The Cruising Class Act

As I was writing the wrapup of Seattle YC’s Tri-Island series it occurred to me that the cruiser-racer class, which continues to grow, gets short shrift. With few exceptions, most of the major series around the Salish Sea set aside classes where anchors on the bow, kids in the forepeak and blown out sails are welcome. Sometimes, getting that last 1/10th of a knot is just not that important. 

So I asked the overall winner Phil Calvert to jot a few things down about the fleet and the series. It turns out that Phil is not only an eager racer, but an eager proponent of the cruiser-racer class as well. Take it away Phil:


The SYC Tri-Island series has had a Cruiser/Racer fleet for 16 years now and it is fun competing against old friends and new. Thirteen boats of all types and size made up the biggest class in the series. My boat Runaway is a 1973 Norlin 34 and competing against some very good sailors with lots of talent aboard those boats. This year my crew hit it hard and got lucky enough to stay with the leaders and barely correct over them. In the Blake Island race, we corrected by 1 second.  Wow, that 1 second is very surreal as many other decisions could have changed our outcome. It does show that even an old, tired, IOR boat can still get around the course, have fun, and share in racing with all the new, light fast sailboats in the Pacific Northwest in the other classes. It is just plain fun to get out on the water with good friends for some fun competition!

I’ve owned Runaway for 17 years, bought her as a repo. She was in pretty bad shape, but the boat really caught my eye. I put a bid in and paid the broker that day. He towed me to Lake Union and on the way we hit the Ballard Bridge with the mast, oops!  The boat is built like a tank, I love showing people the hull cut-out from when I repowered her.  I showed Robert Perry the cut-out once (he had a Peter Norlin custom design boat “Perrywinkle”). His response was, “you could make four boats out if that much fiberglass.”  We had a good laugh.

She was bought at Offshore Yachts in Shilshole new in 1973.  I was told a doctor owned and raced it with the same name, but I can’t find any info, lived at Shilshole for many years. The Norlin 34 was a 3/4 ton rater, but the old IOR days were about over then.

The Cruiser/Racer Class

In this photo left to right are Phil Calvert, the SYC Rear Commodore Tyler Ellison, our lucky charm junior crew Hailey, her uncle Duane, foredeck Galan, Crew Boss Jean, and sailing whisperer Ellis

We have sailboats such as Anomaly, Santa Cruz 50; Jiminy, J42 all the way down to a Catalina 25. A lot of these skippers don’t have the time, equipment, or crew to do a full PHRF class, but still want to race and come out to play. In the past I can remember sailing in the Cruiser/Racer class with just two people on the boat, I just wanted to be sailing and everyone was busy. It’s super fun to have a crew who is new to sailing and watching them become really good at what they do, we also share in all the jobs, whether driving or foredeck, we all have each other’s backs.  

The Cruiser/Racer class is casual. You can do flying sails or elect to do no-flying sails and your rating will be adjusted. Symmetrical or asymmetrical.  In the PHRF-NW handbook “cruising credits,” you can also get adjustments for anchors on the bow, furling mainsails, old sails, bad bottoms. Of course, that is up to the club rater and organizing authority, but the goal is to get you off the docks and not to have the latest in equipment.

I have been helping with the SYC club to bring their sailboats off the docks and out racing. I’m also reaching out to CYC and Sloop to grow the Cruiser/Racer class.  I would love to help in anyway I can.


And my good friends Ryan and Autumn Helling very actively race Velella. The 31-foot Velella has a remarkable history. She was designed by Tom Wylie specifically as a cruiser, and has done just that carrying Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman around the Pacific. And now she serves as home to Ryan and Autumn. My hats off to them for making sure Velella is still putting miles under the keel. For many liveaboards untying the dock lines seems a bit too much. Here’s Ryan: 

We only got out for the last race of the series but we’ve done the cruiser/racer class the past 3 or 4 years and had a great time. It has been steadily growing and it’s nice to see some new boats out there. Of course, it would be fun to see even more boats. The courses are a nice length for boats in our rating band. We’ve particularly enjoyed the Blake Island race as it wraps up with the party at Elliott Bay and we’ve generally stayed the night. We have a cruising boat, so why not? I think more races should be like this. The steel drum band and taco truck this year were great. Couple that with free beer and wine and it makes a pretty good time. We will definitely be back next year.

Final thoughts

It’s kind of odd, isn’t it, that we’re talking about the rise of the cruiser/racer class. After all, isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be sailing? In truth, it hasn’t been that way in a really long time. Much of the fleet have no accommodations whatsever, and many of the other cruising-capable boats are stripped of just about everything that’s not nailed down. There should be a place for both the racer willing to dedicate his boat to his racing passion and a place for the sailors who desire both sides of the sport. It turns out there are those places, and most clubs, seeing the troubling downward trend of participation numbers, are embracing the true cruiser-racer element as well. If your club isn’t paying enough attention, rattle their halyards.

