Scatchet Head Race – A Place for Cold Men

Scatchet Head Race – A Place for Cold Men

With the results now final, we get to talk about last Saturday’s Scatchet Head race, middle race of CYC’s Center Sound Series.

I don’t know about anybody else who was on the rail on Saturday’s beat back from Scatchet Head, but I was COLD. And WET. And HAPPY. Hey, it’s March and the East Coast is having a blizzard. I know the boys and girls in the Midwest are still many weeks away from launching.

Scatchet Head has tossed up some gnarly races the last few years, but this year things were a lot tamer. There was plenty of wind for a quick race.

A lot of theatrics occurred before the race. A J/105 split its chute while practicing before the start. Tahlequah was sorting out some new crew positions and was late to the start. On Grace we shrimped a chute while practicing, then started in the wrong start when there seemed to be a hiccup by the race committee, and barely made it back for our start when our jib stuck in the track. And, wouldn’t you know it, we ended up nailing our start just about perfectly. Yeah, we meant to do that.

The Race Committee also had some issues causing a fair amount of consternation in the fleet. Eventually, everyone got off, spinnakers flying, toward Whidbey Island. It’s not clear what happened in the starting sequence, but it had a lot of tacticians scratching their fuzzy hats. CYC race fleet captain Matt Wood reports the unspecified results issues have all been resolved.

Photos by Jan Anderson. Check them all out (yes, and buy some) at Jan’s Smugmug site.

Right off the start there were great puffs coming off Crown Hill all the way up to Edmonds. Those who braved going out of that great breeze on the east were rewarded late in the leg. Bill Buchan and Sachem seemed to be furthest west on the approach to the Scatchet Head Buoy. By the time the bulk of the fleet arrived at the mark, the flood was in full swing keeping helmsmen (and women!) on their toes during the rounding.

The beat home was a bit surreal. The misty rain was so thick at times land was virtually invisible. Those aft (or down below) with a chartplotter to play with could dial in, but on the rail it seemed we could have well been headed for the Arctic Circle. There were a couple big windshifts, and as long as you took advantage it was tactically a fairly straightforward leg. Perhaps the most surreal thing was the dead aircraft carrier USS Independence being eerily towed out of the Sound to her ultimate breakup, somewhere, sometime.

In the ORC class, Crossfire, Glory, Neptune’s Car and Smoke were all powered up downwind and just walked away upwind. Their elapsed times were just three hours and a bit, and it would be difficult to figure out how Crossfire could have sailed any better for the win. The J/160 Jam squeaked in on corrected time for a third behind Crossfire and Glory.

In the PHRF division, the small/slower boats had their day. John Cahill’s Gaucho was lights-out with the overall win. More Jubilee was second overall, leading the fleet of eight J/105s in the only one-design class. Here & Now was third. Elusive put in a strong performance in fourth overall and first in class, but the old IOR designs Sachem and Finale sure turned heads powering on the beat home.

In Bruce’s Brief before the race, he and his Expedition software dared predict elapsed times for several boats. Here’s how he did. Never quite satisfied, he went back to his computer and did some more number crunching to further confuse us frozen rail-sitters:

“If I take the recorded elapsed times and figure the speed around the course at 26.1 miles  which I figured at 25.5 miles and then if add the time it would take to sail  the extra .6 miles, my error for predicting elapsed time comes out pretty close. My error for Crossfire was 12.6 seconds or .1128% which would win just about every predicted log race in the universe.”

Bruce, you and Expedition should just go get a room. 

Crossfire‘s Race

Lou Bianco’s Reichel/Pugh 55 may not quite be the biggest, but it’s certainly the “baddest,” racer in town. Step onboard, and you know it takes a lot of skill to point it in the right direction and keep it from hurting itself. Guys like Fritz Lanzinger, Nigel Barron and Brad Baker lead that effort.

Brad Baker, Crossfire‘s navigator these days, offers some insight into the race. And Rick Donahue passed along the winning GPS track. Here’s Brad:

“It was an interesting race from the perspective that it was very direct.  For Crossfire the tides worked out very well.  We were able to get down to the mark just after the tide changed to the flood, but other than that we had reasonably favorable currents for most the race up and back.  The “direct” part has to do with shifts and timing of the shifts.  Going down there was a large easterly component.  We spent the majority off the time on starboard going at or very close to the mark, with maybe 15 minutes max on port. Coming back there ended up being a big shift to the west, so after maybe 10 or 15 minutes on port after rounding we tacked and did one big long starboard tack up the Sound.

