

A grand total of 22 boats raced in handicap classes. Classes 1 and 2 had three, count ’em three, boats apiece. Class 3 had seven boats and a modest rating range. Nine boats sailed in Class 7 with a rating range of 126 seconds/mile. Glory and Wicked Wahine won classes 1 and 2 while Bat out of Hell won Class 3 and Here and Now took Class 7.

It’s worth noting that the one design classes appear strong. The 10-boat Melges 24 fleet seems quite solid, as does the J/105 class. The San Juan 24 and J/80 classes appear to be strengthening.

Puget Sound Sailing Championships – Moore 24s, J/24s and Dinghies Get a Full Weekend of Racing

Puget Sound Sailing Championships – Moore 24s, J/24s and Dinghies Get a Full Weekend of Racing

Corinthian (Seattle) YC’s PSSR Regatta started off last weekend with the small boat edition, and Puget Sound delivered with just enough wind for two good days of racing. With nine races sailed (eight for the J/24s), the winners all had to earn their way to the top. The PRO for the event, Egor Klevak, did an excellent job of keeping things moving along the entire weekend. Melissa Davies did a great job of drumming up participation, which was up substantially from 2016 across the board.

This year the seven Moore 24s were switched from the “large boat” half of the event (to be sailed this coming weekend) to the small boat event. That, combined with the 12-boat J/24 class meant that everyone had to stay alert in the starting area to avoid those unpleasant big boat/small boat interactions. It also meant the inevitable couple of incidents while one fleet was going through the start line while another fleet was starting. There’s just not a lot of room to get through a line when the J/24s are jockeying for position. Everyone stayed on their toes and it all worked.

Here are some of Jan Anderson’s photos. Click to enlarge. There are lots more here, and I know she’d love you to see them.

Saturday’s predicted light southerly held ’til mid afternoon, when a northerly blew down on the fleet with some gusty breezes, and the existing race was abandoned for some classes. Rather than saying enough racing for the day, Klevak reoriented the course and sent everyone for one final race of the day in a waning wind. It meant that by the end of the day a full five races had been sailed and a good regatta already was achieved. And it meant some very, very tired sailors.

And it appeared that that had been a wise move with a glassy Puget Sound the next morning. But as the land heated up, the northerly once again turned on and four more solid races were sailed. The strong currents of the weekend caused much consternation and some surprises. In the last race, for some classes, better wind actually trumped the ripping flood while heading upwind. As the crews gathered in the CYC clubhouse, the TV showed the Seahawks managing to hold onto a win. What a weekend!

Ben Braden and crew won the Moores, young Lucas Lafitte put his stamp on the J/24 fleet, Dave Watt won the small Star class and Kirk and Katia Smith stood atop the Snipe class. Results here.

Both the RS Aeros and Lasers had very good fleets, each with 11 boats on the line. Dalton Bergan managed to win the RS Aero, despite going with the smaller “7” rig on the first day. Second was Todd Willsie, the very first RS Aero owner in the region and third was Bergan’s father in law Carl Buchan, who may have regretted matching Dalton’s “7” rig the first day. Youth was the theme for the Laser class as Blake Bentzen won with a very consistent performance, with strong performances by Stasi Burzycki, Luke Gibbens, Kit Stoll and Perham Black (only the second day, but was he ever fast).

Big Little Duel in Foulweather Bluff Race

Big Little Duel in Foulweather Bluff Race

By all accounts this year’s Edmonds YC Foulweather Bluff Race last Saturday wasn’t the most tactically intriguing, but it was a good chance for a clash of the Titans, namely Gay Morris’ Shark 24 Fayaway and Bill Stange’s Westsail 32 (yes, Westsail 32) Hula. See below for the blow by blow account.

Crossfire’s Track

While the big boats didn’t figure in the overall podium standings, they of course had a great race among themselves with Glory coming out on top of Crossfire and Smoke. According to Nigel Barron of Crossfire, the key moment was shortly after the start when Crossfire and and Smoke gybed to get north while Glory headed across the Sound. “That was the move,” Barron reported, “As you can see, three gybes and no tacks for the race. Not a lot of passing lanes.” Crossfire‘s track at left.

Other notable performances were put in by Kiwi Express which edged Here and Now by under a minute, Jaded which won the 7-boat J/105 class and Bat Out Of Hell which beat the Flying Tiger Anarchy by only 30 seconds.

Jan and Skip Anderson (and the pooch Mocha) were on hand to catch the smiles and the start. Please go to her FWB gallery and enjoy the photos. Here are some. Click to enlarge.

