Bruce’s Brief for April 22-23 and CYC’s PSSR

Bruce’s Brief for April 22-23 and CYC’s PSSR
Wind Speed/Air Pressure at West Point

If only we were racing today…..but we are not, so we might as well deal with it. It’s just difficult to look out at the Sound and see 8-knots from the north with a temperature of 55⁰F and not dream about racing or cruising in those conditions. OK, the wind chill is still around 46⁰F so it’s not exactly summer-like yet. It does, however, give us some hope for July 5th…….

The surface chart for today, 21 April, shows us the inevitable for this upcoming weekend. We’ve got both rain and wind headed towards us for both days and well into next week. As we said last week, the long range weather has us as being wetter and cooler than normal and with the jet stream staying well south of us, it is going to stay that way. Don’t kill the messenger.

The surface chart for tomorrow, 22 April, shows a moderately healthy front aimed right at us. The timing of frontal passage is still very unclear. The coastal buffer zone (CBZ) will once again have an impact on timing however it won’t be as dramatic as last weekend where it totally blocked the front and sent it off to the northwest and away from here. The key will be for you to check barometric pressure trends along the coast and inland reporting stations. It’s already starting to drop today so it will happen. After that, check the wind directions and wind velocities around the Sound, including the Washington State ferries on the Bainbridge and Edmonds-Kingston runs. The pre-frontal breeze will be southeasterly, while if the pressure is rising and the wind is out of the southwest, that would be post-frontal. It could, however, be a mixed bag as the front interacts with the CBZ. As per usual, expect stronger breeze along the coast and in the eastern Straits and the San Juan Islands.

That doesn’t necessarily mean light air in the race area off of Shilshole. It could mean 15-20 knots from the SSW in the morning backing off around midday to 5-15-knots from the south and then filling back in from the SW at 15-20-knots around mid-afternoon before slowly backing off towards sunset.

Sunday looks lighter however as the front has passed expect a more consistent onshore flow to develop over the course of the day which could have the breeze build slowly into the 15-20-knot range from the SW over the central and south Sound. The convergence zone will start in the north Sound around Port Townsend as strong westerly fills from Race Rocks to the East. The CZ will slowly work its way south to Edmonds and north Seattle by the early evening on Sunday.

Tidal Current at West Point
0754 Slack
1124 Max Flood .82
1418 Slack
1600 Max Ebb .3
1936 Slack

0842 Slack
1212 Max Flood .96
1506 Slack
1648 Max Ebb .38
2106 Slack

I have also included the graph of current velocity over time as it shows a distinctly non-sinusoidal curve so be aware especially with the flood being stronger than the ebb in a predominately southerly breeze situation. A little unusual so watch the COG and SOG.

Have a great weekend but be prepared for just about anything!

Squall Punctuates PSSR Small Boats

Squall Punctuates PSSR Small Boats

CYC’s Puget Sound Sailing Regatta (PSSR) last weekend was of the small boat and dinghy fleets, and there were plenty of options from which to choose, including both Hobie 16s and 18s! Saturday it blew in the teens (except for the last-race-of-the-day squall) and Sunday it was light. Life on the committee boat on lumpy Saturday wasn’t the most comfortable and rumor has it there was some mal de mer going around.

The largest fleet in both size boats and numbers was the J/24 class. In 2015 only six J/24’s sailed and last year it was eight. This year it was 14, which is a good sign the fleet has embraced the idea of coming out of Lake Washington for this event. Wayne Pignolet’s Joy Ride won the class with an extremely consistent performance, followed by perennial top boats Self Abuse and Tremendous Slouch.

All photos by Jan Anderson:

Mats Elf won the six-boat 505 fleet in a tight battle over Cody Kowalski while Paul Evenden, Eric Ledbetter and Jay/Lisa Renehan won the Hobie 18, Star and Tasar classes. Results here.

