Go to the Antarctic via Bellingham Tonight

Go to the Antarctic via Bellingham Tonight

Mike Powell, a professional photographer and damn fine big and small boat sailor, will be presenting UHURU 65 Degrees South or How I Learnt to Sail tonight at the Bellingham Yacht Club. It’s his tale of an epic cruise to the Antarctic. Powell’s also the BYC Youth Fleet Captain and suggests a $5 donation to the program. Mike is very entertaining, and an extremely talented photographer, so it would be a great way to spend a Wednesday evening. Here’s a description of the program:

In 2011 Mike Powell a landlubber with a camera went aboard his brothers boat UHURU, an Oyster 62, for two months and headed South from the Falkland Islands, across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic peninsula, around the Horn and up into Chilean Patagonia. During the trip the crew used all their toys, great sailing, scuba, ice climbing up mountains, skiing down them and fly fishing in Chile via horseback

This is the story that has been shown multiple times before, to multiple sailors and yacht clubs both in the USA and UK and featured on the cover of UK’s Yachting Magazine. If you missed it last time please come and watch it this time or come again.

Bellingham Yacht Club, Dec. 13th at 6.30pm. Suggested $5 donation at the door goes towards local youth sailing.

Now What Do We Do with the Survey?

Now What Do We Do with the Survey?

“Now what?”

Dalton Bergan posed that excellent question a couple days ago as we were sailing in from some frostbiting. The survey we did here on sailish.com got a lot of attention, and revealed a few important elements that might be holding Northwest handicap sailboat racing back, and the comments were generally on point and showed a lot of passion. But the question remains, now what?

The survey made it clear (as if it wasn’t already) that racers are concerned about the future of the sport and open to change. Sure, we can go on putting a happy face on what we do have and just sail along on the same course, or we can make some changes and see what happens. From my standpoint, a few small but significant changes can act as catalysts, and energy and participation will follow naturally. The game is great. Boats and equipment are better than ever. We are blessed to live in one of the world’s great sailing venues. Some of the changes are simple and obvious, we just have to get our butts off the rail and do them.

I’ll kick it off with things that became clear in the survey and that I feel can be easily changed. In the end, though, it’s up to racers stepping up to create the solutions through clubs, fleets and race organizers. Remember, this sport (and in our region in particular) was do-it-yourself in the first place. A few people had boats and thought racing them would be fun, so they came up with courses, rules, clubs and handicap systems. And that’s how we can get it back on track, by taking the initiative.

Clean air? What clean air?

Here goes.


  1. More Welcoming Atmosphere

One of the things that came out of the survey, and it will be a surprise to many, is that our sport does not present a very welcoming atmosphere. It’s a no-brainer that this must be changed. How to do it? How about setting up “greeters.” Kind of like Walmart but with more to offer.

Every yacht club, handicap system, broker, rigger and sailmaker should have a list of greeters. Sailish.com should too. As soon as someone expresses interest in racing, a greeter should be in touch and help them get involved. Specifically, if you’re willing to do this, get your name to your club, sailmaker etc. When someone expresses interest, the clubs etc should send in the greeter.

The greeter can give the lowdown on the clubs, race schedule, basic regional tactics etc. I have a feeling once this gets started, it’ll take care of itself.


  1. Light vs. Heavy

This was one of the clearest issues brought up by the survey. It’s just no fun sailing a 15,000lb boat with accommodations vs a <1000 pound boat. There’s no way to properly handicap those kinds of differences. Race organizers, split those light sportboats from heavier boats with accommodations. It might mean bigger rating spreads or smaller classes, but it’s what the sailors want.


  1. Crew Lists

According to the survey (in particular the comments) finding crew is a big issue. To their credit, clubs and organizations around the area have crew lists, but they’re spread out and underutilized. There were some specific solutions suggested in the survey responses. I’m going to get one going on sailish.com and see if I can make it the go-to. It’ll take some work, but I’ll shoot to have it up and running before Center Sound.


  1. New Courses.

Note to clubs: Racers indicate they’d like new courses. It wasn’t all that long ago that Race to the Straits and Round the County were “new.” Hanging onto traditional courses is easy, but racers are ready for some new challenges.

What about thinking really outside of the box? It worked for Jake Beattie and the R2AK.

A fine reach

Bergan and Ben Glass have been contemplating some kind of adventure race, maybe involving running up mountains as a leg of the course. As a runner, I’ve always been fascinated by the Three Peaks Yacht Race in the UK. There are enough sailors/runners/cyclists/skiers that all sorts of things could be imagined.



