There’s a reason why Round the County (RTC) is one of the most popular races in the Pacific Northwest and this weekend will only continue to further that reputation. The course, in addition to being just beautiful, is always a challenge with interesting rivers of tidal current and winds that do their best to be unpredictable. As we get closer to the start the different models are not very much in agreement and it’s easy to see why, just check out the current surface analysis and then the forecast chart for tomorrow.
We currently have a weak, 1009 MB, low-pressure system off of the central Oregon coast trying to move inland. There is a deepening low-pressure system off of SE Alaska which is riding the jet stream (500MB chart) towards the Pacific Northwest and will start to impact us Sunday night and into next week. Delivery skippers heading south may want to park the boat after the race. If you’re headed north and back to Vancouver, be prepared for some breeze. I’ll update this on Sunday.
0912 Max Flood 2.14 knts
1515 Max Ebb 1.66 knts
1537 Max Ebb 1.38 knts
For Saturday that weak low-pressure system will be gone and we’ll have a pair of weak high-pressure systems inland slowing the approach of that low from SE Alaska. In addition, we’ll have a weak low-pressure trough off our coast ahead of that approaching cold front. So what does that mean for racing? Be prepared for just about anything. Since most of the time, we race in windward-leeward format, the reaching equipment is usually buried in the gear locker. Get out those barber haulers, snatch blocks and reaching sheets and make sure they are readily available along with the drifter. Those crews that trim and change gears aggressively will be the winners. While the forecast may be for small craft advisories on both Saturday and Sunday, the timing of the breeze is very much in question. Also, the wind will be from the southeast however where it will be is still a very big question.
Click to enlarge image:
For the start expect light air, downwind conditions with the wind building slightly as you get north of Lawrence Point on Orcas. From Lawrence to Patos you will essentially be dead downwind so you’ll be watching the gybe angles and your SOG with the flood tide. Also be aware of the limiting marks found in the SI’s. The really interesting part of the race will be from Patos to Turn Point as the southeasterly is going to have a hard time getting over Orcas and back to touching down in Boundary Pass. After 1300 hours you’ll at least have the tide with you. This is where the models are very divergent as to when the steadier breeze might fill in. One model has Crossfire finishing at around 1300 hrs while another has them in around 1430 hrs.
Sunday will be quite a different story as that low gets closer to the race course. This shouldn’t be a gear busting thrash to Davidson Rock however you could see puffs to 20 knots from SE the closer you get to Davidson. Unfortunately, the problem may be the starting line and where the committee decides to set it. You may recall in 2015 that after a wild Saturday, the Sunday start was set in a real hole and a number of contenders were unable to even make the start line. Those that made it had a nice beat in a southeasterly after they got past Lime Kiln Point.
Tidal Currents Sunday
1036 Max Flood 1.61 knts
1656 Max Ebb 1.61 knts
0900 Max Flood 1.5 knts
1630 Max Ebb 1.94 knts
In addition to the challenge of getting away from the starting line, you’ll also be sailing into a building flood tide until you get past False Bay. Keep track of COG and SOG until you are solidly into the current that’s going your way. Ideally, you’d like to finish before 1300 hrs. The current GRIB files have Crossfire finishing just after noon. Think about starting with the headsail in the port groove so you’d hoist the next headsail while on starboard tack, then do a short hitch to port away from the Island to drop the old headsail.
Besides getting all the reach gear ready make sure safety comes first. Have a great weekend and if you’ve got AIS please leave it on for the race so I can armchair race along with you! Thanks