Click to enlarge

You can see on the graphic what the boat speed was over the course. Pretty cool.  Wind speed was about 10 knots at the start.  The range in wind was 6 knots to 16 knots.  We saw the max wind on the run near Edmonds and the least amount of wind right at the end of the race. 

 Yes, Crossfire is a scary fast boat and the crew does a very nice job of keeping her going.  Lou Bianco and John Stanley did a nice job on the driving and Fritz deserves a lot of credit for his guru-like work.”





It was my first chance to sail with Andy and Jaimie Mack onboard their J/122 Grace, and it was a great experience. Despite our trials before the start, everyone on board kept their poise and we came away with a well earned class win. But it is the non-racing aspects of the program that are special to me.what was special to me.

Grace rounding the Scatchet Head buoy

Jaimie explained that a big part of buying Grace was that it was a great way to connect with all their Seattle area friends. They live on the Columbia River Gorge, but recognize the value of our sailing community. The second aspect is how they used the boat after the race. The dodger came back on the boat, the wet racing sails went off the boat, and they cruised the boat with their eight year old daughter to Port Madison to rendezvous with other boats. Race AND cruise, that’s cool.


Ace’s Scatchet Head track.

Fellow Laser sailor Mike Johnson was onboard the Farr 395 Ace in our class, a boat we kept a very close eye on. He was kind enough to send his track along and share it with all of us.








Hedrick’s Predictions

Hedrick’s Predictions

While CYC tends to some Scatchet Head results discrepancies, let’s take a look at how Bruce did with his weather outlook for the race. For those of us out there it was darn accurate. And check this out, through the magic of a VPP (not sure which one) and his knowledge of weather and the Sound, (assuming the elapsed times are accurate) he came up with a predicted elapsed time of 3:01 for Crossfire (their elapsed time was actually 3:06) and 4:50 (elapsed time actually 4:58 for Madrugador). Pretty good, but room for improvement……

Here are some of Jan Anderson’s photos. More coming, including a report from onboard Crossfire, when we do the full race report.




Tantivy MOB Recovery, Planning and Preparation Were Key

Tantivy MOB Recovery, Planning and Preparation Were Key

During last Saturday’s Scatchet Head Race, Gina Layton fell overboard during a tack. It could happen to anyone. Luckily, it happened on Stuart Burnell’s Tantivy. Burnell not only has practiced man overboard drills, he’s had real life experience with them. Stuart has taken the time to write this tale up in the hopes that the rest of us can take something from it as well.

Gina looked perfectly dry, warm and not very traumatized at all back at the dock. – KMH

By Stuart Burnell

In the 10+ years I have owned Tantivy, we have had two people go overboard, one in 2014 and now one in 2016. Of the nine crew on Tantivy this weekend, five have fallen overboard from some boat at some point. I slipped and went overboard off a T-bird in 1996.

The point is that in every case we all found ourselves going overboard so fast there was nothing to done except to enjoy the ride. It can, and does, happen.

On this race the wind was in the low teens before we left the dock for this CYC Seattle race. Crew members Paul, Meg and I were discussing which head sail we were going to use and the rest of the crew were busy rigging the boat.

We started without a headsail, hoisted the kite and took off. Jan Anderson took a few very good photos of Tantivy right after the start and you can clearly see we did not have the Lifeslings in place.

After 15 to 30 minutes we gybed to port and crossed Balance and Sachem. Right after that, crew member Suzette noticed the two Lifeslings usually mounted on the stern rail were not in place. She immediately took care of that.

If the Slings had not been in place it would have taken a lot longer to get Gina out of the water.

Everyone had life jackets on.

Steps as executed:

Crew hollers man overboard!

We have a designated spotter, who in this case was Suzette who moved to the back of the boat and deployed a Lifesling.

Trimmers and foredeck stayed at their posts to complete our tack as did the foredeck crew. We dropped the headsail (our #3 does not furl). The trimmers went forward to help secure it.

Tantivy, seen here smoking along downwind, was missing its Lifeslings on the stern rail. Fortunately, the mistake was caught soon after this picture was taken.
Tantivy, seen here smoking along downwind, was missing its Lifeslings on the stern rail. Fortunately, the mistake was caught soon after Jan Anderson took this photo.