  1. Singlehanded/Doublehanded Racing

Two-thirds of respondents think more single and double-handed racing would boost participation. Look at how popular Race to the Straits is!

Race Organizers have offered shorthanded classes, but if history is any indication they’re not going to promote them and are a little leery of the whole thing. It’s up to the singlehanded and doublehanded racers themselves to grab the boat by the pulpit and get organized. You might emulate the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society. This year’s singlehanded Solo Mac Race had 27 starters and 24 finishes. This is an extremely tough 300-mile race. But it doesn’t go through the usual club scene. With a more active and organized shorthanded group, I’ll bet the clubs bend over backward to accommodate.


  1. Community

The most successful classes in every country have strong associations and senses of community. In Seattle, the J/24 and Thistle are great examples. Internationally, it’s hard to beat the Star and Snipe classes. The Fast 40+ Class in England is the high-end version of such a community.

You can organize by boat type, yacht club affiliation, rating band etc. We’re talking chalk talks, bbqs, post race parties etc.

The J/105 fleet remains healthy and active with a five boat fleet at FWB.

Yacht Clubs are the obvious places to start, but I’d suggest if that’s not easy, maybe hosting a BBQ for other boats in your size/rating range or boat type. The Seattle J/105s have regular post race gatherings, which no doubt is a big reason for that fleet’s growth.

This sense of community enhances everything.


  1. Get Kids Involved

If we want to produce young racers, we have to get them onboard. Talk it up with your own kids or neighbor kids. Call the local community sailing program and ask if they know of any kids who want to go racing.

And ­– this is important – take them onboard sometimes, even if it means a couple kids are sitting on the low side down below on a beat.

Community sailing teachers and coaches – if you know of a kid who just can’t get enough time on the water in his/her FJ, give a call or two or come to the sailish crew page (when it’s operational!) Let’s hook them up.

Here’s one more thought, skippers head down to the local community sailing center to offer some coaching or support. Maybe you’ll run into a high schooler who will end up being your port trimmer for the next five years.


  1. Save Money

According to the survey, cost was not as much an impediment to racing as one might expect. It was still there.

Partnerships Want to race but can’t see spending all that money on campaigning your own boat. Find a partner. For every unhappy partnership there’s a happy one and the cost savings are immense. Take turns with the boat. Have the resources to “do it right.” This also speaks to the time issue. Many of us don’t have time to do full-on racing program. But half the races might be possible.

Lease program See all those J/80s out there? The Seattle Sailing Club has an interesting J/80 program. You can buy a J/80 and put it into charter. Moorage is paid, the bottom gets inspected weekly (and scrubbed monthly) and you get to race it. Owners usually have two sets of sails, one for use when the boats are in use from club members, and of course the racing set you bring onboard for the racing. This type of setup has a lot of appeal. Check out the SSC info here. Some clubs around the world have their own fleets, which are available to members and maintained by dues and fees. Solutions like these seem very appropriate with the rising costs.


  1. Boat of the Year

One thing that has been missing around Seattle is a real, codified boat of the year award. My friends at 48 North Magazine have their Top 25, but with the vagaries of PHRF ratings and class assignments it loses a lot of its meaning. I suggest that either a body like the Seattle Area Racing Council or Vancouver Area Racing Council set up ORC class breaks in advance, and a boat of the year racing schedule. This could also be done if clubs could work together.

(Yep, that ORC comment is a hint of what I’m going to take on next time, handicapping issues. Oh boy.)





Wet Wednesday Videos

It’s Wednesday, and our thoughts have finally dried out from Saturday’s Winter Vashon Race. In fact, the Northwest is seeing bright sun! Time to get wet. The first video is the new kiteboarding record run by  at Salin-de-Giraud, France. Courtesy of Malcolm MacNeil, the second video is from Crossfire‘s sail home to Seattle from the finish of Winter Vashon at the north end of Vashon Island. What a surprise, wind after the finish….

Please share your local videos so other Northwest sailors can enjoy. It doesn’t have to be a current/recent video, just something sailish readers would enjoy. Email me.


Zephyrs and Raindrops for Winter Vashon

Zephyrs and Raindrops for Winter Vashon

The Winter Vashon Race is one of those events that can be best or worst of everything. And it seems every year that I miss it, it’s one of those idyllic days. Nigel Barron of CSR and Crossfire reports this might have been an OK year to miss, even if you’re sailing on the biggest, baddest boat out there.