But the real battle of the day took place in Class 2, and it would be hard to find three more different boats in a cruiser racer class. Fittingly, they ended up 1st, 2nd and 4th overall among the monohulls. (Yeah, the catamaran Dragonfly corrected time was in there too but she’s really in a class of her own) I’ll let my friend Gay Morris of the Shark 24 Fayaway (2200lbs) describe his battle with the Perry Quarter Tonner Bingo (4000 lbs?) and Bill Stange’s Westsail 32 Hula (19500 lbs):

Clash of the Titans

Foulweather Bluff 2017 was a very memorable sail for us on the little Shark 24, Fayaway. The race was quick, basically a run and two close reaches. It was not a very challenging course. We started well at the west end of the line and reached west. The tide was ebbing and the 5-6 knot southerly was showing signs of increasing. Soon after the start I looked down and saw the Westsail 32 Hula sailing very well. She had speed on us.

Citroën 2CV, or “Deux Chevaux” in case you were wondering.

They were flying their beautiful pink kite just perfectly and inching ahead all the time. One of the Shark’s weaknesses is downwind in light air. Even with Fayaway‘s penalty spinnaker and double penalty main we could just not keep pace. I told my crew we were being out horse-powered, like a Deux Chevaux against a big Buick. The Quarter Tonner Bingo was going very well too.

Once out west of the Possession Bar most of us gybed toward Scatchet Head. The winds went lighter, maybe 3-4 knots. I remember hearing a train going by Meadowdale and told my crew that we should get an easterly shift. We did and had a good reach for the mark, staying high because of the ebbing tide. Bingo was first around, having sailed a very nice run. Hula was right on their tail a half mile ahead of us.

The reach to Pilot Point was a straight away close reach and the wind built up to 12 knots from the south. Hula moved out again nicely, using her greater waterline.

At the rounding Hula lost a little by going inshore before tacking. Fayaway tacked at the mark and headed east right away. The winds built to about 15. The Shark loves a breeze. They do not point high but do go very fast for their rating. For a light boat they do not slow down in the chop like so many boats do. We eased sheets slightly, hiked hard and went fast, passing four boats on this last leg.  Ahead of us Hula went fast and munched through the chop easily. We did gain a couple minutes on the last leg but Hula was too far out there. I guess we ran out of runway. A few more miles and we would have corrected on her. Hula corrected to first overall and Fayaway second overall, about two minutes behind. Bill Stange is an excellent sailor and his crew did a perfect job. It is always a pleasure racing against him no matter what boats are involved. – Gay Morris

And Then There’s This – Take Note Race Organizers!

And we have to include this nice note from John Wolfe of CYC Edmonds:

Dear Kurt,

We Corinthians in Edmonds thank you as editor and Bruce Hedrick as contributor for the spot on forecast which made it easier for our race committee to run a shorter course for the faster boats in last Saturday’s FWB race.

NOAA’s forecast had us all licking our lips for much better than average wind but Bruce Hedrick’s forecast reeled us back to the reality that you have to sail with the wind you have.

Thanks! John Wolfe CYCE

Race Organizers: Bruce has kindly been offering up his weather outlooks and racers and committees respond! The Briefs engage sailors and get everybody thinking about this puzzle that is the Salish sea. Ours, after all, is as much a intellectual sport as it is a boatspeed challenge. And while even a Bruce Brief forecast isn’t always spot on, it helps everyone make better decisions. Please get in touch with me about your event and I’ll beg Bruce to put his thinking cap on for your race – then help me spread the word that the Brief exists. Thanks! -KMH

 

 

Laser Worlds, J/24 Europeans Success for Northwest Sailors

Laser Worlds, J/24 Europeans Success for Northwest Sailors

It is so fun to applaud the success of Northwest racers when they go out in the world! Over the past week we can claim some more of that success, though to anyone who’s been paying attention it won’t come as surprise.

Bill Symes atop the podium.

Bill Symes of Portland won the Great Grandmaster aged (65+) Radial fleet in the Laser Master Worlds in Split, Croatia. He did it in convincing fashion, winning four of the seven races, including the last three. Those of us who get to race against Symes know how much he contributes to the sport, what great sportsman he is and how ridiculously consistently fast he is. He is extremely deserving of this win!

Al Clark of Vancouver has coached young Vancouver athletes for several years and has been taking aim at the Master Worlds for many years. He won this year’s Standard Grandmaster (55+) division in a hard-fought battle with fellow Canadian Andy Roy.

And then there’s Diedre Webster, also from Vancouver. She was third in the women’s Great Grandmaster (65+) fleet. But wait, she was the only 75+ woman in the fleet, so that pretty much makes her the winner (a hero) of that class!

I hope to get some first-person details to share in the not-so-distant future.

