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Summer Magic

by Doug Hansen
Racing Sheet Image - Moonlight Race

There is something whimsical about sailboat racing, be it the connection to nature, the isolation from the outside world, or the rapport with the sea; there is a reason that so many hotel lobbies are filled with pictures of sailboats.  The Corinthian Yacht Club Moonlight Race is one of these magical races that has something special, and it also holds an exceptional spot for me, being it was my first sailboat race 20-something years ago. Although its origins date back to the 1950s, in recent decades, the race was pulled from the calendar due to the logistical challenges of running an evening race on the lake, but there has always been a hankering to bring her back. Two years ago, a grassroots group of lake sailors wanting to get out on the water with other boats for an evening sail did just that.

Now an official part of the summer racing calendar, the Moonlight Race is still gaining traction, but I’ve been hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t have a fantastic time taking part. The racecourse is simple and takes the fleet on a tour of Lake Washington, a severely underutilized racing area. The start line is just off of Leschi Marina. From there, the fleet sails north under the east span of the 520-floating bridge, continuing to a buoy near the Magnuson Park boat launch, and then back to Leschi via the same east-span passage.

This time around, the fleet featured a mix of the Lake Washington-based one-design classes—four San Juan 24s, a Thunderbird, a Thistle, a J/24, and a J/70, plus a guest appearance from a Melges24 that joined us from Seattle Yacht Club. To keep things simple, it was scored as a single-class race, leaving the egos at the dock and letting everyone just go out on the water for a beautiful evening of sailing.

My wife Shelagh, her father Charlie, and I took to the water on a borrowed J/70 and we could not have asked for a more pleasant race—it was all shorts and bare feet with the occasional refreshing splash of water over the deck. A beautiful northwesterly wind took us around the course, and other than a few shifty tacks under the bridge, it was smooth sailing. The picture in my mind of the kite run to the finish as the sun set behind the city will undoubtedly stick with me for a long time. To anyone who enjoys sailboat racing in beautiful conditions, put the Moonlight Race on your calendar for next year!

While on the topic of whimsical Salish Sea summer races, we cannot fail to mention the venerable Pacific International Ton Championship, or as we call it today, PITCH. Hosted by our friends to the north at the Bellingham Yacht Club, the regatta has been a mainstay on the Northwest racing calendar for nearly half a century and continues to deliver the great racing and good times that it is known for. This year’s event brought boats out of the woodwork, fielding three separate handicap fleets racing PHRF and an ever-growing, J/70 one-design fleet comprising a mix of boats from Orcas Island and the Seattle fleets. 

The weekend kicked off with a beautiful day of racing in the picture-perfect Bellingham Bay breeze, and all fleets got four races on the board. Sunday was a different kind of fun, with the heavy breeze making for challenging conditions and pushing sailors well beyond their comfort zones but rewarding those that could keep their heads screwed on straight.

At the end of the regatta, Andrew Loe took the top step of the podium in the J/70 fleet with an impressive 13 points out of nine races for the series in a hugely competitive fleet, notably taking the win in the final four races of the weekend in heavy air conditions. In PHRF 1, Dave Stephan and his crew onboard the dialed-in Beneteau 36.7 Vitesse put on a fantastic demonstration of consistency and an absolute masterclass of how to sail in Bellingham Bay, bringing home seven wins out of seven races. PHRF 2 was a tight-fought battle with Orcas Island legend Betsy Wareham taking the win over the crew aboard the equally legendary Santa Cruz 27 vessel, Wild Rumpus. PHRF 3 saw another dominating performance by Gabe Hill on his San Juan 24 Juan Solo. He racked up a row of first places that set him a step above the rest of the scrappy fleet of San Juans and an ubercool international Folkboat.

The slogan for PITCH is “come for the wind, stay for the party,” and this year’s event embodied the absolute essence of what it is all about—fantastic wind and fantastic competition in a fantastic venue hosted by one of the most welcoming yacht clubs in the region. It’s no wonder that this regatta has that special something that is often imitated but rarely duplicated.

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