Only two Lasers showed up for the regatta, and were basically absorbed into the RS Aero fleet. Many new faces dotted the Aero fleet, which is great to see. It was Todd Willsie hanging on for a narrow win, especially after a satisfying last race on Saturday when a squall packing around 30 knots rolled through race course. After three firsts and a second on Saturday, Willsie watched his lead start to disappear as Eric Becker, Randy Shuman and David Rogers all showed light air speed.

It was interesting for me to watch the fleets assemble on Sunday from Golden Gardens Park. About 300 yards away from the CYC committee boat the SYC team, with a healthy number of kids Optis and Laser Radials, where happily doing drills with a coach leading the way in a RIB. While Willsie and the others were waiting between starts, the kids were drilling, practicing, MOVING. I understand the Tasar fleet decided to peel away on Sunday and have their own rabbit starts to get more sailing in.

Personally, have a hard time waiting between races, even when a RC is on top of it. I get impatient and cold. And today’s kids are used to pretty much constant engagement of one sort or another. I can’t imagine my 10-year old sitting for 20 minutes between races unless he had an iPad, and then he’d miss the next start for sure.

As we contemplate moving  kids moving into adult dinghy sailing, one of the things we should perhaps look at is how we can reduce the wait time between races or find another way to keep everyone engaged, even when there are multiple classes and challenging logistics. Nowadays I’m usually happy for a bit of a rest, but I didn’t need or want that 40 years ago and I’ll bet neither do kids today.

Bruce’s Brief: Storm Arcing away from the Coast, Small Boat PSSR and early South Straits Preview

Bruce’s Brief: Storm Arcing away from the Coast, Small Boat PSSR and early South Straits Preview

Certainly another interesting day out there and real fun for the weather geeks. As we said yesterday, this looked like just another winter weather storm, slightly elevated wind speeds but not as strong as the TV and radio folks would like to have us believe. As I write, the barometer here as well as in the Straits, and along the coast has started to go up which should indicate that this low-pressure system has started to arc away from the coast. In some cases rising rapidly which can be as bad as falling rapidly so we’ll watch those stations. The coastal buffer zone once again is helping to diminish wind speeds over the interior of Western Washington. Note the chart for Cape Elizabeth, which I will try to update before sending this out. I’ve also included the Langley Hill Doppler radar image because you can really see where the low-pressure is centered off our coast, especially if you run the “Reflectivity Loop.” It is clearly moving away from the coast.

As you can see from the surface charts everything is pointing towards a post frontal kind of weekend. I think given the option I probably wouldn’t head out this afternoon and instead just get the boat ready to go tomorrow, late morning. For the north, central, and south Sound expect 15-25 knots for south-southwesterly until mid to late afternoon. Before going anywhere, check the station reports on your VHF. Remember that the definition of heavy weather is the point at which you don’t feel comfortable with you, your crew or your vessel being able to handle the conditions. No harm in just spending a comfortable weekend at the dock getting caught up on boat chores or reading those owner’s manuals.

By Sunday things will ease off in the Sound however along the coast we’ll start to feel the effects of yet another low-pressure system headed our way. Check the 48 hour surface chart. More lows are out there however they are starting to weaken and as we saw this week, the closer they get to our coastal buffer zone, the weaker they become. There is some hope for better weather after all. The downside is in the 500MB charts which have the jet stream well to the south of us which is actually going to allow more moisture into California and keep us cooler and wetter than normal.

For PSSR at Shilshole, the boats and crews that like breezy conditions are going to love Saturday. The challenge will be where CYC sets the start-finish line. That’s because even though the conditions are post-frontal, in other words, a southwesterly flow over the Sound, you will still have a very localized southeasterly coming out of the Ship Canal. This challenge will be compounded by stronger shifts to the southwest as the day goes on and the breeze starts to ease. Very tactical and challenging racing for sure.

I had a request from my friend Peter Salusbury up in Vancouver to gaze deeply into the crystal ball to see what conditions we may have for the best long distance race in the Pacific Northwest, South Straits of Georgia which will be starting on Friday, the 14th of April. Needless to say, if it had started today it would have been quite a thrash but then again we’ve come to expect this of that race. While the 11 April chart continues to show what appears to be an unrelenting string of low-pressure systems out there, they are really starting to weaken, except for that monster 972MB low on the International Dateline. It, however, is not moving our way so at this point conditions are looking relatively benign. Doesn’t mean you can slack off in your safety preparation, however. I’ve included the Navy charts for Friday and Saturday next weekend. I’ll have a special South Straits forecast on Thursday with a weekend post on Friday.

