Southern Straits Race Wrap

Southern Straits Race Wrap

Southern Straits is often a great race, and by the sounds of it it was this year. We’re lucky to have Peter Salusbury report on the race soon after finishing a strong second with his amazing Longboard. Enjoy the photos Peter and crew supplied, plus more photos courtesy of race chair Sonia Telford. If anyone has tales/pix/video to add, send them along and I’ll incorporate them into this post. Here’s Peter: 

Southern Straits Race 2017 started with a packed clubhouse at the race host, West Vancouver Yacht Club, for a pre-race dinner and weather briefing. Bruce Hedrick had been watching the weather models all week and while he couldn’t make it the evening to present it himself, you could have heard a pin drop in the room as his detailed weather forecast was shared with the 200+ people in the room.

Thankfully, the overnight rain let up first thing in the morning and start off Dundarave Pier featured a slowly oscillating NE to SE wind of around 5 knots.  The long course boats started first with the NE wind prevailing initially with Longboard leading the pack on the rhumb line while the the two TP52’s, Smoke and Kinetic, gybed south to take advantage of better ebb current looking for the SE which eventually would settle in.  As the morning went on, the southeasterly built to 10 to 15 knots as the fleet took the long port tack gybe to Sister’s Islet.  The wind eventually built to a steady 20 knots with the big division 1 boats rounding Sister’s in the middle of the afternoon. 

Leg two back south to the TA mark started in the 15 knot SE which slowly lifted to an easterly so you could parallel the Vancouver Island shore until about the Wincheslea Islands.  From there to Entrance Island was a slow transitional zone with light airs, shifting breeze from NE to SW to no breeze at all.  As always, there were winners and losers through this stretch but the boats that stayed offshore a little seemed to benefit from the post frontal southwesterly that eventually asserted itself south of Entrance Island.

Entrance Island to the TA was a starboard tack fetch in 15 knots of breeze – very fast sailing conditions.  After rounding TA, the next leg to Halibut bank was too tight for many boats to carry a kite in the 15 to 20 knots of breeze but if you could carry one, it paid big time to sail low with a reaching kite and benefit from a slow lift and lightening breeze on the approach to Halibut Bank.  From Halibut Bank to the finish line was a one tack fetch again in the 15 know southwesterly which lasted all the way to Bowen Island where there was one final massive transition zone. The boats that did the best led their fleets south on a port tack to stay in the dying SW and eventually were rewarded with a solid easterly coming out of English Bay. 

So overall, a very fast and mostly dry race – much drier than anticipated interrupted by two to three significant transition zones that if you were good and a little lucky, really paid off in the results.  (Race results here.) It was a classic Pacific NW race where the faster the boat, the better you did on the Long course for sure, and the standings suggest that applied to the Medium and Short courses as well.  Kinetic and Smoke had a good battle going on all race with Kinetic eventually prevailing to take line honors just before 3 am on Saturday and the overall course win in both PHRF and ORC.  It was David Sutcliffe’s first win in Straits race either as crew or skipper and good primer as he gets ready to take Kinetic south this summer to take on the Transpac Race.  Stu Dahlgren’s Westerly from Royal Vic Yacht Club did a nice job staying ahead of Paul Lamarche’s always well sailed Neptune’s Car from the first leg onwards to finish third.  Another well sailed Vancouver Island boat, Colin Jackson’s Jackrabbit, had a great battle with our very own Longboard, eventually correcting out 3 minutes to win Division 2 on the Long course in PHRF. 

The Medium course was from the start to Sister’s and back to the finish line with the perennial favourite, Jim Prentice’s Diva taking line honors and another Vancouver Island boat, Beats per Minute skippered by Eldin Miller-Stead winning overall. The short course boats had a very quick race to Ballenas Island and return with the almost unbeatable Incisor skippered by William Phelps once again taking the overall win finishing just after midnight right behind the line honors winner Hurricane sailed by Matt Lane.