Smarter people than I have said many things about South Sound Sailing: “There’s no racing South of Alki.” “Don’t do a race with Winter OR Vashon in the title.”  Yet there we all were at 630am on Saturday leaving Shilshole to motor down to Tacoma. Truth be told, it wasn’t a bad start to the day because it didn’t start raining until about 830, but once it started, it never really stopped…  Light and fickle winds greeted the fleet. Did I mention it rained? It was really just a matter of trying to connect the small fingers of wind, that as predicted came from the east. On Crossfire, we did a pretty good job keeping the boat moving, jumping between the light jibs, and the A1 as the small puffs came through. Mercifully, as we approached the North end of the island, the RC announced they were shortening the course. True to form, a mile or so from the finish, we could see the boats behind us keeping kites full so it was pretty obvious the fill was coming from behind. After we crossed the finish, we put the kite back up and had the best sailing of the day from the finish back to West Point.

As one would expect the results showed final results in some classes as pretty much the inverse of ratings, as the fleet compressed and handicaps were applied. The overall winner of the day was McSwoosh, a fine reward for being out there regularly on the South Sound Races! Other class winners included Kahuna, Grace E. Blueflash, Sidewinder, Chinoook, Nimbus, Emma Lee, Second Wind and the Cal 20 Willie Tipit (now there’s a name).

The intrepid team of Jan and Skip Anderson were out there photographing, and Jan had her own take on the day:

Holy Schamoley, what a perfect day on the water, and a typical barn-burner of a Winter Vashon! GREAT breeze (often a bit too much to handle, actually), warm temps, record speeds, fantastic chute sets, tacking duels to write home about, playing the shifts perfectly, BIG old sun in the sky, and you could practically hear Mount Rainier shouting “Go! Go!” from astern … oh, wait, that wasn’t this weekend, was it? Dang. Don’t even try to print these photos off at home – it’ll soak your printer. Blah.

I guess didn’t miss much – this year. Here are Jan’s photos, and if you want to remember the day, visit her web site!


Bruce’s Brief’s 1,2 and 3 Dec: TYC Winter Vashon

Bruce’s Brief’s 1,2 and 3 Dec: TYC Winter Vashon

As usual, there will be a great turnout for the start of the South Sound Series. Where else do we get a chance to race in rain, snow, and sometimes a pretty good breeze. Unfortunately, this year it’s looking like some breeze for the start then dropping off as we transition from a very rainy November to a dryish and coolish start of December. November is traditionally our wettest month and this year will be no exception as we are two inches ahead of our average rainfall for the month. The good news is that we’ve only had 42 inches of rain so far this year and the record is 55 inches set in 1950. The normal amount of rain for the year by the end of November is 32 inches.

As you can see from the charts we’ve got quite a mishmash of weather systems lurking off the coast and by Monday we’ll have the start of a fairly big high-pressure system starting to build over the area with a whopping low-pressure slamming the Aleutians, again.

While it is Thursday, the models are still divergent with the general consensus shifting towards some wind on Saturday morning from the south then gradually becoming lighter before it shifts to the north by around midnight. For racers, this will mean drag racing from puff to puff as you ride the tide up Colvos. While you may have 8-10 knots of southerly for the start, this will drop to five knots or less as the day goes on with plenty of dead spots in Colvos. The masthead Windex will give you some warning about where the next puff will be coming from. The boats with the tall rigs will make out as long as the trimmers are working hard. After you get around the top mark you’ll probably have a due southerly until it goes really light around mid-afternoon. As you beat towards Pt. Robinson, don’t get too close to Vashon and don’t stray too far to the east of the rhumb line. While on starboard if the puffs start to become lifts that will tell you to stay to the west just not too close to the Island.

The great thing about TYC is that if it gets too sticky in Colvos, they usually have the good sense to end the race at the top mark so make sure someone has the bino’s out and you’re checking the flags on the mark boat.

While the parties, both pre and post race, at TYC are legendary, remember that the first day the high-pressure ridge builds over the Northwest will result in the most wind from the North and if you’re delivering the boat back to Seattle on Sunday you could have 15-20 cold knots of wind right on the nose. If they finish you at the top mark and Seattle is your home port, head straight for the barn after you finish and juggle the cars later.

Good luck and have a great race.



Wet Wednesday Kicks Off

Wet Wednesday Kicks Off

Welcome to Wet Wednesday, our weekly search for a video to break up the time most of us have to spend ashore. Something from the Northwest is vastly preferable, but we’ll kick it off with some top-flight pro dousings. The only rule is, something or someone has to get wet. The wetter the better. If you have a video from the Northwest, send the link to me and I’ll put it in the queue! Thanks.

What wetter way to kick it off than with the irrepressible Alex Thomson showing off Hugo Boss, and a recap of the second leg of the Volvo Round the World Race. If you have 7 minutes the Volvo video will catch you up to where they stand right now. “Our” Americans on Vestas 11th Hour Racing are doing great.



