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Start to Finish

by Doug Hansen
Racing Sheet

That’s a wrap: DOUG HANSEN recounts the thrilling second and third races of this year’s CYC Center Sound Series.

The Corinthian Yacht Club Center Sound Series is certainly a focal point on any Northwest racing team’s calendar, and this season did not disappoint. As I wrote in last month’s column, the first race of the series went off without a hitch and was a fantastic day on the water. So, the stage was set, and expectations were high for the second and third races. This year’s series also had an exciting new format. Traditional, pre-set courses were replaced by an option allowing the racing committee to select course routes based on the day’s best conditions in hopes this would minimize last-minute cancellations.

For the second race of the series, the newly renamed Center Sound #2 held on March 19, light winds were in the forecast, but a crazy amount of instability in the atmosphere brought in various storm cells as they swirled around the North Pacific. Dark and rainy clouds to the north and clearing sunshine to the south was the indicator of a full-on convergence zone, and it was anyone’s guess which would win. With all of this in mind, the race committee decided to exercise their optional racecourse and send the fleet on a somewhat familiar lap around Blakely Rock, across to Duwamish Head channel mark in Elliott Bay, and then back to Shilshole Bay for the finish.

The light northerly wind began to slowly push south and settle onto the course during the run down to the rocks; several boats were able to break away and make big gains on the fleet by sailing in whatever direction that kept them moving. Sometimes this was away from the mark, but it paid off in the long term as they worked towards the Bainbridge Island shoreline. As the fleet rounded and headed towards the Seattle waterfront, the wind began to fill quickly and from the east of all places. Somewhat suddenly, the fleet found itself sailing in twenty-knots upwind to the turning Duwamish Head mark off Alki Beach and bearing away to a jib reach back to the finish in the unexpected windy conditions.

The third and final race of the Center Sound Series was held on April 2 and the provisional plan this time around was for the fleet to head north. After an analysis of the winds, the traditional course northward to the Scatchet Head mark off the south end of Whidbey Island was in store for the sailors, but with a slight twist. With the potential fading breeze, it was decided to run a scoring gate off Edmonds on the return from the turning mark. Then, if the wind was to shut off, they would be able to score boats as they passed through the temporary set gate mark.

As the fleets got underway, the breeze continued to stabilize and even built a fair bit during the initial spinnaker run. A relatively square course, the fleet found themselves gybing back and forth looking for clear air and the best angle to approach the mark. The wind continued to build as the fleet made the way downwind as the faster boats overtook the slow boats who started earlier. The reverse start certainly made things interesting as the whole fleet seemed to converge at the turning mark within the same few minutes. Keeping clear air here after turning upwind proved something to be something of a challenge, but paid off big to those that managed to do so. 

The upwind beat back to the scoring gate and eventual finish was less straight forward than anticipated, as the breeze began to subside and shift around in the early afternoon. The heavy currents certainly made a difference as boats worked their way northward in the light air and attempted to get into favorable water along the shoreline of Bainbridge Island. Just as it looked like the wind was going to shut off completely, it began to slowly build, and it continued to build into the mid-teens by the time the lead boats were finishing. This made the shortened course gate unnecessary, but still a mark of the course, which caught more than one skipper off-guard as they sailed directly to the finish line.

All in all, it was a fantastic season-opening series with sunshine, wind, minimal rain, and awesome racing! After the dust settled and the final scores for all three races were tallied up it was Andy Mack onboard the J122 Grace that won the overall with a commanding score of eight points, ahead of the second-place boat, Dos, skippered by Brad Butler, both outstanding performances coming out on top of the 63 boats that made up this year’s fleet.

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