Bruce’s Brief for the Smith Island Race

Bruce’s Brief for the Smith Island Race

This is the start of SYC’s Tri-Island Series and it is once again going to be interesting. As you can see from the Saturday morning chart we have a weak ridge of high pressure that developed over the area today after a weak front passed through this morning. The rule for the Pacific Northwest is that the first day that ridge builds is going to be the best day for wind and sure enough, we’ll have small craft advisories in the Straits with the wind backing off after midnight. Since this isn’t a very strong high pressure system and it’s not very round you can expect it to be pushed around by the next low pressure system which shows up on the Sat PM chart. As the high shifts to the other side of the Cascades you can expect the northwesterly in the Sound become more northerly and northeasterly. This will cause that down slope compressional heating which brought us those record high temps earlier in the month.

What does this mean for the race? The tides really aren’t that bad as we’ll be starting in the weak flood of the day (.24knts in Admiralty) with the slack occurring at 1042 and going to the big ebb of the day which will help us get up the Sound, out of Admiralty and into the Straits.

TIDAL CURRENT for Admiralty Inlet

0942      .24           Flood

1042      Slack

1512      2.13        Ebb

1854      Slack

2200      1.8           Flood

0112      Slack

0442      2.23        Ebb

0854      Slack

1036      .56           Flood


The problem will be the light and variable winds in the morning which will persist until early afternoon with a northerly showing up at Pt. Townsend about noon and then working its way down the Sound by 1300-1400hrs. The key will be to make the most of the wind you have and then find the river of current that is running the strongest in the direction you want to go. When you can start to smell the pulp mill at Port Townsend, work to the west where there will be more wind and as you work up Marrowstone Island the port tack puffs will be lifts. You should still be in the ebb and from the Marrowstone Light it could be one long port tack all the way to Minor Island. If you find yourself on a course for the Pt. Partridge Light, or you find the true windspeed starting to drop, take a short hitch to the west to get back into what should be a building westerly, 15-20 knots by 1700 hrs which is the when the big boats should be at Smith Island.

Click on any image to enlarge.

The nice thing about running this race in spring is that the kelp hasn’t had time to reach any kind of length or become that keel grabbing forest that occurs in the late summer and early fall. Just remember, it can grow at a rate of 18” per day in ideal conditions. Regardless, give the west side of Smith plenty of room as there is a monster rock out there which is well marked on the charts and it is shallow with 3 and 4 fathom patches that are dotted with rocks.

The slack in Admiralty is at around 1900 hours which means you should have both flood tide and wind (8-12 knots) to take you back down the Sound. The reach from Smith Island back to Admiralty might include some two wheel reaching in 15-20 so make sure everyone is hiking hard and clipped in. If you can’t carry the kite, move the lead out to the rail and if you have a genoa staysail, get that up.

The run from Pt. Partridge back down Admiralty will probably be in a more northerly than northwesterly which will transition to a north-northeasterly as you get past Pt No Pt. The key on this leg will be to stay in the max flood and don’t get too far into corners. The breeze will probably stay out of the east-northest from Pt. No Pt back to the finish however you’ll want to have all eyes out of the boat and watching for holes as you get closer to Shilshole.

The big boats are projects to finish 0030 to 0200 hrs Sunday morning.

Ed. Note: Racers, be appreciative! Bruce can’t be on the race course this weekend and wrote this up anyway!