A well placed tack is just as much fun with anchors on the bow as it is with them stowed in the bilge. If you’re interested in casual racing, feel free to email me and I’ll try to point you in the right direction. 

The America’s Cup – Fast Growing Grass

The America’s Cup – Fast Growing Grass

It’s been an interesting, disillusioning Sunday. Watching is definitely not as fun as doing, especially when it comes to sailing on TV vs sailing on the water.

This morning I watched NBC’s Courageous documentary. It’s an exceptionally well done history (imho) of the height of the America’s Cup. Lowell North, Ted Hood and of course the dynamic duo of Ted Turner and Gary Jobson. Really great sailors, dramatic personalities and politics and supremely beautiful boats. I tried to get my boys (aged 5 and 10) to get interested. Nope.

Maybe it was speed. 12-Meters just don’t like going more than about nine or so knots. So, let’s try the new America’s Cup following not coincidentally. The Kiwis just sailed away. The one or two interactions between the boats was barely enough to hold my interest, much less the boys’.

Then I watched the the Kiwis crush Team Oracle in another two races. A couple of close interactions, but for the most part the boats were very far apart and might well have been sailing on different continents. Most of the time only the panoramic views could get both boats in the same frame. My boys weren’t the least interested.

At the risk of sounding like I park dentures in a glass next to my bed every night, here goes my thoughts on the America’s Cup.

There’s a divide among sailors about the Cup. Some think the new version is great, some long for the days of 9 knot 12-Meters and a few are somewhere in between. The divide isn’t quite as big as Democrats vs Republicans, but it’s close.


Foiling is cool. 40 mph over the water is cool. The new tactics are cool enough. The scampering from one hull to another is cool. The on-screen graphics are cool. The crashes are cool (until somebody gets hurt).  The technology is cool.

Not Cool

The personalities are not cool compared to the days of Ted Turner, Ted Hood, Lowell North, Olin Stephens and even Dennis Conner. Not that today’s personalities are bad, they’re just held so under wraps by corporate obligations we don’t get to see them. The endless commercialization is not cool. If I see one more “Official Doo-Dad of the America’s Cup” type press release I think I’ll vomit. The wing sails are cool, and deadly efficient. The fact that few sailors are from the countries they ostensibly represent is not cool. The fact that the Northwest’s Paul Bieker is so key to the design and engineering is way cool.


And from my standpoint a few things are glaringly absent. Sail changes. Sail adjustment we can see (surely the trimmer is into the nuance of half a degree here or there, but hell if I can see it). Grace. Yes, they’re fast and in their own way beautiful, but I miss the grace of a well designed hull moving through the water, of one boat trying to lock into the wave pattern of another, of the shear power of a keelboat casting waves aside right and left as it crushes to weather.

And what’s missing from both the new and old Cups is, with some exceptions, close racing.

17/06/2017 – Bermuda (BDA) – 35th America’s Cup Bermuda 2017 – 35th America’s Cup Match Presented by Louis Vuitton- Race Day 1

Today’s obliteration of Oracle was like watching grass grow, as the saying goes. OK, it was like watching grass grow fast. The time differences on these 20 minute races were less than 2 minutes, but it sure seemed a lot further. The boats were more than 1/4 mile apart most of the time.

The Cup moments that most captured the public’s attention didn’t have anything to do with speed. Who could forget Turner’s ongoing antics of 1977. There was that entire summer of ’83 when we all wondered exactly what was under Australia II, and that moment when Alan Bond’s outstretched hands looked like they alone could lift A-II out of the water for all to see. And then there was Conner’s epic comeback when Stars & Stripes blew a headsail in the Fremantle Doctor, and the crew scrambled to quickly replace it. It was something that can and does happen on raceboats frequently, and we racers all just take that in stride, but in that case the public saw it happen. I remember non-sailing friends being impressed. Not speed. It was wind, waves and crew work.

Roger Vaughan has a very well considered piece that appeared in Scuttlebutt called I don’t Need a Helmet to go Sailing.

But as that tiresome phrase goes, it is what it is.

It is a new made-for-screen sporting product and those sailors and designers and media technicians have taken this new sport to amazing places. And it’s not going back. I’m viewing this year’s Cup as I would an intriguing new sport. I’ll try to understand the tactics and be impressed by the grinders’ efforts which are remarkable. I’ll watch the wing and the trimmer very carefully. I’ve gotten to the point were I can tell what tack boats are on even if I’m not always sure whether they’re heading “upwind” or “downwind.” I’ll root for the Kiwis because, well, they deserve to get it back and that country truly respects sailing.

