Broken Absolutely, Photo: Jan Anderson

Looking Back While
Moving Forward

Doug Hansen Sailboat Racing

There is no escaping the reality that the world shutting down put a serious hamper on global sailing. International regattas worldwide have been postponed or canceled, boats in foreign countries were held in quarantine and unable to return to their home ports, and pretty much all gatherings and global recreation came to a screeching halt. This uniquely affected sailing as it is quintessentially a sport of travel and adventure.

Looking to the earliest days when humans began venturing to the ocean, crossing great distances and interacting with new people is at the core of boating.

Broken Absolutely, photo by Jan Anderson

Above: The Macaulay family’s first Absolutely on its final day of racing, no stranger to the hardship of gear failure, it was less than a month before they were winning races with a new boat. (Photo: Jan Anderson).

While we still have a long way to go and “normal” may be a constantly evolving concept, things around the world are at least beginning to settle into a more predictable rhythm. Even those at the upper reaches of the sport in the TP52 Super Series are finally headed back to Europe after several tense weeks of lockdown after the boats were loaded onto a ship in Cape Town. Meanwhile boatyards and sail makers are slowly beginning to spin up production around the world, while maintaining

their distancing protocols. The flow of the racing world seems to be establishing itself into a new rhythm.

With the world seemingly on pause for a few months, it has been a great chance to look back at years gone by and remember why this sport speaks so loudly to so many people. Local photographic superman
Sean Trew has been putting out some rather choice photos of a few legendary mishaps from years past. Fun to see some familiar faces that have a few less miles on them than they do today.

Notable shots include several extraordinary wipeouts of Moore24s, a few upside-down catamarans, and a decent collection of shredded spinnakers to round out the gallery. Also, one of the biggest supporters of local racing, Jan Anderson, has her
galleries of races dating back to 2011. It is as comprehensive a time capsule as can be found for sailing in the Pacific Northwest over the past decade, and a definite way to spark both some serious nostalgia and excitement for the future.

Without a doubt, what we are seeing worldwide is people spending serious time and energy getting their boats sorted out. My Instagram feed has been awash with perfectly rigged dinghies and spotlessly prepared keel boats all getting some well-deserved attention and upgrades.

Racing photos, by Sean Trew and Jan Anderson

Left to Right: Tense moments looking back when Hood River Yacht Club hosted the Moore24 Nationals in 2018. (photo: Sean Trew); Sail maker Doug Christie calls the shots from the stern of the Swan 45 Free Byrd, it has been five years since he passed away and I rarely get through a season without remembering one of his jokes. (Photo: Jan Anderson).

Personally, much of my world has been taken over by the lofty project of building and installing a new mast in the TP52 Smoke. Having broken the previous one during Seattle Yacht Clubs Grand Prix regatta last fall, we have sourced a replacement tube and set about building new hardware and rigging to fit the boat. With every part on the project being a custom-built piece of unobtanium, it is a bit more involved than ordering parts from a catalog and putting it together in a weekend.

Keeping everything organized and regular communication with the groups designing and building the parts has been critical. We have been working closely with engineering and manufacturing groups in Spain, New Zealand, and Rhode Island as well as sail makers, electronics manufacturers, and rigging experts to get every piece of this puzzle sorted out.

This connection with the “outside world” has really been instrumental in my own understanding of the real effects of this pandemic.

The teamwork and flexibility exhibited by everyone in this group has been critical to keeping things moving forward. The mast project takes up a lot of time and energy, but we are a multi-boat family and my wife Shelagh has been getting stuck into some projects on the black and yellow Farr39 Absolutely.

A family affair of a racing team, we have been taking turns with her father and sister scraping and filling the cockpit floor to prepare it for some new nonskid foam from local company Raptor Deck. This along with a few other upgrades to the wind instruments and rigging has the boat feeling sharp and ready to come out swinging on the back side of this race-free period.

Dragonfly, photos by Jan Anderson and Sean Trew

Above: A testament to the drive and perseverance that it takes to sail one of the fastest boats in the region, the Formula40 Dragonfly came back to the racecourse (Photo: Jan Anderson) from after a rough capsize and dismasting at Round The County race in 2015. (Photo: Sean Trew)

Looking to the future, local clubs are getting creative and working to ensure racing can get back on track as soon as it’s safe and practical to do so. There are also a number of underground events taking shape to get some sailing in while maintaining our social distance. This trend of “family racing” is a totally home-grown creation with the simple rule that all crew members must live in the same house. It is making for some fantastic memories.

Formal organizations have come out with statements reporting that youth camps and junior racing should be starting up in early July and there is a lot of scuttlebutt about weeknight racing beginning around that time as well. I am lucky enough to have unprecedented access to my wife Shelagh, who also happens to be the Vice Commodore of Corinthian Yacht Club. When asked about the current outlook of Northwest sailing she had this to say:

“Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle is working diligently to get people back racing as quickly as practical. Racers should expect to see an increase use of permanent marks and an emphasis on ‘just go sailing.’ The local clubs are working together to rewrite the SARC (Seattle Area Racing Calendar) to alleviate overlapping events in order to provide maximum enjoyment and involvement for the community. The good news is that the things that make sailing great—the wind and the water (and the boats!)—are just waiting for us to come back.”

In the meantime, it’s up to us to keep cracking on projects and working on our boats, so we have everything ready to go as soon as we get the greenlight. While a far cry from the real thing, many of us have been keeping busy and connected with sailing friends via some E-sailing in the Virtual Regatta game, and I am currently getting beat up on by our spinnaker trimmer on the race to St Barth’s, not good when you’re the navigator. Hopefully next week’s race from South Africa to Goa leaves me in a bit better shape and I can keep my spot on the boat.

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Doug Hansen

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Doug Hansen is a Seattle native and grew up cruising and racing in the Northwest. After spending several years taking care of boats and competing in regattas throughout North America and Europe, he has returned to Seattle to complete a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is an active participant in the Seattle racing community and enjoys sailing on all types of boats.

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