Tri-Island Wraps with a Sombrero

Tri-Island Wraps with a Sombrero

Seattle Yacht Club’s Tri-Island Series may be the most “Northwest” of all the racing series. It utilizes our abundance of islands to make interesting courses and turns, and offers three great tours of Puget Sound (and sometimes a bit beyond). Win or lose, sailing up and down the Sound is almost always a win. And when you get to wind your way around and over tight spots, using or avoiding currents and negotiating geographical wind glitches it’s always interesting. Sometimes maddening.

Blake Island Race

By all accounts the Blake Island Race was an entertaining and fairly fast race. Following is Crossfire‘s track.


Once again we’ve tapped into the Brains of Brad (Baker) of Swiftsure Yachts for analysis of how Crossfire sailed the course:

We had a good race on Crossfire. Bruce Hedrick’s forecast pretty much came to pass with a light air southerly drainage wind for the start going more easterly at West Point across Elliott Bay and with a northerly eventually filling. The three fastest boats, Smoke, Glory and Crossfire, had a very different race then the rest of the Blake Island fleet.  The start was in a 7-knot Southerly.  It was close between the three of us with Smoke initially doing the best job and grabbing the early lead,  followed by Glory then us. As we cleared West Point going south, the wind turned more ESE and the drag race was on! That is if you call 4–6 knots of boat speed in a dying 4-knot breeze a drag race! Ultimately. Crossfire was able to escape out front with a good lead. We were working the problem hard adjusting sails and skipper Lou Bianco did an excellent job of driving, but frankly I think the extra rig height on Crossfire is what tipped the scales in our favor as there was a bit more wind up high. By the time we cleared Restoration Point Crossfire had a healthy lead and never gave it up.  What was different for us three faster boats vs the rest of the fleet is we continued to sail in the southerly all the way to Blake Island. As we approached the turn at Blake we were hard on the wind as a 7 knot southerly had filled in, while we could see the bulk of the fleet coming down from the north under spinnaker. After rounding the island to starboard we parked on the East side, but were carried north at 1.5 knots in the perma-ebb on that side of the island. The northerly filled down to us quickly and we were off to the races again.  It was a beat……again, but this time in 14 knots.  We did get some fun spinnaker time from the turning mark at West Point to the finish off Elliott Bay Marina with a max speed of just over 15 knots on that leg. The wind gods and luck worked in Crossfire’s favor.  We finished 1st in class, Smoke 2nd and Glory 3rd.  That gave all three boats a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd finish for the series for a three way tie at 6 points each. Since Crossfire won the last race, we won the tie breaker to take the series. ORC seems to be working.  It’s worth noting that the J-145 Jedi won the overall for this race in ORC. The J/145 seems to rate fairly under ORC and is a great all around boat. (Ed. Note, making the shameless plug on behalf of Swiftsure Yachts: They have my old J/145 ride Double Take for sale right now.)

The Series Results

For this year’s Tri-Island series the wind gods were generally pretty cooperative with all three races successfully in the books.

Some of the happy Crossfire crew at the festive prizegiving and party at the Seattle Yacht Club Elliott Bay outstation. “I really LOVE sombreros, Nigel Barron explains. Clearly.

The “big boat fleet” is alive and well on the Salish Sea, and as Brad points out the ORC handicapping system is apparently doing a good job. In the ORC class 1 results, the “Big Three” (Crossfire, Glory and Smoke) finished the series tied, with Crossfire winning on the tiebreaker of the last race. When the two ORC classes were combined for the overall scoring, Smoke came out on top by one point ahead of four boats tied at one point behind. New Haven won Class 2 and Jedi finished third and first overall in the races she sailed.

Bravo Zulu won the PHRF long course series handily. Denny Vaughan and crew seem to never miss a race, and it shows. Second and third were a pair of J/120s, Hinzite and With Grace. After her misfortune (grounding) in Swiftsure, Terremoto missed the last race but still won Class 3 on the strength of her wins in the first two races.

On the short course (also PHRF) it was all Kiwi Express, Reinhold Freywald’s Farr 1020. She won the first two short course races overall and finished with a strong 4th. More Jubilee and Different Drummer continued their winning ways in their respective classes.

I’m hoping to get some lowdown on the cruiser-racer class (Class 9). A total of 13 boats competed in at least one race, which represents a significant portion of the fleet. Watch for a special report on that class to follow soon.

Results here.

I’d love to update this post with some photos or additional tales. Just send them in! Thanks to Brad Baker and Rick Donohue for the report and track!


