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.

Bruce’s Brief June 14-15 R2AK

Bruce’s Brief June 14-15 R2AK

While it did get breezy in the Strait of Georgia, it certainly didn’t get as light as we thought it would from Nanaimo to Campbell River. This allowed some well sailed multi-hulls to get a lead and make it through the tide gate at Seymour Narrows. There are a whole mess of boats waiting for the favorable tide at Seymour Narrows and they should get shot through this evening. As of 2230 hours, five boats have made it through and are well on their way to round Cape Caution tonight and three of them are setting up for what should be a great race to the finish in Ketchikan.

The reason is that early Wednesday morning the next front will be getting to the Hecate Strait with another one right behind it on Thursday morning. This will mean breezy conditions (25-35 knots from the SSE)for the next 24 to 36 hours. This could mean 200 to 250 mile days for the tri’s and if they can hold together, avoid logs, and stay upright they could finish late Thursday or early Friday. This southerly will extend over the entire race course from Nanaimo to Bella Bella, it won’t be as breezy but it will certainly help the middle part of the fleet to get through Johnstone Strait and around Cape Caution.

After that, it’s going to go light again.

Ed. Note: The race within a race, for the $10K boat buy back offer, has got me really intrigued. There’s no way any of the Farrier trimaran types, but according to the race’s first podcast, the Ketch Me if U Can team with the Nacra 20 have their eyes on that prize and they’re in a comfy (for now) 5th place on the water. Who will take the $10K and fly home? –Kurt

Bruce’s Brief’s: R2AK Start from Victoria

Bruce’s Brief’s:  R2AK Start from Victoria

As we said yesterday, it’s a very complex picture and the models are not at all in agreement. As you can see from the surface charts, there isn’t much of a gradient. After tomorrow it doesn’t look much better, however one of the models has the Strait of Georgia getting nasty from 0100 hrs on Monday until 1200 on Monday. By nasty, I mean 25-30 knots from the west-northwest. Remember this is only one model.

The rest of the models still have it light for the start and staying that way until around 2300 hours tomorrow (Sunday) night when a light west-northwesterly will fill down Trincomali Channel first and then into the Straits. By 0200 hrs Monday this could build to 20 knots in the Straits before it starts to back off around 0800 hrs. As the next front approaches, the breeze will continue to drop before it gets really light and variable starting on late Tuesday afternoon.

By noon on Wednesday, as the front get closer, a light southeasterly will fill in over the race area.

So the question remains, which way to go when? For the rowers and paddleboarders, it’s still the shortest possible course. For the sailors, it’s going to be a question of when you get the breeze and when you are going to hit the tide gates. You will need to monitor the VHF and track the wind reports at Halibut Bank, Entrance Island, Ballenas, Sisters, and Sentry Shoals. After that, it’s going to get light and the tides at Seymour Narrows will be critical. Johnstone Strait won’t be horrible but the question will be if the rowers and paddleboarders can build enough of a lead getting around Cape Caution before the sailors get into the southeasterly in Queen Charlotte Sound. That southerly/southeasterly will likely carry everyone to Bella Bella and then to Ketchikan.

Bruce’s Brief’s: 10 & 11 June 2017, Leukemia Cup Saturday, & Start of R2AK from Victoria on Sunday

Bruce’s Brief’s: 10 & 11 June 2017, Leukemia Cup Saturday, & Start of R2AK from Victoria on Sunday

The Proving Grounds section of the R2AK was certainly that yesterday as the front passed over the course from Pt. Townsend to Victoria. If you were still out in the Straits when the post-frontal westerly filled in, you got hammered as the breeze built to 40+knots with gusts to near 50 knots. The front slowed as it hit the coast and was about 45 minutes to an hour later than we had expected however we tend to err on the side of caution especially when there are small vessels like paddleboards involved in an open water crossing where there will be nowhere to hide or duck into.

As you look at the surface charts for the weekend you see an evolving and complex weather picture, especially for the folks going to Ketchikan.The bad news for Leukemia Cup is that unless you’re willing to stay on the water until late Saturday afternoon, there isn’t going to be much wind. However, since it’s part of the Downtown Sailing Series and for a really important cause, who cares, plus you can use your engine to complete the course.

For the rest of Puget Sound, it’s not going to be much different. Light air, partly cloudy conditions, an occasional light rain squall, really more like the spring we never had. The only place where there will be wind will be the central and eastern Straits of Juan de Fuca and it will be cranking up there especially in the late afternoon.

As I mentioned, this is a complex weather picture that will provide the racers going to Alaska with some unique challenges and not of the high wind variety. The key to this is yet another pesky upper-level low-pressure system just off our coast and north of the jet stream which is keeping the Pacific High from setting up in its usual position. This could be the year that rowers and paddleboarders give the sailing crowd fits. There simply isn’t going to be a lot of wind for the first three to five days except for maybe a 12 hour period from midnight Sunday until noon on Monday and then pretty much only in the area from Campbell River south to the mid-Gulf Islands. In that time frame expect the breeze to be from the northwest in the 10-20-knot range. After that, it’s going to stay light as another weak frontal system lazily approaches coastal BC. By light, I mean 0 gusting to 5-knots from Campbell River to Port Hardy. As the front brushes the coast, the race course will start to see a light southeasterly on Thursday morning, 5-8-knots.

