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PNW Winds: Highs and Lows

by Doug Hansen

Boats in the Races

Words: Doug Hansen // Photos: Jan Anderson

The Corinthian Yacht Club-sponsored Center Sound Series wrapped up with Three Tree Point Race, heralding spring’s arrival. The PHRF and ORC fleets race on what is normally a short-distance course running south to a turning mark off Three Tree Point and then back to Shilshole to finish.

After a fantastic Blakely Rock Race and beautiful—albeit tactically frustrating low-wind Scatchet Head Race—everyone had their fingers crossed for a hat trick of a series. Unfortunately, the morning saw a small local southerly breeze in the bay but nothing on the horizon or in the forecast.

All the same, boats headed out and milled about for an hour or so, while a small zephyr began to materialize. The committee posted an alternate course that would take boats to Duwamish Head in Elliott Bay, then back to Edmonds, then finally back to Shilshole to finish. The idea was to keep the fleets sailing in the areas of the Sound that had wind and away from the flat calm waters south of Alki Point.

With a slowly filling southerly, the start signal was sounded and boats began jockeying for their spots. The smaller boats set off first, which gave the larger fleets a chance to see what side of the course worked out best.

The data was persuading one way, and right off the start line, crews were working hard to get over to the Magnolia shore as the current outflow from the locks pushed boats along the beach towards the point. Short tacking the beach made for several close calls as incoming boats needed to give room to those tacking to avoid the shore.

Several boats found themselves stopped in their tracks after being in the hunt when they made an unfortunate move that landed them on the sandbar off the West Point Lighthouse. The crews did not give up and made every effort to free themselves as the rest of the fleet came to a grinding halt, only yards away as the last of the fading wind finally died off.

Boats at the Blakely Rock Regatta // Photo by Jan Anderson

Top: Skana II with Kowloon in the distance during the Blakley Rock Benefit Regatta.
Left to right: Lady Too and pursuers tack upwind in a duel during the Blakely Rock Race; Dragonfly unleashed in the multihull division during Blakely Rocks.

The tacticians now went into a dice rolling game with some boats cracking sheets to get moving but giving up inside position and favorable current, while others stayed tight to what little air movement there was to be had. With crews hard pressed on the leeward rail and pushing the weight as far forward as they could, spirits were lifted by the quiet motor of the committee boat through the fleet. The race committee set up shop just off Duwamish Head and made their intentions clear that the boats were heading to the finish line.

In usual form, the TP52 Glory led the way, ghosting towards the finish line, with a handful of boats following suit. The Farr 39 Absolutely held pace with the bigger boats and made significant gains, bringing home not only the race win but also the class win for the whole series.

Overall, there were smiles all around and the boats motored home in the sunshine to an awaiting bar with cold drinks and awards. After the dust had settled and the times were counted out, it was Peter Shorett’s Farr 395 that came home with the overall points win for PHRF with Brad Butler’s Dos in second and the venerable Sachem, sailed by Bill Buchan, rounding out the podium in the overall standings.

Rolling right along into what many consider the first race of spring, the Carol Pearl Blakely Rock Benefit Regatta has built up steam over the past years and is actively the best attended event in the area with over 100 boats signing up year after year. Hosted and organized by the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club, the race is now in its 23rd year and shows no sign of slowing down. This year’s fleet ranged from an international Folk Boat with a hearty rating of 285 all the way to the carbon fiber RP55 Crossfire leading the pack at -102. The huge fleet was broken up into no less than 17 separate divisions to keep the scoring tight.

The race morning kicked off with the traditional breakfast hosted at Corinthian Yacht Club’s Shilshole Clubhouse, which had a fantastic view of what was ahead for the racing fleet— winds gusting into the high 20s with times of piercing rain interspersed with brief moments of bright sunshine. More wind was rolling down the Sound and was not due to let up any time soon. Reefed mainsails and blade jibs were the norm as the heavy wind pushed through the fleets during the starting sequence.

Off the line, the wind and waves made forward progress painful, evident by the radio calls every few minutes notifying the race committee of a boat’s retirement. Of the 104 registered boats, only 39 finished the whole course. While the upwind beat was painful, those that took their licks were in for an absolute sleigh ride downwind back to the Meadow Point Buoy.

Coming out on top was Ben and Jen Braden’s heavy-weather loving Moore 24, Moore Uff Da, coming into an impressive three-minute lead over the next boat under the PHRF handicap. While the wind blew many sailors off the course, there was no shortage of people attending the party at the Sloop Tavern, complete with raffle and awards. The party kept going well into the evening, a solid kickoff for the spring sailing season and a race that many will remember for many years to come.

Not only was it legendary, but the benefit race raised $15,000 for youth multihull sailing in the Pacific Northwest. Now with weeknight sailing in full swing and several major events on the horizon, things are just beginning to heat up for what is surely going to be a fantastic summer of sailing in the Northwest.

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