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Blakely Rock Race

by Bruce Hedrick

Blakely Rock Race


The first race of the year for the  2013 Center Sound Series, the Class Break are posted and the latest weather analysis is up. So what does it look like? Pretty much exactly why CYC’s CSS used to be the most popular Series on the Sound: Springtime weather with wind and who cares if it rains as long as there’s wind. The warm front went through late on Thursday through early on Friday morning after which the barometer started to rise until about noon on Friday when it started back down signally the approach of the cold front. Remember the old mantra: Warm fronts always precede cold fronts and cold fronts always move faster than warm fronts.















The chart above shows a very typical spring pattern with two impressive lows coming across the North Pacific and driving relatively weak high pressure systems to the south further delaying any sort of nice weather arriving any time soon.










Tides, Wind and Tactics


The race will start at 1000 hrs which means that with the reverse start, the small boats will start first and just before max ebb which is at 1036 hrs and measuring 1.0 knot at West Point. Considering the amount of rain we’ve had over the last 24 hours and the fact that it has been blowing from the south for the last 48 hours averaging probably 12-14 knots expect the ebb to be running harder than that by .2 to .4 knot and lasting as much as 30-45 minutes past the advertised slack at 1427 hrs. This will dictate that after the start it will be the classic beat feet towards the Shilshole Breakwater in the prevailing south-southeasterly. If you get forced out of the starboard tack parade to the beach, hitch to port just long enough to find a clear lane back into the beach. Avoid the restricted zone delineated by the Sailing Instructions and don’t come back into the beach sailing on starboard directly into the outfall from the Ship Canal. Work your way under West Point and remember that sand bar at West Point now has a shallow bump north of the line from the lighthouse to the West Point Buoy and remember that it is a falling tide so parking in the sand can be very expensive when it comes to time lost. The safe way to cross the shallow spot, depending upon the draft of your vessel, is to be about ½ way to ¾ of the way off the beach to the buoy. Then don’t hitch back into Elliott Bay once you clear the Point because the tide ebbs harder along that shore because of the outfall from the Duwamish with the freshwater staying on top of the saltwater and there being a wind driven surface current.









From West Point hold on port tack and get to the Bainbridge shore. Remember also that with the reverse start you’ll be sailing into the slower boats which means you really have to focus on keeping your air clear. If you find yourself sailing slower than targets or sailing inexplicably lower than your fleet, you may be in dirty air. You’ll be progressively headed as you go across the Sound. Get far enough across to get out of the major part of the ebb before you hitch back to starboard and go towards the Rock.  If you can, take advantage of the ebb out of Eagle Harbor which flows to the SSE almost ½ way to Blakely Rock.









As you round the Rock, you will probably do a port pole bear-away set to keep you off the shallow flats north of the rock. When you can gybe out into Sound to take advantage of the ebb and possibly more breeze away from the shore.

As you sail north watch the smart guys in your fleet and if they gybe back to west, you should probably go with them. Having a handbearing compass ready and watching the guys in front of you will be they key because if you start really closing up on them they may have hit the wind wall. If there’s a big black, dark cloud to the north near Scatchet Head that will indicate that one of our famous convergence zones is forming and will be coming down the Sound.










This is where it will be critical to know where you are relative to the north mark. You don’t want to be caught to far to one side or the other because if the northerly is filling down the Sound in fits and starts, there can fairly wild oscillations in wind direction. Keeping track of your headings and sailing the favored tack to the mark and can pay big dividends. Hopefully we’ll all be done before this madness starts. If you’ve rounded the North mark in the lead you want to make sure to watch the floks behind you as they come on the wind. If all of a sudden they start getting lifted like crazy on starboard tack you need to bite bullet and tack back out into the Sound to stay between them and the finish. In the meanwhile make sure the kite is ready to set again.










Now the fun part! Who should you be watching in the various fleets?

In P7, the small boats, just keep an eye on the Racing Editor for Northwest Yachting Magazine, Ben Braden driving the Moore 24, More Uff Da. Quick boat, likes the breeze and puffy, shifty conditions, will go the right way more often than not.

In P6 it will probably be the two J-29’s, Slick and Beer and How who will benefit from being in the middle of their fleet and won’t let the fast bopats in theior class get too far out in front.

It’s a no bainer in P5 as the little Sierra 26 Dos will probably lead from wire to wire. Keep an eye on ogopogo, the new Left Coast Dart the latest in the Faget quiver to be hanging right in there. Also in that fleet you have Blue Martini and Kirk Utters Scimitar.

P4 is the only one-design fleet and it’s those J-105’s. A really good fleet and very equal in speed.

With the conditions of breeze for the start and dying as the day goes on, in P3 look for the very well sailed Sachem to be the Class winner with Bravo Zulu and Tantivy being in the hunt and Elusive benefitting from a very generous rating.

It’s going to be a tough series for the fleet in P2 with the results not being decided until the last tack and you can bet it will be close. You can almost never lose betting on Madrona, Carl Buchan’s home designed and home built 44-footer especially if he can round the windward mark in some breeze and carry the kite a fair way to the north. Expect Ace, Eye Candy, and Terremoto to be in the hunt and if the fleet gets stalled on the leg from the north mark to the finish watch for those pesky Farr 30’s.

In the big boats Neptune’s Car should be able to eek out a first to finish but look for Dark Star to take class honors with Freebyrd benefitting from their very favorable rating being in the hunt.

See you next week.


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