The start on Sunday will be a challenge for everyone because max ebb is one hour before the start with the slack before the flood being at around 1500 hours. There will also be very little breeze. The wind will fill down from the northwest in the early evening and when it does, there will be wind in Trincomali Channel. Sailors will then have to calculate if they can hit the flood at Porlier Pass to get out to the Strait of Georgia where the wind will be slightly stronger and last longer.

Currents at Porlier Pass

Of course, in a light air scenario, the key for the rowers and paddleboarders will be traveling the shortest possible course and hitting the tidal gates at the right time at Dodd Narrows and Seymour Narrows. If they can get through there and slam a tide door on the sailors they will be able to get all the way out Johnstone Strait fighting only the tide.

Currents at Dodd Narrows

They will also have the ability to work the back eddies along the beach to avoid the worst of the tide. If they can do that and then get out and around Cape Caution in a southerly breeze for the rest of the trip past Bella Bella and onto Ketchikan, they could finally take one from the sailors.

I will try to get another update done late on Saturday because this weather picture is by no means stable.

Stay safe and have a great weekend.

Editor’s Note We are all very lucky to have Bruce’s analysis on the weather scene and guidance on the race course. While Bruce eagerly provides these Briefs on, he is also available for more specific weather analysis and routing. You can learn more about Bruce here. Email him if you would like to see him tackle a particular weather issue here on or tackle a weather challenge privately. 

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!

Bruce’s Brief’s: 3 & 4 June, SYC Blake Island Race

Bruce’s Brief’s: 3 & 4 June, SYC Blake Island Race

After Swiftsure, this week certainly went by fast and now we’re racing again tomorrow. No wonder the Mrs isn’t exactly pleased. I guess I might be a bit behind on my lawn and garden maintenance program… I don’t know why however I think tomorrow on the water, any water, will still be a lot more fun than getting dirty in the garden.

Speaking of Swiftsure, last weekend was certainly proof that when there is little to no gradient just about anything can happen. This weekend in the Straits will be much different as we’ll have an onshore flow and as the ridge of high pressure builds on Sunday by the evening it will be really cranking from the west.

For the last of the Tri-Island Series, not so much. There will be wind, and there will be the sunshine so it will still be a great day on the water. Just don’t forget the sunblock before you leave the house! The other plus is the tides which will be favorable and there won’t be much of them.

Tidal Currents at West Point

0654      Slack

1036      Max Flood            .71 knots

1321      Slack

1500      Max Ebb                 .17 knots

1818      Slack


The first gun is supposed to be around 0900 hours however if you look at the surface charts you’ll notice the remains of a trough moving to the east and unfortunately that will leave a large gap in the pressure gradient. This will result in a light downslope, drainage breeze from the east in the morning. With some clearing and no gradient, this could be the perfect set-up for the Swihart Effect which says the northerly will start down the Sound once the flood tide gets rolling. If the clearing continues, look for the northerly to continue to build through the day.


As is typical for the Blake Island Race, you can pick your poison deciding which way you are going to go around the Island. In almost all cases it’s best to leave the Island to starboard especially when you have a flood tide. This is because of the ebb that continues to roll up Colvos and the back side of the Island. The flood may not get all the way to the bottom of the Island, however, there will be more wind on the east side of the Island.

If the breeze is northerly in the starting area, you’ll probably do a starboard set just don’t go west too long. Before the start watch the flag at the West Point lighthouse and if it’s showing any easterly at all plan a gybe to port to be at the West Point Buoy. If on port you’re aiming at Alki, hold that gybe until you get lifted to Spuds Fish and Chips, then gybe and aim at the Island. Just don’t get too close to the Island especially at the south end. See the picture. If you swing wide enough at the south end you’ll carry the northerly into the light zone. Just be ready to smoothly transition into what little breeze there will be on the backside of the Island. Headsail up, in the starboard groove, spinnaker down, all without changing course and hopefully without slowing much.

Since you’ll be swept along with the ebb up the backside of the Island, sail the favored tack, usually starboard and don’t get too close to the Island. By the same token don’t too far over to the Manchester shore as it will get light in there as well. Work your way up to Bainbridge Island since the current tends to set from west to east along that south shore. Once you get to Restoration hold on to port tack. If you are aimed at Four Mile Rock, just keep going right up to Magnolia Bluff. If you end up being headed below(east of) Four Mile, take a short hitch until you can once again be above Four Mile. Really watch your depth sounder coming into there as it gets very shallow, very quickly. If the breeze has built as you’ve come across you’ll want to do your tack change here going from the light #1 to the heavy #1going from port to starboard tack. You should be right under the Bluff and it will be puffy so the mainsheet/ traveler person is going to be working very hard to keep the boat on its feet.

Once you clear West Point hold on to starboard tack until you can lay the entrance to the Ship Canal. Of course, this also depends on where the finish line is located. You’d like to get close to the entrance so it will be easier to call the tack to the finish, finishing on starboard and probably in more breeze than the boats on the outside. There will also be a nice push from the current coming out of the Ship Canal.

Be safe, use lots of sunblock, and have a great time.

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.