Blake Island SIs

Props to Nigel Barron of CSR Marine for passing along this letter from SYC’s Brian Ledbetter to competitors in tomorrow’s Blake Island Race. I’m certain Brian won’t mind me getting this reminder out in front of readers, especially considering the safety issues:


From: Brian Ledbetter <>

Sent: Thursday, June 1, 2017 11:04:27 AM

To: Brian Ledbetter

Subject: Tri-Island Series – Blake Island Race Info and Safety


Hello Racers,


A couple of reminders for the Blake Island race this Saturday:

1.     Stay WELL CLEAR of ALL commercial traffic.  Blake Island race crosses shipping lanes and ferry routes.

2.     We have had incidents in both previous races of this series, and 2 protests resulting in boats retiring from the race.

3.     Please read the entire sailing instructions, (attached), and give special attention to SI 14, copied below.

4.     Reminder: You may use your engine to stay clear of a vessel not participating in the race as detailed in SI 14.8. Review SI 14.8.


Awards and Party at Elliott Bay Marina!

Party will be from 3 – 9 pm at the Elliott Bay outstation of Seattle Yacht Club. (Next to Maggie Bluffs)

Steel Drum Band from 5 – 8 pm

Taco Truck 5 – 8 pm on-site, free for competitors!

Complimentary Beer and Wine

Lots of great Series and Overall Trophies to hand out, come cheer on your team and friends!!


Have a great race,





14.1 Sailing is an activity that has an inherent risk of damage and injury. Competitors in this event are participating entirely at their own risk. See RRS 4, Decision to Race. The responsibility for a boat’s decision to participate in a race or to continue racing is hers alone. The race organizers (organizing authority, race committee, protest committee, host club, sponsors, or any other organization or official) will not be responsible for damage to any boat or other property or the injury to any competitor, including death, sustained as a result of participation in this event. By participating in this event, each competitor agrees to release the race organizers from all liability associated with such competitor’s participation in this event to the fullest extent permitted by law.


14.2 Boats must check in with the race committee signal boat at the starting area each day before their first warning signal. Boats should check in by hail unless safety requires checking in by VHF 72.


14.3 A boat that retires while racing must orally notify the race committee as soon as possible after retiring by hail or VHF 72.


14.4 A boat racing in a handicap class must comply with one of the two following sets of equipment requirements, (a) or (b):

(a) Pacific International Yachting Association (PIYA) Special Equipment Regulations Governing Minimum Equipment and Accommodation Standards (SER), as changed by the Notice of Race, to the category requirement identified below. The text of these regulations is available from the PIYA web site at

(b) ISAF Offshore Special Regulations (OSR), without US Sailing prescriptions, as changed by the Notice of Race, to the category requirement identified below. The text of these regulations is available from the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) web site at

Protection Island Race

Long Course: SER Coastal or OSR 3

Short / Sport Boat Course: SER Inshore or OSR 4

Cruiser/Racer Course: SER Inshore or OSR 5

Vashon Island Race

Long Course: SER Coastal or OSR 3

Short / Sport Boat Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5

Cruiser/Racer Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5

Blake Island Race

Long Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5

Short / Sport Boat Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5

Cruiser/Racer Course: SER Nearshore or OSR 5


14.5 Boats must comply with U.S. Coast Guard regulations.


14.6 Boats must be operated in accordance with the Puget Sound Sailboat Safety Regulations, available in the Seattle Yacht Club Sailboat Race Book available at


14.7 The race committee may inspect a boat at any time before or after racing for compliance with requirements.


14.8 A boat may use its propulsion engine as described in RRS 42.3(i) for any purpose described in 42.3(h), or to stay clear of a vessel not participating in the race. The use of a propulsion engine shall be reported to the Race Committee with the reason for the use and a description of any benefit to the boat’s position resulting from said use.


Brian Ledbetter

Sailing Director

Seattle Yacht Club


Tri-Island 2017 Sailing Instructions

Don’t forget to read Bruce’s Brief on the race published earlier today!

Bruce’s Brief’s: 3 & 4 June, SYC Blake Island Race

Bruce’s Brief’s: 3 & 4 June, SYC Blake Island Race

After Swiftsure, this week certainly went by fast and now we’re racing again tomorrow. No wonder the Mrs isn’t exactly pleased. I guess I might be a bit behind on my lawn and garden maintenance program… I don’t know why however I think tomorrow on the water, any water, will still be a lot more fun than getting dirty in the garden.

Speaking of Swiftsure, last weekend was certainly proof that when there is little to no gradient just about anything can happen. This weekend in the Straits will be much different as we’ll have an onshore flow and as the ridge of high pressure builds on Sunday by the evening it will be really cranking from the west.

