It’s a big weekend for racing in the Pacific Northwest with all kinds of great events for every level of sailor. Looking at the Surface Forecast Chart for Saturday evening it looks like the most interesting race to be on will be the Adak to Port Race leaving out of Dutch Harbor on Saturday morning. By Saturday night it will be pretty nasty up there with a 937 mb low continuing to deepen giving the fleet pretty steady winds to 50+ knots with gusts over 70 knots near the headlands of some of the islands.
In the Salish Sea we’ll have much tamer conditions for the Round the County Race, the Gig Harbor Lemans Race and my personal favorite, the Elliott Bay Marina Rum Run on Sunday. Unfortunately for Saturday it looks like we’ll have a dome of high pressure over the entire Northwest so conditions will be very light, zero gusting to five and from all points on the compass. The good news for RTC will be that it should be a light upwind start with the tide. You’ll really want to watch the boats out in front and really watch the boats behind to make sure they’re not camping on your breeze. The rule of thumb in light air for how far away you’ll be affected is about 20 times mast height, so even though they may look a long ways away if your Windex is pointed at them, they may be on your wind.
The key in these conditions is to know where you are on the course and how far off rhumb line you are. Don’t get caught too far from the rhumb line unless it is really obvious that that is the way you need to go to stay in breeze. The other key is having the barber haulers and light air sheets rigged before you start so they can be used immediately without having to have someone moving around the boat to get them rigged during the race, which is just plain slow. Also, watch the tide set near Davidson Rock at the bottom of the course, getting caught too close in when the breeze dies can make for some interesting situations. As you work your way across the bottom of San Juan Island you’ll have the situation after Cattle Pass of wanting to get out of the ebb coming down Haro Strait but at the same time not wanting too close to Island where you may lose the breeze.
Sunday right now looks pretty interesting as there will be plenty of breeze coming down the Straits of Juan de Fuca as well as coming down the Straits of Georgia and where they meet, something will have to give. The current forecast gives a slight nod to the breeze coming down the Strait of Georgia. The problem will be starting against the ebb tide, which luckily won’t be the big ebb of the day. There is a pretty good back eddy below Turn Point that you can ride up the corner however at the corner, the ebb can be formidable so fight your way through and maybe even hold a ways off to get away from the worst of the tide. From there you’ll again want to stick fairly close to the rhumb line course to Alden Pt on Patos Island. The first boat to make it to the stronger breeze about ½ way up Boundary Pass stands to make big gains and potentially slam the door on the fleet. From Patos there it should be a nice run down to Lawrence Point on Orcas where it will once again get interesting as the breeze from Straits of JdF maybe working its way up the Rosario Strait. Big gains can be made here by those who keep their heads out of the boat and anticipate the next shift. You will also make big gains by putting the A-Team trimmers to work because from Lawrence Point past the Peapods to Lydia shoal, it can be plenty shifty.
If there’s any question about leaving Sunday night to deliver the boat back to Seattle, wait until Monday morning as you’ll have the breeze with you by then. Besides, the party at OIYC is not to be missed.
As far as the rest of global weather is concerned, there is one more potential hurricane set to develop well off of Mexico so we’ll just keep an eye on that.
In the meanwhile, enjoy the weekend and above all else be safe out there. The weather can change very quickly so wear your PFD at all times and know where the safety harnesses are kept.