Once the jib was secured, the main trimmer and driver maneuvered the boat back to Gina. We did the standard figure eight maneuver and rounded down wind and stopped the 20 feet from her. Paul and Suzette pulled Gina to the stern where we deployed the swim ladder and pulled her to and over the transom.

The system worked well for us. We do have the block and tackle to bring some one over the side rather than the transom. Both man overboard retrievals (2014 and 2016) have been in 20 plus knots of wind and in 3+ foot waves. Over the transom always seems safest for us.

We soon found ourselves aground and unable to get off the bottom by sailing. So, our race ended when we had to use the engine to get back into deep water.


I think getting blown down on to a weather beach could have been avoided. After Gina grabbed the Lifesling, I was more concerned with stopping the boat than positioning the it. We could have possibly pointed the bow away from the beach, which would have allowed a little more time to hoist the jib and get control of the boat once she was completely recovered.

While we have done a number of man overboard practices, we have never tried to get the boat going again without using the engine.

This summer you will see Tantivy doing that as a drill.

Practice Practice Practice

Having done two real live man overboard maneuvers I can say doing the drills is so very important. We trained with Bill Walton before the Vic Maui in 1994, 1996, 2000, and we did it before the Van Isle 360 in 2011 and 2013. In 2013 we had everyone on board drive the boat and run though the various other positions: spotter, driver, main trim and sail handling, plus who went for the block and tackle.

Now we will work on getting the sails back up and racing again. While I feel really bad about having someone fall overboard, I feel very good about how well the crew performed under very stressful conditions. To my knowledge, three of the crew we had on Saturday had never done a man overboard drill.

Links: The Sailing Foundation Lifesling Page, a video of the Lifesling in use.

Another Scatchet Head Scorcher

Another Scatchet Head Scorcher

Got Seamanship?

There’s nothing like a man overboard incident in a racing situation to see who’s got seamanship and who doesn’t.

Yep, if you haven’t heard, there was at least one overboard incident in last Saturday’s Scatchet Head Race. It was handled so well there really was no reason to hear about it. Unless you want to learn something from it.58919

It all started when Gina Layton was deposited in the drink during a tack. Skipper Stuart Burnell and the Tantivy crew handled Gina’s swimming sojourn with consummate skill, getting her back onboard within a minute and a half and then getting themselves out of a grounding as swimmer and boat had drifted onto the shallow shelf off Edmonds before getting stuck there.

Nope, no issues there. Another boat even stood by just in case.

Burnell has written up the rescue and lessons learned.

The issue and some questions apply to everyone else who was out there. How many of us would react as well? How many of us have even deployed a Lifesling in rehearsal? (a fair number, I’m sure, but not nearly all.)

And how many of us take this as a sign that we need to practice, prepare and talk about man overboard and other situations more often? Seamanship, in my view, is mostly about preparing the crew for such a situation.

The first step in preparation may be listening to Neptune’s warnings. I’m thinking Gina’s plunge was one of those.

The Race

There was a race, and what a race it was. The run to Scatchet Head was fast, and the mid 20-kt gusts rewarded the planing hulls and punished heavier boats that stayed in displacement mode too much of the time. And made for some great Jan Anderson photos.

The beat back was very puffy, and sharp driving and main trim in the puffs could make a big difference one way or another.

There were a few surprises, the first being that the wind died, not built as we got further north. Another surprise was a slight right hand shift after rounding the mark that helped some of the boats coming from behind.

The stories will be trickling out over the next couple of weeks, and I plan on collecting a few then inciting a few rivalries before Three Tree Point.

In the meantime, there were a few great performances that deserve mention.

On Double Take we had to take a couple transoms to get back to the left side of the course. Jan Anderson photos.
On Double Take we had to take a couple transoms to get back to the left side of the course. Jan Anderson photos.

After I reminded Charlie and his great Absolutely great crew one too many times about last year’s dismasting, they sailed an amazing race (on the former Voodoo Child) and handily won the very tough class 7. Congrats Charlie! Here and Now must have had things rolling along downwind and certainly looked good coming back to weather. On Double Take it took us a frightfully long time to catch up to her again. And don’t you just love it when a Thunderbird (Selchie) wins her class in those conditions?