The Laser Masters Worlds is a truly amazing event. Every year, more than 300 “old folks” get together somewhere in the world to race these deceptively simple, physically brutal, little boats. You can hear swearing in several different languages as one side of the course gets hit by a bad shift. To sail a Laser in breeze at any age is a challenge, to do so when your’re 60, 70 or more is amazing! And at the top of these fleets, the level of skill and fitness is absolute tops.

The Master Worlds is my personally favorite regatta. The sportsmanship and camaraderie is tops, the international aspect is remarkable and racing is always top notch. I was particularly pleased to see the number of women racing at the Worlds this year. It seemed to be more than in years past.

Results.

 

J/24 European Championship

 

Whittemore’s Tundra Rose winning US Nationals earlier this year in Seattle.

Keith Whittemore loves sailing J/24s on Tuesdays on Lake Washington. He also loves sailing them in Europe. He’s had a great year, first winning the Nationals here in Seattle in May and last week winning the Europeans in Hungary last week with a remarkable comeback win.

According to Whittemore’s emails to his J/24 compatriots, it was light and shifty conditions. On day 2 (?) he had a rough day, having to fight back from a bad start to finish 7th, suffering a black flag DSQ for the second race of the day and then watching the last race (which he was winning) abandoned. Despite all that, he eventually was able to drop the DSQ and rack up three thirds in the last four races to claim victory. Results.

In the meantime, other Seattle J/24 racers were making their mark at the World Championships in Port Credit, Ontario. Mark Laura’s Baba Louie ended up 7th , Scott Milne with Tremendous Slouch finished 10th and Carl Sheath finished 30th in Suspence.

I’m hoping to share some insights from the competitors themselves in the coming days.

 

Sensory Deprivation on the Cockpit Floor in the Six Meter Worlds

Sensory Deprivation on the Cockpit Floor in the Six Meter Worlds

There’s no doubt that the 6-Meter Worlds in Vancouver September 15-21 was an extraordinary, red-carpet affair and not really weekend sailor fare. Boats and luminaries were shipped from Europe, boats resuscitated and re-wardrobed, pros were lined up for most of the boats. It’s not often there’s real-life royalty on the start line.

But what’s it like to sail a 6-Meter? I gave a shout to Alex Simanis of Ballard Sails who was main trimmer aboard Bob Cadranell’s Arunga.

“In my spot it was like sailing with sensory deprivation,” he explains. “I didn’t see any of the beats. I was sitting on the floor of the open cockpit tending the mainsheet, runners, traveller and the trim tab. As soon as we’re doing 5 knots you used the trim tab, just a little to make the keel a bit assymetrial going upwind. As the main trimmer you get kicked in the face a few times because you share the space the owner.”

Click on these Nancii Bernard photos to enlarge. I’d highly recommend going to her web site to see the rest of her photos – they provide a great feel for the sailing part of the regatta.

Some of the other things Simanis explained were that there was a real issue with the boats trying to sink themselves when they got going downwind. It was more than the meter-type hull settling deep into displacement mode, it was more like self-destruction. The wing keels on some boats are actually aimed to drive the boat into the water. “We took on a lot of the water – it came over the floorboards. We were pumping with the biggest Whale pump they make!”

And Simanis added that these boats can be handful when it blows. “It’s physical,” he says. The boats usually sail with five. “Twenty knots is about the limit for these boats,” he adds, “After that it just gets stupid.”

Arunga was in the modern class, but the “classic” class was equally competitive. The royalty (HM the King of Spain) won the classic classic race, and the Swiss boat Junior defended her title, but not without controversy. Chris Winnard, who happened to be sailing on Arunga, laid out some of the controversies in this Sailing Anarchy post.

Simanis agreed that things smelled, at the very least, fishy when the hot local Canadian New Sweden was given some questionable redress. “18 boats filed protests, and eventually they just rolled it into one protest with 18 witnesses,” Simanis explained. He added that the program Ben Mumford and Don Marten had put together didn’t really need any help – the boat was well sorted and fast. In the end the redress was not given.

Of course, high falutin or not, it’s still a sailboat race and everyone tries to come away learning a thing or two. The Arunga team, for instance, learned a fair bit about mast rake. They learned they needed a lot more than they’d been using, though in the end had to moderate the change just a bit. The whole “bow down” thing to maximize speed isn’t necessarily the thing to do, as the fast boats were all sheeting in hard and pointing on the beats.

While the real competition is in Europe, this region has a proud history, and present, with 6-Meters. There are several boats in Port Madison, and they often turn up for Seattle buoy races. Then there are the Vancouver boats. With all these boats tuned up after the Worlds, there may be a renewed interest in the class around here.

It would be a great game to play, because while they’re sailed boat for boat, every one is different and needs it’s own customization. Optimizing the boat is certainly a big part of the game. And underway, who wouldn’t like to on that good looking a boat going to weather?

