Home SailingSailboat Racing Fall Racing: Pink to PITCH

Fall Racing: Pink to PITCH

by Doug Hansen


Words: Doug Hansen // Photos: Jan Anderson

Traditionally one of the last summer regattas on the Pacific Northwest calendar, Bellingham Yacht Club’s Pacific International Ton Championship (PITCH) is a final excuse for shorts and t-shirt sailing before the cold winds of fall take hold. This year’s regatta drew boats from throughout the Salish Sea to Bellingham Yacht Club on Labor Day weekend for tight racing around the buoys and no shortage of partying as the host club has long put on one of the best social programs around.

On the water, light wind was the name of the game but with enough to race. All fleets got off a full schedule of eight races over the two-day event. In the Martin 242 class, local Mike Merrick took home the win with an impressive six-point lead over second place. In the hotly contested PHRF 1 class, it was the familiar name of Steward Burnell and his team onboard Tantivy who took home the win over a stacked fleet of with crews all pushing hard. It is difficult to say whether it’s the racing or the party that keeps this event going, but the tireless support of regatta organizers and volunteers both are not to be missed. PITCH should be a permanent mark on the calendar for any keel boat team.

Contrasting with the racing-is-what-matters attitude of PITCH, the established Pink Boat Regatta is all about fun and fundraising. It is a focal point in the Seattle sailing fundraising world. Thanks to the tireless work of dozens of volunteers, every year is more outstanding than the last. The regatta continues to grow and attract a nearly fanatical group of supporters all in pink and looking to have a good time while doing some good.

The event hosted three separate events; Bellingham on August 24, Seattle September 7, and Tacoma on September 14. The goal was for as many groups to partake as possible, and over 60 teams took part in this year’s series of events to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The Seattle event was hosted at Elliott Bay Marina and the stage was set for a very cool event with a large range of teams, all decked out in pink, participating. The racecourse was familiar to anyone racing the Thursday night series and took racers back and forth along the north side of the bay. Light wind made for a challenging start, but soon enough a gentle breeze was filling around the headlands and was just enough for most boats to keep moving along under sail.
Scoring for the event is unique, with boats sailing a timed race and counting the number of buoys they get around before the limit has expired.

The truly special feature is the ability of any boat on the course to win through bribery. For every $100 raised, a boat is given an additional point on their score for the day. While the TP52’s handedly won the race on the water in Seattle, it was Margaret Pommert and her team onboard the J/105 Pink Puff that took the overall win with 107 points. In Bellingham, it was Stephanie Campbell along with her Wild Rumpus team that set the bar with 76.3 points, and in Tacoma, Connie Paterson lead Team Alesahnee to victory with 109. As the time limits ticked down, the festivities were just getting started on land as each event had music, drinks, food, and a silent auction to keep the party going.

The end of September saw a shift in focus back to Bellingham Bay on the weekend of September 20 and 21 as Bellingham Yacht Club hosted the 2019 Laser Pacific Coast Championships in conjunction with the Dale Jepson One Design regatta. Over the past few years the event has hosted a few national and international events including the 2018 5o5 Pacific Coast Championships. This year saw a very solid turn out of 63 lasers separated into a radial and full rig fleet accompanied by 16 5o5s and half a dozen FJs making it a true multi-fleet regatta.

PITCH_Contestants: Photos by Jan Anderson

Top:The PHRF 1 class close together, with Vitesse ahead of Dash and Tantivy. Bottom, left to right: The Tacoma Women’s Sailing Association aboard Aleshanee at the the Pink Boat Regatta event in Tacoma; The PHRF1 class spreads out with Vitesse still leading Tantivy and Hraven close by. They finished 1-2-3.

A traditionally windy venue that holds the possibility of the magical trifecta of wind, sun, and flat water, unfortunately that was not what Mother Nature had in store for racers. The extremely wet weather made for some hardship conditions on and off the water, but the show must go on. A group of sailors already in wetsuits are not likely scared off by a bit of moisture.

In the Laser fleets, racing got underway Saturday with the full rigged boats getting four races while the radial fleet sailed three. Matthew Stranaghan and Ian Elliott ended the day in a tie for first in the full rigged class. Maura Dewey got off to a commanding lead after several competitors were taken out of the hunt in race three when black flag starting rules were in effect. Day two gave both fleets four more races. Maura Dewey held onto her lead beating out fellow Canadian Allan Clark by only two points while in the full rigged fleet. Ian Elliot held onto a commanding four-point lead to take home the hardware.

Next month we roll full speed into the fall racing series and get things going with some keel boat racing out of Edmonds for Foul Weather Bluff Race, then carry on to Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle’s Puget Sound Sailing Championships. There is a lot of racing to be had before we hang up the rain gear and pull on the ski boots, so be sure to check back in the next issue.

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