There’s one thing about the new Cup I really don’t like, and it’s is what Roger Vaughan was getting at: The new Cup is not the sailing I love and that I’d love to see more people doing. The Cup is not really getting that much attention from the mainstream media. Just ask your non-sailing friends if they have any idea it’s going on. And I’m afraid that even if someone gets turned on by these cool cats, they’ll be highly disappointed when they go to a sailing school or community sailing center and face a ponderous but safe sailing class boat they’ll turn away disappointed.

As a kid sailing around the harbor I could imagine my little O’Day 7/11 dinghy was Intrepid. I’m not sure today’s kid in a Bic O’pen can make the imagination leap to an AC cat. Tell me if I’m wrong.

In the meantime I’ll see if Spithill and company can come up with another epic comeback. If he does, I hope the races are close. I don’t care if they’re going at a fast walking pace.

Tri-Island Wraps with a Sombrero

Tri-Island Wraps with a Sombrero

Seattle Yacht Club’s Tri-Island Series may be the most “Northwest” of all the racing series. It utilizes our abundance of islands to make interesting courses and turns, and offers three great tours of Puget Sound (and sometimes a bit beyond). Win or lose, sailing up and down the Sound is almost always a win. And when you get to wind your way around and over tight spots, using or avoiding currents and negotiating geographical wind glitches it’s always interesting. Sometimes maddening.

Blake Island Race

By all accounts the Blake Island Race was an entertaining and fairly fast race. Following is Crossfire‘s track.


Once again we’ve tapped into the Brains of Brad (Baker) of Swiftsure Yachts for analysis of how Crossfire sailed the course:

We had a good race on Crossfire. Bruce Hedrick’s forecast pretty much came to pass with a light air southerly drainage wind for the start going more easterly at West Point across Elliott Bay and with a northerly eventually filling. The three fastest boats, Smoke, Glory and Crossfire, had a very different race then the rest of the Blake Island fleet.  The start was in a 7-knot Southerly.  It was close between the three of us with Smoke initially doing the best job and grabbing the early lead,  followed by Glory then us. As we cleared West Point going south, the wind turned more ESE and the drag race was on! That is if you call 4–6 knots of boat speed in a dying 4-knot breeze a drag race! Ultimately. Crossfire was able to escape out front with a good lead. We were working the problem hard adjusting sails and skipper Lou Bianco did an excellent job of driving, but frankly I think the extra rig height on Crossfire is what tipped the scales in our favor as there was a bit more wind up high. By the time we cleared Restoration Point Crossfire had a healthy lead and never gave it up.  What was different for us three faster boats vs the rest of the fleet is we continued to sail in the southerly all the way to Blake Island. As we approached the turn at Blake we were hard on the wind as a 7 knot southerly had filled in, while we could see the bulk of the fleet coming down from the north under spinnaker. After rounding the island to starboard we parked on the East side, but were carried north at 1.5 knots in the perma-ebb on that side of the island. The northerly filled down to us quickly and we were off to the races again.  It was a beat……again, but this time in 14 knots.  We did get some fun spinnaker time from the turning mark at West Point to the finish off Elliott Bay Marina with a max speed of just over 15 knots on that leg. The wind gods and luck worked in Crossfire’s favor.  We finished 1st in class, Smoke 2nd and Glory 3rd.  That gave all three boats a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd finish for the series for a three way tie at 6 points each. Since Crossfire won the last race, we won the tie breaker to take the series. ORC seems to be working.  It’s worth noting that the J-145 Jedi won the overall for this race in ORC. The J/145 seems to rate fairly under ORC and is a great all around boat. (Ed. Note, making the shameless plug on behalf of Swiftsure Yachts: They have my old J/145 ride Double Take for sale right now.)

The Series Results

For this year’s Tri-Island series the wind gods were generally pretty cooperative with all three races successfully in the books.

Some of the happy Crossfire crew at the festive prizegiving and party at the Seattle Yacht Club Elliott Bay outstation. “I really LOVE sombreros, Nigel Barron explains. Clearly.

The “big boat fleet” is alive and well on the Salish Sea, and as Brad points out the ORC handicapping system is apparently doing a good job. In the ORC class 1 results, the “Big Three” (Crossfire, Glory and Smoke) finished the series tied, with Crossfire winning on the tiebreaker of the last race. When the two ORC classes were combined for the overall scoring, Smoke came out on top by one point ahead of four boats tied at one point behind. New Haven won Class 2 and Jedi finished third and first overall in the races she sailed.

