Fun in the sun! What everyone imagines when they think of the Seattle Yacht Club’s annual Grand Prix Invitational right? Following the most beautiful 70-degree fall weekend and on the heels of the well attended (if lightly sailed) Puget Sound Sailing Championships, the Seattle Yacht Club Grand Prix invites boats from around the PNW that have won or podium finished in every type of race imaginable. From distance races like Swiftsure and the Tri Island Series to the mid distance PNW races like the South Sound Series and Center Sound Series, to weekend rally races like Round the County, to shorthanded races like Northern Century and Race to the Straits and with a few buoy weekends and round the cans thrown in for good measure. Grand Prix brings in racers off the podium of more races than you can count from a vast area of racing with over 500 different yachts competing over the year.
The IRC system is beginning to take a foothold in the PNW with a good showing from the big boat fleet and will hopefully, soon, trickle on down into the large group of performance cruisers that ply the waters of the Salish Sea both on the race course and through our amazing cruising waters. But for now it’s just the big boats enjoying the IRC rating system and sporting some amazing diversity across the six boat fleet. There is the all carbon J/145 performance cruiser Jedi, the radical TP52 Glory, the two “Fast is Fun” Santa Cruz 70’s Westerly & Neptune’s Car, the custom and just as radical Riptide 44 Dark Star and the quick purpose built One Design 48 Flash. Who will take this class after battling it out over the 3 days of racing? Tough call; Westerly’s been upgraded and training over the past year, Glory is back and running hard, Flash has that amazing crew work, Jedi has that huge spinnaker, Neptunes Car is always a contender and Dark Star, well you know Jonathan Mckee right? Tough call and all will depend on the conditions and the course lengths and some seriously good tactical calls to take this pickle dish home.
The Seattle Yacht Club always encourages the one design fleets to sign up for Grand Prix, but this difficult move has been traditionally hampered by the invitational nature of the event. But try they do and with the showings over the year by the J/105 fleet they may have a chance come race day, but if not it will be some great PHRF racing with the J/109’s, J/105’s, J/80’s, Farr 30’s and the Melges 24 joining in with the other well sailed PHRF boats to create some solid racing divisions. Now picking which boats will go in which class is difficult at this early date and, as expected, how do you pick who is going to stand out in a group invited to race because they stood out! The J/105’s and Farr 30’s are always competitive around the buoy’s but what if conditions warrant a mid distance course? Carl Buchan and his Custom 40 Madrona? The water ballasted Riptide 35 Terremoto!? The quick Davidson 40 Teddy Bear? The performance Farr’s and Cookson or the little Sierra 26. Only the conditions and courses are going to dictate how well these top notch programs place.
Seattle Yacht Club also invites boats that have competed and won in cruising class races and so far five boats have signed up for what’s traditionally been called a “White Sails” class. A Norlin 34, a Freya 39, a Beneteau 411, a J/133 and a custom Lidgard 39 with PHRF ratings from 180 to 24! Again a tough guess on who will do well. Do you go with the fast boat in the fleet, the J/133 performance cruiser Constellation? Or the always out racing traditional Freya 39 Freeflyte? Hard to imagine which way it will go and I’m guessing a combination of water line, conditions and rating will take home the win – but no matter who stands high in this class it’s encouraging to see five boats sign up for the “White Sails” class and to see it continue to grow in popularity.
Keep track of the racing and registrants at seattleyachtclub.org.