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Season Finales

by Doug Hansen

The leaves have fallen and the mountains are turning white, and while most people put away the family boats, those of us who are fool hardy enough to call ourselves sailboat racers gear up for the year’s final series of regattas. Spread out over several weekends in October, it certainly seems like the local yacht clubs pulled out all the stops to host the season finales.

Fully crewed keelboats converged first at Corinthian Yacht Club on October 9th-10th to take part in the big boat weekend of the Puget Sound Sailing Championship. Following the small boat division from the previous weekend, this weekend of PSSC is the culminating regatta series of the CYC racing season. The event was staged to be the first weekend event since the renovation of the floating CYC clubhouse earlier this year, so it was certainly a focal point on the club’s calendar.

Saturday kicked off with a shifty and breezy south easterly that began to build off the start line. The first fleets underway were sent out on longer courses, with the ORC fleet headed to Elliott Bay and the forty-footers in PHRF 0 headed towards Blakely Rocks. The remaining fleets stayed plenty busy within Shilshole Bay, and with the building breeze toughing into the 20s, things got sporty and became a true test of the crews’ preparations and teamwork.

Sunday morning brought a light easterly wind came over the racing area. Normally a death sentence for racing, the building easterly seemed to somewhat stabilize. Race Officer Charlie Rathcroft made the call to get underway that knocked off a very exciting and challenging race in an alien environment for anyone who has spent time in Shilshole Bay. The wind did not hold all day, but later on, a gently northerly began to fill in instead and the fleets were able to bang off one more race. The wind just barely held on long enough to let the last boats slowly glide across the finish line with crews hiking to leeward and praying for the smallest zephyr to get them across the finish line.

Following close on the heels of PSSC, the Seattle Yacht Club Grand Prix is certainly held high in the racing community as one of the pinnacle events in the fall racing calendar. The three-day regatta runs boats throughout the central Sound on a mixed racecourse utilizing temporary and fixed permanent marks. Being the only short course racing event SYC hosts, it holds a level of clout that attracts a very high level of competition.

Friday’s racing kicked off with steady southerly winds with a hint of east making for shifting puffs and lulls to contend with. All fleets got off three races and the mix of short and long sailing legs plus multiple laps made for challenging conditions and extremely close racing across the board.

Saturday brought a bit more breeze and touches of rain as various squalls moved through the area. The race committee opted to send the fleet on longer courses with some mixed reaching legs and wing marks to mix things up a bit and made a new challenge with minimal passing lanes for significant portions of the races. All in all, it was a tremendous day on the water with good winds and shifting conditions making for challenging tactical calls.

Sunday came along with an ominous weather forecast, calling for winds in the forty-knot range as the day went on, but in the morning a light southerly was blowing across the racing area. Race officer Jarred Hickman made the call to send the fleets on a race, with most of the boats staying inside Shilshole Bay for a quick one lap course, while the big boats in the ORC fleet were sent to longer marks. Everything went according to plan, and with one race in the book, the call was made to send boats in.

With last year’s events cancelled, it was an absolute treat to get out on the water in the windy conditions that fall sailing provides. With just a couple more events on the 2021 calendar, I think our sailing community can look back on this year as an absolute triumph of problem solving and drive to keep our sport alive.

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