Bravo Zulu won the PHRF long course series handily. Denny Vaughan and crew seem to never miss a race, and it shows. Second and third were a pair of J/120s, Hinzite and With Grace. After her misfortune (grounding) in Swiftsure, Terremoto missed the last race but still won Class 3 on the strength of her wins in the first two races.

On the short course (also PHRF) it was all Kiwi Express, Reinhold Freywald’s Farr 1020. She won the first two short course races overall and finished with a strong 4th. More Jubilee and Different Drummer continued their winning ways in their respective classes.

I’m hoping to get some lowdown on the cruiser-racer class (Class 9). A total of 13 boats competed in at least one race, which represents a significant portion of the fleet. Watch for a special report on that class to follow soon.

Results here.

I’d love to update this post with some photos or additional tales. Just send them in! Thanks to Brad Baker and Rick Donohue for the report and track!


Blake Island SIs

Props to Nigel Barron of CSR Marine for passing along this letter from SYC’s Brian Ledbetter to competitors in tomorrow’s Blake Island Race. I’m certain Brian won’t mind me getting this reminder out in front of readers, especially considering the safety issues:


From: Brian Ledbetter <>

Sent: Thursday, June 1, 2017 11:04:27 AM

To: Brian Ledbetter

Subject: Tri-Island Series – Blake Island Race Info and Safety


Hello Racers,


A couple of reminders for the Blake Island race this Saturday:

1.     Stay WELL CLEAR of ALL commercial traffic.  Blake Island race crosses shipping lanes and ferry routes.

2.     We have had incidents in both previous races of this series, and 2 protests resulting in boats retiring from the race.

3.     Please read the entire sailing instructions, (attached), and give special attention to SI 14, copied below.

4.     Reminder: You may use your engine to stay clear of a vessel not participating in the race as detailed in SI 14.8. Review SI 14.8.


Awards and Party at Elliott Bay Marina!

Party will be from 3 – 9 pm at the Elliott Bay outstation of Seattle Yacht Club. (Next to Maggie Bluffs)

Steel Drum Band from 5 – 8 pm

Taco Truck 5 – 8 pm on-site, free for competitors!

Complimentary Beer and Wine

Lots of great Series and Overall Trophies to hand out, come cheer on your team and friends!!


Have a great race,





14.1 Sailing is an activity that has an inherent risk of damage and injury. Competitors in this event are participating entirely at their own risk. See RRS 4, Decision to Race. The responsibility for a boat’s decision to participate in a race or to continue racing is hers alone. The race organizers (organizing authority, race committee, protest committee, host club, sponsors, or any other organization or official) will not be responsible for damage to any boat or other property or the injury to any competitor, including death, sustained as a result of participation in this event. By participating in this event, each competitor agrees to release the race organizers from all liability associated with such competitor’s participation in this event to the fullest extent permitted by law.


14.2 Boats must check in with the race committee signal boat at the starting area each day before their first warning signal. Boats should check in by hail unless safety requires checking in by VHF 72.


14.3 A boat that retires while racing must orally notify the race committee as soon as possible after retiring by hail or VHF 72.


14.4 A boat racing in a handicap class must comply with one of the two following sets of equipment requirements, (a) or (b):

(a) Pacific International Yachting Association (PIYA) Special Equipment Regulations Governing Minimum Equipment and Accommodation Standards (SER), as changed by the Notice of Race, to the category requirement identified below. The text of these regulations is available from the PIYA web site at

(b) ISAF Offshore Special Regulations (OSR), without US Sailing prescriptions, as changed by the Notice of Race, to the category requirement identified below. The text of these regulations is available from the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) web site at

Protection Island Race

Long Course: SER Coastal or OSR 3

Short / Sport Boat Course: SER Inshore or OSR 4

Cruiser/Racer Course: SER Inshore or OSR 5

Vashon Island Race

Long Course: SER Coastal or OSR 3

Short / Sport Boat Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5

Cruiser/Racer Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5

Blake Island Race

Long Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5

Short / Sport Boat Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5

Cruiser/Racer Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5


14.5 Boats must comply with U.S. Coast Guard regulations.


14.6 Boats must be operated in accordance with the Puget Sound Sailboat Safety Regulations, available in the Seattle Yacht Club Sailboat Race Book available at


14.7 The race committee may inspect a boat at any time before or after racing for compliance with requirements.


14.8 A boat may use its propulsion engine as described in RRS 42.3(i) for any purpose described in 42.3(h), or to stay clear of a vessel not participating in the race. The use of a propulsion engine shall be reported to the Race Committee with the reason for the use and a description of any benefit to the boat’s position resulting from said use.


