Home SailingSailboat Racing Fall Racing Heats Up

Fall Racing Heats Up

by Doug Hansen


Words: Doug Hansen // Photos: Neil Parker

The start of the true fall racing season is marked by Corinthian Yacht Club of Edmonds’ annual Foulweather Bluff Race. Standing for nearly four decades as the autumn season opener of keel boat racing, the race attracts an impressive array of boats with sailors prepared to suit up for everything Pacific Northwest weather could offer.

The racecourse has stayed the same for as long as I can remember; leave Edmonds, sail up to the Scatchet Head buoy off Whidbey Island’s southern tip, up to the Foulweather Bluff buoy, and then back to Edmonds. Short course options are available depending on the wind, and with this year’s forecast, it was a no-brainer to send the fleet on the abridged version of the race.

Seventy boats showed up for the one-day race and the fleets were stacked with both regular competitors as well as new faces. The ORC fleet was well represented with two TP52s and the RP55 Crossfire, and the other boats with shorter masts grew envious in the shifting light breeze.

Currents ripped as the water funneled around Point No Point and made for some complicated tactical calls as getting on the wrong side of a swirl spelled disaster and a one-way ticket to last place. The breeze off the start was steady but hardly anything to write home about, however, it allowed the fleets to get underway and clear out down the course.

A reverse start was used that allowed the smaller boats to get racing before the big boats sent off, and hopefully, got everyone to get to the bar around the same time. Reaching the shortened course, turning the mark off Scatchet Head was more like a game of musical chairs than a sailboat race with boats taking multiple approach attempts only to end up where they started as they got flushed backwards by the current. Once around, it was a bit less dramatic, and the fleet could reach across the Sound to a turning mark off Pilot Point and then back to Edmonds.

All but a handful of boats finished the course, and it was an absolutely perfect opportunity for skippers and crews to shake off the dust and prepare for the busy fall racing season ahead. Next year makes the 40th running of this historic race, so be sure to put it on the 2020 fall schedule as it will be an event to remember.

Right on the heels of the season opener, the keel boat fleets were thrown into the mix with the first short course buoy racing regatta of autumn. Puget Sound Sailing Championship is hosted annually by Corinthian Yacht of Seattle and boats of all shapes and sizes were invited out on the water for two days of racing in Shilshole Bay. Both one design and time correction fleets were signed up and ready to race on Saturday morning, with a forecast for light winds from the north.

Foulweather-Bluff-Race_Midsize by Neil Parker

Top:The fleet fans out for the Foulweather Bluff Race hosted by Corinthian Yacht Club of Edmonds. Bottom Left: Low, shifty winds made for a shortened Foulweather Bluff Race course this year. Bottom Right: Race crews of the Foulweather Bluff Race used every trick in the book to eek performance out of their boats.

Things got going underway on time and it must’ve been smiles all around for the event organizers to watch two courses full of nine fleets sail into the start box. The one design world is on track to take over Puget Sound with strong fleets of Melges 24, San Juan 24, J/80, J/105, and a new level PHRF 72 fleet lining up. Meanwhile in the handicap world, the TP52s put four boats on the line with more crew than you can shake a carbon fiber stick at. Three more fleets represented everything from the quick and nimble 40-footers in Class 2 to the beautifully maintained Madame Pele and J/29 Slick in Class 7.

On the water, conditions were perfect with light air in the morning and a small building breeze in the forecast as the day continued. The first race began after a slight delay while the course got set up and dialed in. Soon everyone was off to the races. It was close racing in the TP52 fleet as all four boats had spent most of the summer racing against one another and three boat overlaps at the weather mark were common through the day.

As the day went on, the breeze continued to build eventually settling into a steady 10 to 15 knots northerly, beating out the forecast and making for some great racing on both courses. On the south course, the J/80 fleet was in fine form as they competed for their West Coast championship. Incumbent champion Bryan Rhodes defended his title and was able to put his name on the trophy again.

The wind lasted well into that afternoon, allowing the big boats on the north course to get off four races while several fleets on the south course racked up an impressive six races. Unfortunately, the wind gods did not cooperate on Sunday, and the fleet spent the day at the dock watching the Seahawks game next to a glassy flat Puget Sound.

With a solid kickoff to the fall racing season under our belt, things are just getting rolling with more events on the near horizon. Seattle Yacht Club’s Grand Prix is up next and many of the same boats are ready for a rematch during three more days of short course racing. With many big boats looking towards Point Roberts Race Week next summer, all the practice going around the short course is sure to pay off. Stay tuned to this space for future updates on upcoming racing throughout the Northwest.

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