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. 

Bruce’s Brief’s: Special for R2AK, The Proving Ground Will Show No Mercy for the Slow

Bruce’s Brief’s: Special for R2AK, The Proving Ground Will Show No Mercy for the Slow
Tides at Point Wilson

What a difference a day will make. Today in the Straits is a very nice, light westerly of 5-10-knots with the air temp at 55⁰F. By this time tomorrow, it will be a very different scenario. As you can see from the surface charts we definitely have a front coming towards us and the only question will be when will it pass over the race course. Which right now is projected to be between 1000hrs and 1300hrs. If you’re a fast boat and can make it across to Victoria before 1000hrs that will be a great thing because the post frontal breeze in the Straits is going to make that crossing nothing to take lightly.


June 7 Surface Forecast

From a tidal current perspective, this is just about perfect with a moderate ebb really starting roll around 0400 hrs at Pt. Wilson. With the start at 0500 hrs, all Teams should be well on their way into the Straits with the next slack at 1025. The other good news is that the pre-frontal breeze will be southeasterly at Pt Townsend and will be in the 10-15 knots range. By mid-Straits at 0700-0900 you could have 15-25 knots from the southeast.

If you’re wearing your Garmin Quatix watch, at around 0900 start watching the barometric pressure to be bottoming out. The wind will drop and start to get flukey while the puffs start coming in from the west. If you’re in the mid-Straits or near the ½ way point, that will be your signal to batten down the hatches because it’s about to get gnarley.

How gnarly? By 1200 hours you could be in 25-30 knots of westerly and in the middle of the Straits there is nowhere to hide. This breeze will start to back off around 2000 hrs becoming 15 knots from the west by 2300 hours and then just sort of go away by 0200 hours Friday morning. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be out there on a paddleboard or small rowboat when the westerly first fills down the Straits, so plan accordingly.

June 8 Surface Forecast

By that I mean if you are making 5-knots or less, think about the going the great circle route inside of Protection Island and up behind Dungeness Spit and then wait for the breeze to drop before you go across. Remember also that with this breeze the wind chill will be in the upper 30’s and low 40’s so don’t ignore the possibility of hypothermia.

Travel safely and have a great race.

Click on the images to enlarge.


Bruce’s Final R2AK Update and Weekend Weather Outlook

As predicted, the Mad Dog guys crushed the record with Jungle Kitty second about 18 hours behind, followed by Broderna, Madrona and Mail Order Bride. Congratulations to all.

The weather up there did get a bit gnarly but not nearly as nasty as it’s going to get tomorrow mid afternoon with gusts to 40 from the south- southeast as another front passes over the area. The worst part is that in keeping with a fast moving frontal passage, the wind will clock steadily to the NNW and blow just as hard from that direction so the mid-Hecate Straits can expect winds to 35-knots between 2000 hrs and 2300 hrs. Backing off after that. Would not want to out there in mid-Straits for that.

As you can see from 24 hour surface chart there is that 1000MB low off of SE Alaska that is dissipating while another weaker but very fast moving 1009MB low aims right at Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) for Saturday with an attached frontal system that extends as far south as the Oregon/CA border. This will mean some unsettled weather for tomorrow and the possibility of scattered showers around the area on Sunday. Slight overcast on the 4th but not a washout. Break out the stern-mounted barbecues!

The main area to watch for the possibility of Small Craft advisories will be, as it has been all week, the Straits of Juan de Fuca from Sheringham Point to the San Juan Islands, and Admiralty Inlet. Remember also the wind will be the strongest in the afternoon , luckily the big flood tide of the day will be in the afternoon so while conditions (15-25 knots of westerly) won’t be great it won’t be the horrible mix-master you can get with wind against tide.

Have a great weekend, enjoy yourself and be safe at all times.

Ed. note: Bruce’s attention will now be completely focused on his Vic-Maui Race aboard Crossfire. He’s got his work cut out as a confusing weather pattern has dominated the northern Pacific for the last few weeks. Through the magic of technology, we’ll be hearing from Bruce during the race and will convey the juicy details as we can.

Bruce’s Brief: R2AK Update Monday June 27, 2016

MAd Dog at Campbell River
Mad Dog going by the Tyee Pool at the Dick Murphy Park in Campbell River.