Brian Ledbetter

Sailing Director

Seattle Yacht Club


Tri-Island 2017 Sailing Instructions

Don’t forget to read Bruce’s Brief on the race published earlier today!

More Swiftsure: Hamachi, Bat out of Hell, Terremoto

Swiftsure pic borrowed from Hamachi’s Facebook page.

Following up on yesterday’s Swiftsure report, we have some more to the story. First is from frequent contributor and Hamachi crew Alyosha Strum-Palerm, who seems to be sailing everywhere, all the time, all on successful boats. Also, Bat out of Hell sailed a great race, and Terremoto had an unfortunate encounter with a rock. 


By Alyosha Strum-Palerm – Onboard Hamachi we had a race of highs and lows for sure, from being launched after Race Rocks to watching everyone sail up behind us at the finish, we were left with a mixed bag of emotions. But as always we were grateful to safely and quickly complete another Swiftsure, something that our good friends on Terremoto did not. We can only hope those injured have unexpectedly swift recoveries and the boat lives to fight another day.

On Hamachi we started second to last with the other ORC 40 footers and the big sleds. We misjudged the start and ended up crossing about a minute late in very chopped up air. After working hard for 15 minutes we found a lane and tacked off onto starboard hoping to find the next river of ebb. Several short tacks later, we found ourselves on a lifting starboard board in very favorable current. This lane sailed us around all the boats to weather of us and by the time we got to race rocks we had caught the TP52’s, RP55, SC70’s, and the faster Cape Flattery boats.

This is where we lost our 5-8 knot southeasterly and the transition to the westerly began. Glory, Crossfire, Riva and Terremoto committed to the Canadian shore while Smoke, Neptune’s Car, and we started to cross over to the American shore. We knew this was a gamble with the brutal flood just hours from starting and the risk of getting stuck in the middle of the strait with nowhere to hide being very real. This ended up being the deciding moment of the beat to Neah Bay. Smoke got absolutely launched and we were close behind them as well as Dragonfly and the Car. Longboard paced about a mile and a half behind us.

It took until 4.30PM for Crossfire to finally pass us again in the wispy fog just northwest of Pillar Point. This is where we finally saw Westerly again, which had gone hard to the American shore before Race Rocks. Pretty spooky sight to see a dark blue 70-foot boat appear out of the fog less than 200 yards away.

At this point, we thought we had all the other boats in our class well put away. As we got closer to Clallum bay we realized our lead wasn’t as untouchable as we previously thought. Longboard was in sight and Absolutely and Dark Star were about a mile behind us. This lead evaporated to several yards as we missed a nice shift and pressure to Dark Star and Absolutely. This is where Glory and Kinetic passed us as well.

The breeze piped up to about 13-15 knots and we made the change to the Heavy 1, this proved to be a good call as we extended back our lead on Absolutely, Longboard and kept pace with Dark Star, rounding just behind the 44-foot Bieker boat.

The downwind leg was a strange one, with boatspeed sitting between 11-13 knots for the first hour and sailing in visibility of <100 yards, it was difficult sailing for sure. We maintained about a mile to two gap behind Dark Star until race rocks, at times during the night we felt pretty out of phase. This is something we’ll aim to improve on before the outside legs of the Van Isle.

I was down below catching an hour of sleep when the DSC VHF alarm went off. It was sobering to hear that Terremoto had hit something at speed in the dark, in the fog, just miles from where we were. Our thoughts go out to them, then and now.

Rounding Hein Bank we felt as if we had a healthy lead on the other boats in our division and even some Div 1 boats. Strait Marine, Longboard and the 1D48 were about 20-25 minutes behind us and White Cloud and Jackrabbit were significantly farther back. Rounding the mark we pointed our bow at Victoria and let it rip on the heavy 1 in about 11-13 knots of breeze. We felt confident that a class and overall victory was within reach, especially seeing that the big boys had parked up on the approach for Victoria (Perhaps naively we thought we would escape this fate).

And park up we did, sitting just a mile from the finish and watching several dark sails get larger and larger behind us was frustrating to say the least. But as always you realize that that’s just the reality of handicap racing and sailboat racing in general. Sometimes you catch a break (like we did at Race Rocks) and sometimes you park up and watch everyone sail around you. We can only imagine the frustration on Smoke, as they had sailed a fantastic beat up to Neah Bay and a strong run back down to Hein Bank before parking up and watching all their competitors sail around them.

Following the race, Hamachi motored up to West Sound where she will stay for two weeks before Van Isle.

Stay tuned for more adventures from team Hamachi at Van Isle. We can only imagine the kind of mischief and fun we will be getting into.