Please share this post with your friends! And for those of you headed out for the Winter Vashon Race on Saturday, Bruce Hedrick will be delivering a pre-race weather outlook and tactical plan. Watch for it Friday.

Youth Movement at Turkey Bowl

Youth Movement at Turkey Bowl
Laser Radials lining up for a start on Saturday. Matt Wood photo.

Corinthian YC’s Turkey Bowl doesn’t always attract the biggest fleets (something about sailing in November), but last weekend, thanks to the efforts of kids, coaches and parents, it was a remarkably well attended regatta. Nearly 60 boats were entered including 505s, Vanguard 15s, RS Aeros, Lasers, Laser Radials and Optimists.

Mats Elf won the closely contested 505 class, while Dieter Creitz won the Optis with straight bullets and Nate Walgren won the 4-boat Vanguard 15 fleet.

Lasers setting up for a start Sunday.

The singlehanded fleets each had a strong showing with 14 Aeros, 9 Laser standard rigs and 13 Laser Radials. Dan Falk, winner in the Aero class, “couldn’t remember having that much fun” as the last heavy air duel against Carl Buchan. They finished a foot apart, with the nod going to Buchan. Oregon’s Doug Seeman made his trip worthwhile, winning the Laser standard rig on the strength of a dominating performance on the light air first day. In the Radial class, it was Owen Timm taking the win over Abbie Carlson and Kit Stohl. The Radial class is really coming into its own and is a great place for younger and smaller sailors to compete at a high level

Results here. 

One of the groups of young sailors came from the Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center, a City of Seattle racing program based on Lake Washington and now headed up by Kaitlyn Van Nostrand. It would be great to have a city-based program turning up at regattas! Here’s Kaitlyn’s report from the weekend:

Mt. Baker Youth Sailing Team culminated its first fall practice series by attending CYC’s annual Turkey Bowl with 4 lasers and 2 Opti’s. Three of our novice sailors had never raced on the Sound before and for one of our Opti sailors, it was her breakout regatta! They were tough kids, considering most juniors start and stop when the weather is warm and dry.  

With some nervous laughs, the junior sailors joined the 505’s, RS Aero’s, Lasers, Radials and Optis for 6 great races on Saturday. Our team learned about the current, being scared then excited about the waves, swell and lots of ah ha moments when we talked about how the current would affect the mark rounds, and connecting the theory to practice when the current did just that. For two of our Radial sailors, their goal was to finish the races. Finish they did and by the end of the day, the race committee was cheering them on as they crossed the line!  For the other two second year Laser sailors, it was to see their great improvement that all the sailing they did this fall paid off. As they were able to finish closer to the fleet of great year around juniors sailors from SYC’s race team! Our Opti sailors learned how to stay out of the way of 505’s screaming past and got a few helloss from our laser master’s friends! After over 5 hours on the water and some warm chili, our sailors were falling asleep at the Clubhouse. Needless to say, they had a good night sleep! 

The forecast was wild for Sunday, but we did manage to get two great races off in the funny west/south west direction. Then the real fun began, the swells started getting larger before the big gusts came just as the second laser race was finishing. Race committee abandoned racing for the junior classes and the parade of laser radials and opti’s made their way back to the docks. It was a wild ride in huge gusts and big swell for our lake sailors! They were pleased enough to be done early after the long day Saturday. We washed our boats, packed up and headed back to Mt. Baker. Lots of smiles, lots of excellent experience gained and excited to start up again in the Spring.

If any Junior Sailors are interested in joining our youth sailing team at Mt. Baker, we will be starting Laser and Opti practice again on the weekends in April 2018. Sailors must know how to sail, but do not need racing experience. All our boats are owned by Mt. Baker Rowing & Sailing Center and we have scholarships available. We practice April to November! Email Coach Kaitlyn at mtbakersailingteam@gmail.com to find out more. 

Thanks, Kaitlyn, and I’ll second her call for more sailors. Whether it’s Mount Baker, Sail Sandpoint, CYC, SYC, high schoolers or any of the other great junior programs around, competitive sailing is definitely on the upswing in the Northwest. There are plenty of great coaches, parents and other sailors to help and keep things safe.

Have a great Thanksgiving all!

Round the County, Part 2, with Beef Stew

Round the County, Part 2, with Beef Stew

After our initial Round the County coverage, we were called out by Vin Colgin in the comments section: “More small boat results. Local super yacht results are interesting, but not relatable. I want to see more < 30′ news to increase participation.”