For the last of the Tri-Island Series, not so much. There will be wind, and there will be the sunshine so it will still be a great day on the water. Just don’t forget the sunblock before you leave the house! The other plus is the tides which will be favorable and there won’t be much of them.

Tidal Currents at West Point

0654      Slack

1036      Max Flood            .71 knots

1321      Slack

1500      Max Ebb                 .17 knots

1818      Slack


The first gun is supposed to be around 0900 hours however if you look at the surface charts you’ll notice the remains of a trough moving to the east and unfortunately that will leave a large gap in the pressure gradient. This will result in a light downslope, drainage breeze from the east in the morning. With some clearing and no gradient, this could be the perfect set-up for the Swihart Effect which says the northerly will start down the Sound once the flood tide gets rolling. If the clearing continues, look for the northerly to continue to build through the day.


As is typical for the Blake Island Race, you can pick your poison deciding which way you are going to go around the Island. In almost all cases it’s best to leave the Island to starboard especially when you have a flood tide. This is because of the ebb that continues to roll up Colvos and the back side of the Island. The flood may not get all the way to the bottom of the Island, however, there will be more wind on the east side of the Island.

If the breeze is northerly in the starting area, you’ll probably do a starboard set just don’t go west too long. Before the start watch the flag at the West Point lighthouse and if it’s showing any easterly at all plan a gybe to port to be at the West Point Buoy. If on port you’re aiming at Alki, hold that gybe until you get lifted to Spuds Fish and Chips, then gybe and aim at the Island. Just don’t get too close to the Island especially at the south end. See the picture. If you swing wide enough at the south end you’ll carry the northerly into the light zone. Just be ready to smoothly transition into what little breeze there will be on the backside of the Island. Headsail up, in the starboard groove, spinnaker down, all without changing course and hopefully without slowing much.

Since you’ll be swept along with the ebb up the backside of the Island, sail the favored tack, usually starboard and don’t get too close to the Island. By the same token don’t too far over to the Manchester shore as it will get light in there as well. Work your way up to Bainbridge Island since the current tends to set from west to east along that south shore. Once you get to Restoration hold on to port tack. If you are aimed at Four Mile Rock, just keep going right up to Magnolia Bluff. If you end up being headed below(east of) Four Mile, take a short hitch until you can once again be above Four Mile. Really watch your depth sounder coming into there as it gets very shallow, very quickly. If the breeze has built as you’ve come across you’ll want to do your tack change here going from the light #1 to the heavy #1going from port to starboard tack. You should be right under the Bluff and it will be puffy so the mainsheet/ traveler person is going to be working very hard to keep the boat on its feet.

Once you clear West Point hold on to starboard tack until you can lay the entrance to the Ship Canal. Of course, this also depends on where the finish line is located. You’d like to get close to the entrance so it will be easier to call the tack to the finish, finishing on starboard and probably in more breeze than the boats on the outside. There will also be a nice push from the current coming out of the Ship Canal.

Be safe, use lots of sunblock, and have a great time.

Bruce’s Weather Brief for May 13-14, Mother’s Day and SYC Vashon Island Race

Bruce’s Weather Brief for May 13-14, Mother’s Day and SYC Vashon Island Race

It certainly won’t exactly be the nicest of weekends but Sunday will be the better of the two days. The problem is a very persistent upper-level low-pressure system which is just not moving very much and will keep cool, unstable air coming ashore all weekend. Take a look at the attached Langley Doppler from this afternoon and then compare it to tomorrow morning before you head out.

For now, check the current surface chart and the current 500MB chart to get a feel for what is actually going on. As you can see from tomorrow’s chart, the surface gradient will have opened up and the remains of a weakened frontal system will be approaching the coast. The really cool feature about that chart is the Pacific High which is looking very summer like. About the right pressure, 1040 MB, and in very much the right place. The only problem may be that this is a little early in the summer cycle for this to be occurring. If however, Comanche were starting TransPac tomorrow, she would absolutely blitz the record. We’ll see.

The models have come together nicely for tomorrow so we’ll roll the dice and put this out there. As always, check all your resources before you leave the house tomorrow morning. Cool, unstable air coming ashore doesn’t make for a tremendously accurate forecast.