Bat out of Hell

Bat out of Hell. Jan Anderson photo.

Alert reader Jenni pointed out I left out mention of the winner of the Juan de Fuca race. Sorry! I don’t have a report from onboard, but I watched her race in replay on the tracker and it clearly showed a very strong performance, by all appearances having led her class the whole way. Second place Bulletproof scooted up on third place Final Dash in the drift to the finish, which couldn’t have felt good on Dash which had had a strong second going. Congratulations to Lance Staughton and crew aboard Bat out of Hell.



Terremoto. Jan Anderson photo.

Terremoto‘s race came to an abrupt end a couple of miles west of Race Rocks. In the moonless fog she found a rock while sailing at about 13 knots under spinnaker. One crew was hurt (ribs) and the boat started leaking, but between the Royal Vic personnel and the Canadian Coast Guard, the situation was soon under control. The injured crew was picked up, and the boat was accompanied to Victoria. Ultimately Terremoto was delivered to Canoe Cove Marina where she was hauled. It’s worth noting that while the impact was huge, the cassette-type keel mounting system remained basically intact. A lesser design may have had much more damage.

One Weird Swiftsure Race

One Weird Swiftsure Race

What do you call a Swiftsure that is really neither a “Swiftsure” or a “Driftsure?”

Weirdsure? Fogsure? Can’tbelieveyoucamefromthatfarbacksure?

The universal comment after this year’s Swiftsure Race, sailed Saturday-Sunday, was that it was “interesting.” Given the wind predictions, one could easily interpret that to mean it sucked. But suck it did not. It really was interesting. In the end the big winners were White Cloud and Longboard on the Hein Bank ORC course, Rage and New Haven on the Lightship course and Dragonfly, Absolutely, Dominatrix and Last Tango on the Cape Flattery course. Results here.

A tired Bruce Hedrick reported that the J/35 Talequah had a great Cape Flattery race, finishing second. But he admitted his predictions were a bit off. “It was one of the weirdest ones ever,” he said. And since he’s been doing these since the 1960s, that’s saying something. “At 0530 there was no gradient, and the wind was SSE at the start with a westerly at Race Rocks. We caught and passed Glory, which is how weird things got.

Bruce Hedrick gave a presentation at the Strathcona Hotel at 1630 Friday

Eventually the westerly filled. Sort of. “The Strait was like Swiss cheese, full of holes that you couldn’t see on water.”

But the weirdness was just beginning. As boats sailed into a thick fog bank, then turned for home, they were sailing fast through a thick night fog. With a clear sky directly overhead and no moon or light pollution, the night sky stood in stark relief. ” We could even see the space station,” Hedrick said. Even the Northern Lights made an appearance.

Ah but Swiftsure returned to character as the wind died in the morning. “With the ebb starting, we took the great circle route, getting as far to the east as we could,” Hedrick explained. It worked and with some aggressive sail changes and intense trimming Tahlequah managed to nab a few boats fighting the ebb at the finish. “Many boats were parked up. It was very painful for some people.”

Hedrick pointed out that his alma mater’s forecasting models were close. “It proved once again that the University of Washington’s MM5 1 1/3 kilometer model was more accurate that any of the other GFS services.”

Here are a few of Jan Anderson’s photos. Please visit her site and support her work.

Onboard the mighty Crossfire on the Hein Bank course it was the best of times and the worst of times. Her track shows the long tack to the U.S. shore, which paid dividends. Smoke hit it even harder and had a nice lead, but Crossfire was giving chase, leaving Glory (temporarily) behind.

Crossfire‘s navigator Brad Baker explained the chase during the first half of the race, “Smoke, literally, smoked everyone by going hard left, and sailing into the current and a left shift, doing an end around and nearly a horizon job.  It took us the entire leg to Neah bay to reel them back in. We were about a third of a mile behind them by the time we rounded.”

Crossfire’s track courtesy of Rick Donohue.

Smoke stayed with Crossfire gybe for gybe until Hein Bank, when things started to go horribly for her, not good for Crossfire and brilliantly for Dark Star and Glory.

Baker explained, “For the Hein Bank Race the key moment was Hein Bank to the finish. From my perspective timing was everything and if you got there at the wrong time, I don’t know that there was much you could do.  That was the case for us aboard Crossfire. Though we could have managed that last leg better by making a quicker tack to the left, I don’t know that it would have mattered much as far as the overall finish goes. The wind died and we parked, allowing other boats that we’d done a pretty good job of putting away, a chance to catch up.