Hey, Vin, when you’re right, you’re right. I didn’t get a <30′ skipper or crew to report here, but your comment did inspire a tale from another classic that many could relate to. For the <30′ tale, I suggest you go to Ben Braden’s story of the race.

Alert reader Jarred Swalwell chimed in with his tale of crewing with Megan Kogut on the RTC on the Carter 37 Arrow: “Yes, it’s tempting to wax poetic about big, pretty expensive boats. Did anyone notice the ’73 IOR one tonner out there rocking the BBQ, radar tower + solar panels and 30 year old dacron? For a period, I had a lovely time with one elbow casually hooked around a shroud while eating hot beef stew and admiring a Moore 24 off our starboard bow plane a little on the downwind run on day 2. This just before I went back to admiring my beef stew. We finished near to the top third in both class and fleet. We had cushions to sit on, a diesel heater, substantially Moore than a pot to piss in, and of course cold beer. I did enjoy watching the sporty boats, they are pretty. At times, I even enjoyed passing the sporty boats. But seriously, it would be nice to see a few more comfortable plain white sloops out there having a good time, RTC is a terrific event. BTW, props to the Cal 34!!”

(It’s worth noting that Ben Braden ate a hot lunch on his own Moore 24 Moore Uff Da in the same race from his well-known barbecue while finishing eighth overall)

But more than that, Jarred’s and three other boats utilized raceQs to track the race, and compare notes afterward. racQs is new to me, and pretty interesting. I haven’t figured out how to embed the video but if you follow the links below you’ll see the tracks play out for the entire race. The screenshots are from raceQs. This would definitely be fun to set up with your favorite enemies on the race course to have something to talk about afterward.

Megan and I were on Arrow, an IOR boat.  We use raceQs to track and analyze what happened, a few other boats do as well so it’s a pretty interesting watch.  

The “fleet” going around Patos.
The screen as it looks in the helmsman’s view.

Saturday is here.  You can see the shut down at the end and where a few boats (Bravo Zulu and Lodos) figured out the counter current on the other side of Battle Rock which paid off pretty big for them.

Sunday we stayed out and walked away from the short tackers in faster boats.  On the downwind we had to fly a smaller storm kite as our big kite had a tear.  But staying to the east on the course kept us away from a hole that a number of other boats got stuck into on the west.

–Jarred Salwell



There are a lot of us who can look around just about any harbor an identify “former” raceboats that still have a lot of fun and a few wins still in them.


Take Arrow. In 1973 Dick Carter was at the top of of the design game, with the help of none other than the Northwest’s own Bob Perry who was working for Carter at the time. This pinched-end, wide-beamed boat was the bomb, and still sails very well, even with Dacron. The design derived from the world One Ton champion Ydra. The faults with IOR boats of that era are well known, but they’re voluminous and usually fitted with decent galleys, heads and berths. They’re not going to keep up with a modern well-designed racer-cruiser, and they’re never going to plane (at least you don’t want to be on them if they do), but they definitely have style and sail well.

There are of course, plenty of other non-IOR boats that can be talked about (and raced) as well. So while it’s often easier to write about the expensive end of the fleet, get us the tales and pictures and we’ll certainly tell the stories from the heart of the fleet too.

Bruce’s Brief’s Nov 17, 18, & 19 and the Pineapple Express

Bruce’s Brief’s Nov 17, 18, & 19 and the Pineapple Express

No doubt, winter is here and is just getting started. The really interesting part of this weekend’s charts are the 500MB charts which show the jet stream undulating over the Pacific into the Aleutians, then back down to Hawaii before coming back into the Pacific Northwest, can you say Pineapple Express?

For those of you that decided to wait until this weekend to bring the boat back from Round the County, the best day was probably today, however, being mere mortals and having jobs may have prevented that. The next best day will be tomorrow, just get an early start and if you’re comfortable leaving early so you get to Deception Pass around 0830, that will be the tail of the ebb before slack at 0930. Then go down the inside to avoid what will be more wind and more lump in Admiralty Inlet. This will also get you south or north to Vancouver before 2100 hours when that next front will start manifesting itself over the area. By early Sunday morning expect Gale warnings for SE breeze (35-40 knots) off the coast and in the eastern Straits of JdF and southern part of the Strait of Georgia. The front will pass around noon with the wind moderating by mid-Sunday afternoon.

For those of you going cruising over the Thanksgiving Holiday, really pay attention to the weather as we are going to get pummeled by a series of fronts coming into the Pacific Northwest. Next Wednesday afternoon might be a good time to leave work early and go down to the boat to check the mooring lines and make sure all your chafe gear is in place.

Have a great weekend.