Home SailingSailboat Racing Bruce’s Weather Brief: Race to the Straits UPDATE TOMORROW

Bruce’s Weather Brief: Race to the Straits UPDATE TOMORROW

by Bruce Hedrick

Once again it appears that the gods are smiling on the Sloop as not only is there a record turnout, it appears that the wind may co-operate as well. Regardless, the RTTS is always a hoot because as they say, “What happens in PT stays in PT!”

Anytime you race through Admiralty Inlet it’s a challenge because of the micro-weather systems that can be spawned in the lee of the Olympics including the infamous convergent zone. Not that we’re likely to see the CZ this weekend it is still probably valuable to divide the Race into three segments: 1. Start to Double Bluff, 2. DB to Marrowstone Light, 3. Marrowstone Light to the finish at PT. The reason is that each of these segments has unique geographic features that in combination with their proximity to major bodies of water (Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca can have profound effects on the wind, especially in times of frontal passage. This becomes even more challenging as we go through the transition from winter to spring or fall to winter. Then there’s the tidal current in Admiralty Inlet…



Just about perfect for Saturday, not so much on Sunday but that’s always the case. Calculations are for Admiralty Inlet off of Bush Pt.


Saturday Tides:

High Slack 0720 hrs

Max Ebb 1145 2.9 knots

Low Slack 1530 hrs

Max Flood 1837 2.2 knots


Sunday Tides:

High Slack 0752 hrs

Max Ebb 1230 2.5 knots

Low Slack 1615 hrs

Max Flood 1922 2.0 knots



We had gorgeous weather this week now it’s time to pay the piper. We are now under the influence of a very weak 997mb low off the coats that is weakening as it moves onshore. The good news is that it is moving slowly which will keep the wind out of the south all weekend. It’s a little early to call this however with a weak frontal passage over Saturday night and Sunday morning, the wind south of Pt No Pt and Kingston will tend to have a southwest shift to it. Combine that with the fact that the flood starts first on the west side of the Sound and should tell you which side to work on Sunday as you beat your way to the finish.



With so many boats spread out over such a long starting period this will be a very general discussion. The best part is that with the reverse start there will be all kinds of wind velocity indicators all over the course. Sure it’s a short handed race however you really have to keep your head out of the boat and watch what’s going on around you especially on the leg from DB to Marrowstone Light.

From the start at Shilshole it will be a rhumbline run to Double Bluff, with there tending to be more wind and tide to the west particularly as you get north of Jeff Head. The Double Bluff Buoy can be a challenge particularly as you get closer to it and if there has been any clearing or thinning of the cloud cover the wind will lift off of this cliff-faced bluff as the land on top of the Bluff heats up. With the big ebb of the day, the velocity of the ebb will increase as you get closer to the buoy and in combination with the wind velocity dropping if you haven’t put enough in the bank sometimes getting around the buoy can be a challenge. Remember also that this is not one of those “soft” race course marks. Once you clear Double Bluff use as much of the ebb as you can and sail straight to Marrowstone Light. If you’re not going to make Marrowstone Light in the ebb, you need to at least get over to that side of the course. Even though the flood starts first on that side, there is also a back eddy that runs counter to the flood from the about the mid-point of the island all the way up to the lighthouse. You have to be right on the beach, waving at the clams and crabs to take advantage of this and like so many places in the Sound there are some very large glacial erratics that live below the water that would just love to have a bite of fresh lead, so keep the charts handy and know precisely where you are to avoid one of those nasty bumps.

If it’s light at Marrowstone and the flood has started you need to work around the Point in the shallows and once you see your SOG improve, go across the Bay to the finish.


Sunday will be a different story as it will almost certainly be a beat from the start back to Double Bluff. If you are starting early, get across to Marrowstone and then hold the long starboard tack to get across the ebb and over to Whidbey beaches. There are back eddies behind Lagoon and Bush Point as well as behind Double Bluff so you’re going to be watching the depth sounder, and SOG as you short tack down the shore.

After you round Double Bluff it will be time to take the long hitch back across the Sound to get over to the Pt No Pt shore in anticipation of the flood starting and the wind clocking from the south to the south-southwest. Again, you’re going to work the beach almost all the way to Jeff Head before you tack to starboard for that final long tack across the Sound to the finish at Shilshole.

As with all Puget Sound races you’ll want log the pressure gradient before you start so can guess what the wind might want to do. Then check the Ferry weather over the course to see what you might be sailing into.

I’ll get an update for the Sunday Race posted on Saturday afternoon or early evening with more current weather.

Good luck and have a great race.


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