Baker wraps up, “Overall it was a spectacular race, about as nice a Swiftsure as I can remember. Yes there were some challenging moments with light air and the current certainly was generally not favorable. That all said, oh man it was beautiful out there. We had amazing weather and the spectacle of nature was abundant. We’re talking porpoises and seabirds. We sailed in and out of fog banks on the American side near Pillar point. It was surreal as we crossed tacks in clouds with Hamachi, Westerly, and Neptune’s Car. The sunset at Neah Bay was beautiful. The new moon setting on the horizon, wow.  During the night there was not a cloud in the sky, bringing out the stars and milky way in full force. We watched as the space station crossed overhead. Oh and did I mention the Northern lights?”

And that ferocious little Riptide Mk II Longboard spent some time in third place on the water, mixing it up with those TP 52s and the like. And in the end, she won Hein Bank Division 1 handily but lost to Division 2 boats White Cloud and Jack Rabbit on overall corrected time. The ever humble Longboard skipper Peter Salusbury explained, “We got lucky on the way out favoring the long port gybe in the SE to the US shore along with Hamachi and Smoke and at one point were third in fleet! Very weird sailing in that thick fog bank all the way to Race Rocks – thank goodness for AIS plotters! We had to gybe around a number of commercial ships. And for the Hein Bank fleet the corrected standings were largely influenced by what time you got to the finish line. The big boats on our course got completely shafted, we faired much better, and White Cloud and Jack Rabbit won the lottery by sailing in without ever stopping in a freshening westerly. Guess that is Swiftsure for you!”

It’s worth pointing out that, luck or no luck, the first two boats in Hein Bank Division 1, Longboard and Dark Star, were from the talented screens of Paul Bieker.

There are as many stories as there are boats in Swiftsure, and it’d be great to share some more. Photos too! Send ’em in and I’ll post them. Also check out (and of course “like”) the Facebook Page if you’re into that social network. When I come across relevant Facebook posts (there are a lot of worthy videos and photos) I’ll share them there.


Flying without Foils on a 505

Flying without Foils on a 505

Mike Powell is both an elite photographer and a very enthusiastic sailor, competing in boats ranging from a Lasers to offshore keelboats. He made this great video and wanted to know if the readers were interested. That’d be a YES.

It’s a rare image, moving or otherwise, that captures the excitement, effort and “moisture” of dinghy sailing in good breeze. This video from Tuesday night racing on Bellingham Bay in 20 knots does just that. Note there’s some salty (but happily said) exclamations caught on tape, so if you don’t want kids to hear turn the volume down. But the audio lends a lot to the video!

While some seem to think you have to foil to have fun, I’d say sending it downwind in a 5-0 is plenty exciting.

Check out more of Mike’s work.

Seattle Junior Leukemia Cup Regatta Raises Nearly $10K!

Seattle Junior Leukemia Cup Regatta Raises Nearly $10K!
Fund raising competitors in the first ever Seattle Junior Leukemia Cup Regatta.

Seattle Yacht Club hosted the first ever Seattle Junior Leukemia Cup Regatta on Sunday, May 21st. Fifteen SYC junior sailors stepped up and collectively raised nearly $10,000 to help cure blood cancers. We sailed the V15s on Portage Bay and we had great weather, with sunshine and plenty of wind and had an all around great time. Kit Stoll won the top fundraiser award, raising over $2,000 and also won top skipper. Luke Gibbons won top crew. A big shout out to our coach Cam Hoard who volunteered his Sunday to run the regatta. Thanks to all of the SYC junior sailors who participated and did such a great job fundraising. We are all excited to make this an annual event at SYC and are looking forward to raising even more money next year.  Join the fight to beat blood cancers! – Owen Timms

Ed. Note: Thanks Owen and Seattle YC for putting this together and showing that the youth of today have it figured out, doing good and building community while having a great time. And for placing sailing front and center. 

Whittemore Wins Intense J/24 Nationals in Seattle

Whittemore Wins Intense J/24 Nationals in Seattle

As the fleet piled up at the favored pin end for the start of the first race of the J/24 Nationals, it seemed clear that Keith Whittemore was destined for another trophy on his mantel. After the fleet’s usual bumping and yelling, Whittemore was the first to emerge from the melee on port tack, with speed mind you. He went on to lead wire to wire in the race and eventually won the regatta with a race to spare. While his scoreline may have made it look like a cakewalk, winning five of nine races, the competition was tight the entire series. Tied in second was North American champ Will Welles and the Japanese team led by Nobuyuki Imai. Welles won the tiebreaker.

For the other 29 competitors this past weekend, a big part of the story was the epic weather. The forecasters were predicting some rather dubious conditions for Friday and Saturday, but both days came in strong, if a little late. In fact, there were shore delays both days. Bruce Hedrick got Sunday right, as it came in and gave racers four final races in the mid-teens for wind. Win or lose on the race course, we all won three great days of sailing.