Those two TP 52s, Glory and Smoke, are ridiculously fast both downwind and upwind in those conditions. Crossfire, the Reichel/Pugh 55 hit 26 knots. We may hear more from Crossfire‘s navigator Bruce Hedrick on that score if we can pry him away from the navigation hardware and software he’s working on for Vic-Maui.

Results here. Jan Anderson’s photos here.

Stay tuned, I’ll be back before Three Tree Point.





Bruce’s Brief: Scatchet Head Race

Bruce’s Brief: Scatchet Head Race

I think we will agree that we’ve had enough wind this week, but going north to Scatchet Head we’d really like to have enough to get all the way around the course.

Well, even though we are between fronts again, it definitely looks like we will have breeze. In a nutshell, the breeze will be stronger in the morning (15-20 knots)and building as you sail north (20 to 25+knots). On the beat on the way back the breeze should ease a little and then start build again. See the 1500 hour MM5 chart with 30 knots possible in the Richmond Beach –Pt Wells area.

West Point Wind Plot
West Point Wind Plot

There is another fairly strong system approaching the coast however it won’t get here until Sunday late afternoon or early evening. Look for a southeasterly in the starting area becoming a building due southerly as you work your way north to the mark. So be prepared before you leave the dock in the morning with the crew all in pfd’s, safety harnesses, and tethers, with the jacklines rigged and in place.

Next think about which headsail you’ll want to use for the beat back from Scatchet Head because that’s the headsail you’ll want to use in the starting area for this downwind start. Next, anticipate where you’ll want to do your final gybe before the mark in the building breeze.

Currentrs Scatchet HeadThe tide will be at near max ebb in the starting area so don’t get caught below the line trying to beat back up with a tide trying to push you to north and your entire fleet reaching over the top of you giving you a massive dose of dirty air.

You will probably hold the starboard gybe off the line until about halfway to the Richmond oil docks where the breeze will start to clock and lift you. That’s when to gybe to port and work your way back to the center of the Sound. Between the oil docks and the Edmonds Ferry Dock you’ll probably want to gybe back to starboard. You’ll hold starboard until you can gybe back to a layline that is east of the Scatchet Head mark. Why? Because the ebb tide will be pushing you towards the mark to pushing you to west and past the mark. The ebb will probably be flowing at 1 to 1.5 knots flowing due west as you approach the mark.



Another possibility is that if it is really cranking as you sail north and you don’t feel particularly comfortable about gybing, sail past that layline and then drop the kite behind the headsail, get everything under control and then do the gybe. This way you’ll have plenty of time to get your fast settings for the beat before you get to the mark.

You’ll probably round and come up on to a port tack. Only hold this for about 100 yards at the most before you tack back to starboard and get to the Edmonds shore. The ebb is going to last until around 1400 hours and maybe longer as there will be plenty of water coming down the Snohomish River and out Possession Sound. Since we’ll all have a couple of hours of ebb to fight after rounding you may want to think twice about going to the west as that would mean having to cross the ebb twice to get to the finish. Going to the east has two advantages. The first being that after you get off the Possession Bar and you can start to see north into Possession Sound you’ll begin to get the advantage of the ebb flowing south out of Possession. The water will also get flatter and there will be a very localized south-southeasterly along that beach which will allow you to hold port tack as you sail roughly parallel to shore north of the Edmonds Ferry Dock. The breeze may also lighten as you get in closer to the beach. Watch your COG and SOG on port, and when you get back out into anti-water, tack back to starboard and go back into the beach.


As you beat past the Ferry dock, the breeze will once again stay out of the due south and you’ll be in the ebb which will begin to ease around 1500 hours. it will be about .3 knot less on the east shore than if you were fighting it on the west shore of the Sound. Remember also that from Edmonds south to Point Wells there is a very shallow area that goes out quite a ways so watch the sounder. The same as you go from Point Wells to Richmond Beach. South of there it will be a matter of finding lanes of clear air, working the beach and not spending too much time out in the ebb.

As you come up the beach and get closer to the finish off of Meadow Point don’t go so far in that you overstand the finish. It’s OK to tack to port to come off the beach with some in the bank because the ebb and the flow out of the Ship Canal will push you below the layline and you probably don’t want to have to tack back to starboard to get to the finish.

Be safe and have a great race.

(Feature photo – courtesy Jan Anderson – of Absolutely coming back to Seattle with a broken mast. The new Absolutely is looking good and chances are Charlie Macaulay and company will very careful with their gybes this year!)