As always, a big shout out to the Race Chair, Sonia Telford, and her 90 volunteers who made this race a huge success. It was great to see so many boats from Seattle and Vancouver Island making the trek north and the race did create some great sailing memories. Hope to see everyone back for next year which is the 50th anniversary of Southern Straits Race. And finally, a huge thank-you to Bruce Hedrick for the pre-race weather forecast posted on  

–Peter Salusbury

Bruce’s Weather Brief for April 15-16

Yet another interesting week of weather in the Pacific Northwest will wrap up with what could be the nicest weekend so far this year, especially on Easter Sunday.

The race tracker shows the fleet making its way west at about 1315 to Ballenas Islands, with Kinetic in the lead doing 12.8 knots.

The racers up in Vancouver for the South Straits got started this morning in what will probably turn out to be a bit of a slow race as the pressure gradient is widening over the area. Tracker Link.

After all the rain yesterday, punctuated with squalls that brought some rain, hail, and wind, a high-pressure ridge is starting to build over the area. Having said that, when you look at the Langley Doppler Radar you will see some significant rain still headed our way this afternoon. However, once that blows through, there won’t be much more for the rest of the weekend.

The strange part, but then again it is spring in the Pacific Northwest so expect anything, will be that while it will be generally light wind over most of the area, expect some breeze in the Straits on Saturday which will come down the Sound later on Saturday. The strange part is that the central sound will have breeze while it remains light in the North, South, and Eastern Straits. By breeze, we could see 15-20 knots from the north pretty much all day on Sunday.

Langley Doppler April 14

As you can see from the 500MB charts, the jet stream is still well south of us which will keep temperatures lower than normal over the area and keep the door open for more rain to wander in over the course of the coming week.

Enjoy the weekend!

Ed. Note: Bruce pulled double duty this week, doing a special Brief for the South Straits racers and today’s look at the weather for the rest of us. We’ll have a wrap on South Straits as soon as we can pull it together and get some reports from our Canadian friends. 




Bruce’s Weather Brief for Southern Straits Race. Pleasant and Cold, but Finish before 1700.

Bruce’s Weather Brief for Southern Straits Race. Pleasant and Cold, but Finish before 1700.

The good news is that the forecast models are actually starting to converge and looks like this could be a relatively pleasant race. What a difference a week or a day can make! If we had started last Friday by Friday night some boats might have been seeking shelter from 40+ knots. If we had started this morning we would now be in 30+ knots at Sisters.

As you can see from the surface charts we do have another front that will be passing over us tomorrow probably sometime between 1200 and 1400 hrs. This is a cold front so make sure you are going to be prepared for some wet and cold especially tomorrow night. Not below freezing but with the wind chill you might be just above freezing, 5⁰-8⁰ C.

For the start, expect 5-15 knots from the SSE. As you work your way west out of English Bay and towards Halibut Bank the wind will begin to back very slightly and there will be some topographical compression resulting in higher wind speeds, not excessive but in the 12-18 knot range as you approach Sangster and Lasqueti Island. This will not last long as the gradient will begin to ease with frontal passage. Since the low-pressure system will be slowly curving away from the coast, the wind won’t completely evaporate but it will ease.

As the post-frontal wind comes down the Straits of Juan de Fuca it will curve up into the race course bringing slightly more wind to the west side of the course from Entrance Island south. North of Entrance, the mountains on Vancouver Island will begin to act a block keeping the breeze lighter near the Island. As the sun goes down know where your competitors and mark them with the handbearing compass to see who goes light where.

By 2200 to 0400 the breeze will tend to be from the SSW to SW in the 8-12 knot range. After around 0400 the breeze will drop consistently over the course down to the 5-10 knot range. After 0900 on Saturday, the breeze may drop even more, just in time to coincide with the building ebb near the finish line. YUK! By late the morning, we will start to see the breeze back to the SE and become a little spotty, especially from Halibut back to the finish. From about 1300 until about 1500 there will be a slight increase in the breeze but dropping again and then severely glassing off around 1700. Watch for the drainage breeze as you get closer to the finish.

Above all else try to finish before 1700 hrs on Saturday.

Editor’s Note: I’ll do a wrapup after the race, and would love to include some first-hand tales as I won’t be making the trip. Please send stories (long or short), snapshots and video links to Thanks! Good luck to all.

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!