Certainly one of the most fun races of the year and for a great cause. Plus, as of 1300 today, there were 92 vessels registered so as always, the Sloop is doing something right.
This should be a pretty straight forward race and as long as the front we’re experiencing today doesn’t blow through too fast, we should have a nice breeze for tomorrow say 8-15 knots from south until late in the afternoon. The NFS Classes will start first at around 1100 hours with the fastest boats starting last around noon. Very civilized. As you can see from the Surface Forecast Charts for tomorrow this will be a very different post frontal situation from last week. After frontal passage last week there was a very strong, almost straight onshore flow of wind with a nice pressure gradient that kept the breeze at 15+ knots from the southwest for almost the entire sail down to and back from Three Tree Point. This week the gradient is parallel to the coast and eases the more inland you go keeping the breeze parallel to the coast and from the south. Nothing to really drive the wind through the Chehalis Gap and into the Sound to create a strong ssw like last week. This will keep the breeze out of the south in the center Sound with the usual local effects coming into play on either side of the Sound. This will change as the day goes on and we may see the breeze clock around to the ssw or even as far as the wsw.
The tide at West Point should be slack at around 1130 however since we’ve had 20+ knots of southerly and a fair amount of rain today and with the southerly is expected to hold through tomorrow expect the ebb to continue until 1200 to 1215. That means working the breakwater coming off the starting line however if you need to tack to port to get clear air, don’t hesitate. There will still be gains to be had by working up the beach until you get to West Point. Then its find and try keep clear air for long port tack across the Sound. The breeze should shift from the south to the south-southwest the closer you get to Bainbridge. You’ll also want to be watching your cog and sog as you go across since the flood will have started first on the west side of the Sound. There probably won’t be a dramatic shift to wsw as you get close to Bainbridge so if find yourself getting out of the flood, tack back to starboard to stay in the strongest part of the flood.
With the localized ssw breeze along the Bainbridge shore you’ll want to anticipate a port pole set and carry that until you start to get lifted, run out of room or can gybe and make West Point. Again, don’t underestimate how far away bad air can affect you on this long run back to Meadow Point.
The next challenge will be the rounding at Meadow Point which can be very crowded and with a lot of boats all fighting to keep their chutes up and a flooding tide can get very interesting. Negotiate the rounding early with the boats around you and remember that a lot of these boats are not that familiar with the racing rules. This is another place where your sail handling has to be perfect so you can round the mark, go on the wind and start trying to figure out how far you can go until you run out of water. Your tack off the beach at Meadow Point can be early if that is the easiest way to get into clear air for the final beat to the finish. You will also want to watch for anti-water as you sail towards the finish as the out-fall from Ship Canal can run that far north which will make the pancake buoy the favored end of the finish line.
Good luck, have a great race and we’ll see you out there.