Tidal Currents

West Point

0618      Slack

0800      Max ebb                .43 knots

1042      Slack

1606      Max flood             1.14 knots

1924      Slack

Narrows north end

0700      Slack

1118      Max ebb                3.98 knots

1430      Slack

1654      Max flood             3.95 knots

2054      Slack

There should be enough wind to allow the Vashon Island Race to start on time which is about an hour after max ebb, we still need to remember that the ebb will extend because of the amount of rain today and what will be flowing out of the Duwamish. There will probably still be a localized SE breeze at Shilshole, however at West Point it will probably be time to think about getting to the west anticipating a shift to the WSW as the day goes on.

As usual, in these conditions, it may get a bit fluky from the north end of Vashon to Pt. Robinson where, if we’re lucky, the WSW will finally start to build to 8-12 knots. You’ll want to be careful to not get too close to the Vashon shore as the wind will be coming over the Island and may not touch down until well offshore. At the bottom end of the Island stay out a ways to avoid the eastward flowing current that pretty much always run there. Get into the ebb up Colvos Passage and don’t get too close to either shore. Drivers and spinnaker trimmers will be working very hard all the way up Colvos. This will not be “Miller time”.

From the north end of Colvos to West Point, the wind will probably back from the SW to the S so you’ll need to anticipate the gybe and your approach to the finish. Watch gybing in north of West Point as this can get light from West Point to the Ship Canal.

For those of you going cruising this weekend, no real major issues of too much breeze except in the eastern end of the Straits and the San Juan Islands in the early Sunday morning hours when you should be at anchor. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of scope out and plenty of room to swing.

Have a great weekend and do something nice for mom!

Bruce’s Brief for Weather April 29-30 and Protection Island Race

Bruce’s Brief for Weather April 29-30 and Protection Island Race
It’s a ways from Seattle to Protection Island

The bad news is that we are going to have more rain, as if we haven’t had enough already. The good news, especially for the longest race in the Tri-Island Series, is we are going to have wind as long as you finish the Long Course before about 0200 hrs Sunday morning. The other good news is that for the most part the tides will be with us. The really good news, especially for the folks going on TransPac, is that some semblance of a Pacific High is starting to form and the jet stream is slowly and inexorably moving north. Summer will eventually happen.

Tides for Admiralty Inlet off of Bush Point


0500 Max Flood 1.29 knts

0706 Slack

1112 Max Ebb.   3.89 knts

1448 Slack

1800 Max Flood 3.13 knts

2124 Slack


0024 Max Ebb   2.46 knts

0354 Slack

0554 Max Flood 1.02 knts

0754 Slack

1200 Max Ebb   3.62 knts

The surface charts show a weak high pressure system off the coast that will be pushed out of the way by a weak frontal system that will make it’s way onshore over Saturday and into Sunday morning. Following a typical pattern, the pre-frontal southerly will be light, 6-8 knots, in the starting area and then build as the day goes on especially in the northern part of the race course. By late Saturday afternoon and into the early evening we could see 20-25-knots of SSE so plan ahead with safety harnesses and jack lines rigged before you leave the dock, as well as starboard tack barber haulers. Once the front passes, the post frontal westerly will fill down the Straits creating a light air convergence zone from Pt. Townsend to Kingston, in other words finish early.

You should be able to sail pretty much a course that gets you to the Island with a minimal number of gybes. You might also want to think about getting a warm meal into the crew while you’re going downwind because it will be really lumpy coming home and you’re going to want people hiking all the time for the beat home. As you sail up Admiralty Inlet towards the Island if you want to find out what’s happening on the water between Discovery Bay and Protection Island just go to This is a private weather station located on the north side of Diamond Point. Think also about getting set up for the beat home with the headsail hoisted in the port groove because you’ll have long starboard tacks and short port tacks.

Going around the Island for those of you with deep drafts remember the Dallas Bank extends a long way to the north of Protection Island and because it’ shallow in places there can be a lot of kelp out there. This time of the year it shouldn’t be too bad but it will pay to keep a sharp lookout.

From the Island to Pt Townsend, it should be a close reach and generally speaking the water will be flatter along the west side from Pt. Townsend to Pt. No Point. On starboard tack the puffs will be lifts however if it starts to get light on the approach to Pt. No Point remember there’s a reason why it’s called Skunk Bay, don’t get in too close.

From Point No Point to the finish if the barometer is rising the wind will be slowly shifting from the SSE to the SSW which will mean staying to the west so you will be on the inside of the lift for the approach to the finish.

Be safe, have a great race.


Ed. Notes: Thanks Bruce, for taking time from your Mexican holiday and putting down the margarita long enough to to the Brief. And to all those racers, please help me with post-race coverage by sending me anecdotes, photos or video links. Thanks.

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!