Have a safe and fun weekend!

Gaucho’s PSSR Victory

Gaucho’s PSSR Victory

My friend John Cahill has been racing the Ross 930 Gaucho very successfully, consistently and quietly for many years. It was great to see him win Class 5 at CYC’s PSSR (Puget Sound Spring Regatta) this past weekend, fittingly by a single point over rival Here and Now. John even answered my request for a report on the event! It’s a great read, you can tell it was a fun weekend of good, hard competition. In short, PSSR at its best. Results for North Course and South Course.

Oh, and enjoy Jan Anderson’s photography, both here and on her SmugMug site. Yep, once again I’m going to remind everyone to go buy her photos. 


John at the helm with Alex Simanis focused on the main on the nimble Ross 930 Gaucho.

By John Cahill

First off, fantastic conditions for April racing on Puget Sound: relatively warm, dry sunny days with somewhat light air on Saturday, but not bad (by our standards). At times we felt like the race committee would be crazy to try to pull off a race in existing conditions, but we were surprised how good the racing turned out to be and how fortunate we were that they got races off (and stopped running them) when they did. As usual, the south course got better breeze and more racing than the north course (not sure why that is but it seems fairly consistent from year to year).

On Gaucho we got off to an unfortunate start by being called over early on the first race. We were shocked when they called our numbers and sure that they called the wrong boat over but didn’t have any time to ponder it so we turned back to restart. We managed to stay in the best of the available breeze on the first beat and had good boat speed (for us) in the lighter breeze. This allowed us to claw back into the top four boats around the first mark. We found another shift on the run and finished 2nd for the race (we were very lucky not to be buried deep right at the outset). After several delays we got two more races in the afternoon, again in light air, and pulled off a respectable 1st and 3rd to keep us in the hunt for the first day. I felt we did a great job of picking up the shifts which helped tremendously. Much credit for this goes to Alex Simanis from Ballard Sails for his help. At the end of the day we were tied for first (ahead only by a tie breaker) and only one point ahead of the 3rd place boat.  Tight racing but really fun, this is what it’s all about!

Sunday was a new day, 10+ knots in the morning which was more than we saw all of Saturday. Our class was a dogfight for the lead position between the top three boats.  In the first race we got off the start line cleanly at the pin end on the first race and managed to lead all around the course with clear air for the win. The second and third races were more of the same and with consistent starts, going the right way and good boat speed, we were able to get two more bullets. Just when you start feeling good things started getting harder, after a less than ideal start we could only manage a third in the 4th race of the day.

I have to say we were really hoping the race committee would call the racing for the day at 3pm but the CYC race committee never considers stopping racing in good breeze, so on to race #5.  Shortly before the start we got into a position that forced us to tack close in front of a starboard tack boat. We threw the helm over hard but they called foul and even though we didn’t think we had broken a rule, we likely would have had to gone to the protest room which is an uncertain outcome. We decided to play it safe and do our turns, putting us in the back of the fleet sailing away from us after the start. Much to the crew’s credit, no one gave up.  Like in the first race, we fought our way back into 4th by the 1st mark of a twice around race. We picked up one more place on the next legs and rounding the last windward leg were in 3rd.  Once again we noticed something the three boats in front of us hadn’t considered, a different leeward mark was closer to the far end of the start finish line than what we had been sailing to most of the day.  We took the shorter route and managed to round the last leeward mark in 2nd and closer to the top boat.  From there it was a short beat to the finish and we managed hang on to be second over the line.  On corrected time, we placed second in that race only 2 seconds ahead of the 3rd place boat for the race.  If we had been 3rd we would have been tied for first for the regatta.  Quite a weekend for us indeed!

– John Cahill, Skipper Gaucho