These photos by Sean Trew. Find him on Facebook to see the rest. They’re great.

The racing was all done on northerlies, with the courses set north of Meadow Point. Going right on the beats worked well, except occasionally when left paid big. There was never enough wind, even on Sunday, to generate edge-of-your seat conditions but Sunday there was the occasional wave worth a sheet pump. All in all, the conditions were a good medium air test for the fleet. While this wasn’t the 80-boat J/24 fleets at some events in the world, there was still plenty of traffic at starts and marks. I can attest that port tack approaches to the weather mark weren’t successful unless you were looking for practice jibing back around multiple times to get in the starboard layline parade.

The biggest bang of the weekend was when Jailbreak and Seepaert, chartered by Matt Pistay, found each other at a weather mark rounding. Lydia Volberding was winding her way on port tack through boats to get Jailbreak to the starboard layline. “That’s when we did that dance (with Seepaert) that you do in the supermarket aisle, one person goes one way and the other goes the same way,” Volberding explained. It was her first collision in about 15 years in the J fleet, but it was a big one with enough damage to Seepaert that it couldn’t sail the final day. 

As one might expect, the usual Seattle fleet suspects rose to the top. Michael Johnson in Pearl sailed an extraordinarily consistent regatta, ending up in fourth, only a point out of third.  The “well-oiled machine” (according to my skipper) of Scott Milne’s Tremendous Slouch team finished fifth followed by Baba Louie, Spark, Self Abuse, Atom Ant and Hair of the Dog rounding out the top 10. Kudos to Steve Travis for taking the time from his TP52 Smoke to mix it up with the J/24 fleet. The Newport, RI fleet’s Bob Kinsman drove Atom Ant and shared a lot of knowledge that will surely trickle down through the Seattle fleet.

These photos courtesy of Jan Anderson. More here.


Our Wild Ride

On my ride,  ….and your little, dog too, there was never a dull moment. Owner Hans Spiller couldn’t make the regatta and allowed two of his regulars, Derek DeCouteau and Craig Horsfield, to have a go at it. I was lucky enough to get a call. Our series was one of great races followed by poor ones, finding the farthest corner of wrong side followed by a flyer that worked like a gem. A DSQ of a 7th place on the second day was a crushing blow to the mood on the boat, but with the pressure off we had a satisfying final day. But there were lessons re-learned. Even in a fleet where collisions are relatively common, boats regularly sail within a foot of each other, and there is no contact, you can be tossed out of a race. And another relearned lesson, make sure you’re at max weight. One hundred fifty more pounds on the rail would have made that last day even more satisfying. I enjoyed connecting with many J/24 friends I seldom see these days and very much being regaled with international Star Boat series stories from Derek and Craig’s believe-it-or not Mini Transat stories. By the way, happy birthday Bev Multerer.

Long Live the J/24

The Seattle J/24 fleet is strong because its members are committed to keeping it that way. Fleet functions always go beyond the race course to parties and dinners and it seems from the outside that a lot of people chip in on fleet duties. Bringing Nationals to Seattle is certainly a major achievement, and with the weather gods cooperating the way they did it will be long remembered. The international camaraderie is clear as well. When the Japanese team came by to say hi to Whittemore at the beginning of the event, the warmth between the two teams was clearly apparent.

And the J/24 itself? Sure, it’s slow by today’s standards, but the fleet stays tightly packed and every inch counts. Pity the A-sail generation sailors that don’t face the challenge of pole-back tactics and entering a leeward gate going dead downwind. But the J/24 rewards all the important stuff; perfect crew work, starts and tactics, weight placement, and fast sails. Make no mistake, however, the boat leaves some marks, usually black and blue but sometimes a sickly yellow verging on orange.

This event has been well covered by the sailing media. CYC did a great job hosting the event and Charlie Rathkopf set excellent courses and (after that shift on the first race) very square start lines. Results here. Our great Northwest photographers were on top of the action. Jan Anderson was out all Saturday, and Sean Trew was out Friday and Sunday. Scuttlebutt gave it daily coverage, and Chris Howell supplied photos  to Sail-World for the event. If you’d like to add some color (words or pictures) to this coverage, send it along and I’ll post a followup.


SYC Leukemia Cup Junior Regatta

Owen Timms, an up and coming force on the Laser scene already, is behind the Seattle Yacht Club Leukemia Cup Junior Regatta, which will take place in Portage Bay at the Seattle Yacht Club on Sunday. For more information and registration check out this page. For Owen’s fundraising page, go here. We’ll try to get info on the regatta and fundraising next week.