As of 0615 this morning the mighty Mad Dog after a bit of a slow night was once again moving towards a perfectly timed entrance into Seymour Narrows. At 1100 hours there are clearly too many folks, who have nothing better to do at work, trying to use the Tracker and it has now crashed. OUTSTANDING!

The overall picture is that at about 1115 Mad Dog was sighted off of the southern part of the town of Campbell River. At 1124 Mad Dog went flying by the Tyee Pool at Dick Murphy Park in almost perfect conditions for the cat, flat water and 6-8 knots of wind. Slack at the Seymour Check Point is at around 1145. Max Ebb (7.4 knots) is at 1445 which even at human powered speed means they’ll be into Johnstone Straits by about 1500 hours today. The next sound you will hear is the door slamming shut on the fleet on this year’s version of the R2AK.

The big picture is that the weak low we’ve been watching is moving slightly, and I mean very slightly faster, towards the Queen Charlotte Islands. On the Monday morning chart you’ll see this 1010MB low with its attached frontal system starting to push that weak 1028MB high off of northern California out of the way.

By Tuesday morning that frontal system is ever so slightly closer to race area however it is weakening as it runs into that 1025MB high situated over SE Alaska. This will have the effect of dropping wind speeds over the entire race area. Which will have little to no effect on Mad Dog. It will basically be a case of the rich getting richer at this point. Provided of course that MD doesn’t hit something big or break something important.

By Wednesday morning you’ll see the frontal system dissipating and a weak trough of low pressure starting to form over the race area. This will pull the breeze around to the west and the boats that are furthest to the north will benefit the most. MD will be reaching like a bandit and simply accelerating away from the fleet. The potential exists for MD to break the record to Ketchikan.

Ed. Note: Thanks again, Bruce, for the insights.


Bruce’s R2AK Weather Brief

Bruce’s R2AK Weather Brief
Photos by Jan Anderson

A lot of us were surprised at just how fast some of the boats got to Victoria on Thursday in just about perfect conditions. Sunday’s 1200 start will be distinctly different as the wind will be light in the starting area and then build lightly from the west until you turn the corner at Trial Island and or duck inside to avoid the ebb tide. Max ebb at Trial Island will be about 1400 hours at 1.1 knots. Slack will occur around 1630 hours so for the rowers and paddlers it will be a simple matter of working the beach to stay out of the tide and travel the shortest possible distance up through the Islands and then depending upon the tide going through Dodd or False Narrows. The Flood will last until almost midnight so you should make good progress going at least to Nanaimo.

For the sailors, it will be how to get to the breeze in the northern part of the Strait of Georgia the fastest way possible which won’t be easy. It will be an on-the-water call however if you can sail up the inside and get into Trincomali Channel and then catch the flood tide to exit out through Porlier Pass and into the Strait of Georgia, that looks like a real possibility. From there you’ll be dealing with a light to moderate northwesterly and of course the tidal gate at Seymour Narrows. If you’re watching the wind in Johnstone Strait remember that the anemometer readings from Fanny Island at the west end of Hardwicke Island are intermittent and reading about twice the real wind speed. At this point it certainly looks like there won’t be a repeat of the thrash up Johnstone Strait that occurred last year.

The rest of the week doesn’t look too bad as the high off the coast is still not setting up in a very stable shape and there is a weak low pressure system associated with a cutoff upper level low that will make its way towards the BC coast late in the week which should give sailors a great ride north to Ketchikan. Maybe just in time to give sailors a southerly to get through the channel at Bella Bella.

Regardless, it’s going to be interesting to watch the tracker as they get to Campbell River and Seymour Narrows.

Good luck and stay safe.

Ed. Note: The R2AK certainly is not under any radars this year. But it’s great to see that the spirit of the event is still alive and well with many it it clearly for the adventure and not the steak knives. Last year’s thrash was one kind of R2AK while this year’s race promises something completely different. Makes me wonder what the Bieker proa Pure and Wild would do this year. 47700-X2You have to hand it to the Buchans, who reportedly pulled their inboard to make Madrona legal. Not surprising, the first leg was won handily by Mad Dog Racing, the super fast M32 cat. But if last year showed us anything, the best stories are likely to come from the other end of the fleet as they persevere to the north.

Fair winds, all. And I second Bruce’s thoughts on staying safe.  –Kurt Hoehne