Few if any boats are more beautiful than the narrow, low slung meter boats. I grew up watching some of the ex-America’s Cup 12-Meters like Heritage charging upwind unmolested through those nasty boat-stopping lake waves. It was as sight to behold. And if you spend some time looking at the photos and squint a bit, you can see a bit of the “old” Cup racing.

“I’m a sailor who believes in planing boats, but it’s cool to be sailing part of history,” Simanis says. Even if it means you miss seeing where you are on the race course during the beat.

 

Racing Wrapup: 6-Meters, US Offshore, J/24s and the Mighty Cal 20

A few racing events happened over this past weekend in addition to the scholastic event we covered yesterday.

US Offshore Championship

Back on the East Coast a group of local sailors led by John Leitzinger did battle in the US Offshore Championship sailed out of the Naval Academy in Annapolis. While he was runner up in the same event 18 years ago, things weren’t as successful here with a 9th place finish. We’re hoping to get the onboard lowdown from the Northwest boat in the coming days.

There was a Northwest connection to the winning boat Meat representing Chicago. Paul Bersie, who hails from Chicago, reports that her boyfriend Brian Davies is a regular with that team and was onboard for the event. (She would have been there except for her Fisheries Supply duties!) From his view, the Puget Sound team had some bad breaks, but otherwise could have been right up there. An interesting side note, the crew onboard Meat included a 26-week pregnant woman! Bersie reports: “She’d said they kept asking her at the yacht club if she was nauseated from sitting on the spectator boat. Haha! I’m sure she had a great time telling them that she was, in fact, also racing.” Results.

 

J/24 Worlds

The J/24 Worlds were held in Port Credit, Ontario, with 63 competitors. Northwest competitors again were in the hunt with Mark Laura’s Baba Louie ending up in 7th , Scott Milne with Tremendous Slouch in 10th and Carl Sheath in Suspence in 30th. If any of the skippers or crew want to share some of the story, just email me and I’ll get it online. Results.

6-Meter Worlds

This was truly an epic event. There were 45 boats in two classes, “modern” and “classic.” The most “modern” boat was from 1995 and the most classic was from 1928. His Majesty Don Juan Carlos de Borbon from Spain won the classic division. Phillippe Durr won the modern class. The top Northwest boat was Bainbridge Island’s Peter Hofmann in Goose in the classic class. I’m hoping to get some more insight into the event in the days to come. One thing for certain, luminaries were drawn to this events like moths to the light, and while the world ponders its next foiling boat, the elegance, class and competitiveness of this fleet stood out.  Results.

Cal 20 Fleet Championship

It may not be king’s boat, but the Tacoma Cal 20 fleet had its Fleet Championship over the weekend in very light winds. The little Lapworth design moves along even in the light stuff and, most importantly, a lot of fun was had.

 

Gridley and Timms Win NWISA Singlehanded Championships

Gridley and Timms Win NWISA Singlehanded Championships

Northwest Interscholastic Sailing Association Singlehanded Championships

Photo by Jim Skeel

It wasn’t the breeziest of regattas, but the high school singlehanded championships were sailed over the weekend off Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle. The winners were Grant Gridley in the Radial class and Owen Timms in the full rig class. University sailors got their own Radial and full rig fleets. Congratulations to all who participated. BTW, I’m pleased to report that the Seattle Laser Fleet provided a number of boats in support of this event.

Here’s the report from the NWISA:

Saturday, September 23:

Competitors from around the Northwest were greeted by a light southerly on Saturday morning. This proved to be quite stable and peaked around 8 knots by noon. The breeze then began to fade, and by 3pm it had shut off completely. We were fortunate to complete 6 radial and 7 full rig races in that time, alternating between double lap windward/leewards and trapezoid courses. The 20 boat Laser Radial fleet especially was very competitive. This resulted in at least 8 general recalls (we lost count) and most of the later starts under I-flag.

Sunday, September 24:

The forecast for Sunday looked bleak, and after a shore postponement competitors left the dock at 11am to try racing in a fragile northerly. The breeze was just strong enough to start a Radial race, and it maintained a 3-4 knot average until most competitors had finished. After it fizzled out, competitors waited around on the water for another hour and a half before the Race Committee called racing for the day. NWISA is excited to send representatives Owen Timms and Per Black in the Full Rig and Grant Gridley and Abbie Carlson in the Laser Radial to St. Petersburg, FL later this fall. They will do a terrific job representing our conference. Big thanks to all the volunteers and race officials this weekend. The regatta was well run and made the most of our limited racing windows.

More Photos by Jim Skeel. Click to enlarge.

US Sailing just sent out their Youth Sailing newsletter. Take a look.