Home SailingSailboat Racing Taking Bruce to Task. Bruce’ll be back at it for Swiftsure

Taking Bruce to Task. Bruce’ll be back at it for Swiftsure

by Kurt Hoehne

Bruce Hedrick’s pre-race weather forecasts and tactics primers have struck a chord with Puget Sound sailors. He invites anyone to query him about what exactly he means and maybe lend a different light on the weather outlook. By example, here is an email exchange with skipper David Odendahl and Hedrick after the Race to the Straits. logo-dateNote that Bruce will be prognosticating just before Swiftsure, so be sure to check our racing page on Friday. As the “screaming web master” (see below) I can promise I will scream until that feature is on our little corner of the Internet. -KH

From David Odendahl

Bruce: I’d like to thank you again for your generosity in providing your forecast, which I found quite helpful. I hope the constructive criticism/comments are taken in the friendly spirit that they were intended. Please excuse the poorly formed writing. I am multitasking at present.

About me: I’m a 51-year old Boeing Engineer. I’ve been sailing since I was three, and consider myself a cruiser/casual racer. I used to be a hang glider pilot, so I have a reasonable knowledge of wind, weather, and how it reacts to geography. I race out of Edmonds, and particularly enjoy long-distance racing. I moved to the PNW in 2005, traded in my Catalina 22 for a Catalina 30, and bought my CS 36 Merlin four years ago, because I was looking for a more comfortable, better sailing boat, that was more suitable for these longer races. This was my first RTTS, and my first double-handed race with my wife, Lori, who has been sailing with me for 27 years, but mostly in a passive role. It was her second race. After safety, my primary goal was making this a good experience for Lori.

I was delighted to see the Saturday forecast!

However, when I read “The Double Bluff Buoy can be a challenge particularly as you get closer to it and if there has been any clearing or thinning of the cloud cover the wind will lift off of this cliff-faced bluff as the land on top of the Bluff heats up. With the big ebb of the day, the velocity of the ebb will increase as you get closer to the buoy and in combination with the wind velocity dropping if you haven’t put enough in the bank sometimes getting around the buoy can be a challenge. Remember also that this is not one of those “soft” race course marks.”

I didn’t completely understand what you meant. I know you meant to be careful about the ebb around the buoy, but I didn’t understand that you meant there would be a strong easterly shift there. Once I got close to the buoy, it clicked with me what was going on… So I did my best to get as far East to get past the buoy. It was a bit uncomfortable, but I cleared the buoy with about 10 feet to spare.

I humbly suggest that you might want to “dumb down” your forecast a bit, which would be less interesting, but potentially more useful for us newbies.

About your Sunday forecast: My painful experience in the past has been that the NOAA forecasts are quite old in the morning, and that whatever would be on the radio would be about 6 hours old. I’ve also learned that the weather forecasters here seem to know quite well WHAT is going to happen, and not WHEN it will happen. So I looked carefully at the forecast you posted Saturday night, and considered your well-written safety counsel, and mentally started considering the advisability of racing home.

I observed conditions at PT in the morning for a while… Winds seemed to be in the high teens already, with occasional lulls. I rigged the mainsail for a double reef (My smallest sail is a roller-furled 130) I told my wife that we were likely to motor home, because of the conditions. I really didn’t want to pound for 10 hours in 25+ knots against a strong ebb.

When the outside boat on the raft couldn’t start his engine, the decision was made. I told him not to worry, and that I had decided not to race, so he could take his time.

So we filled up with diesel and headed for home via the Port Townsend Ship Canal. We got in around 2:30, after an uncomfortable ride. So, this has gone on too long.

To summarize, I would say: 1) Thank you for the generous gift of a custom weather forecast. (I hope you could do more) 2) I wish they would have announced the link to your forecast in the skipper’s meeting / STYC web page. 3) Your advice was sound, and helped me make the correct decisions on Saturday and Sunday

Gratefully, David Odendahl

Bruce’s Response:

Hi David, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I’ve been working in Taiwan and needed to back burner some items. Anyway, I very much appreciate your input and you are totally correct. The reality is that I could have and should have done a better job of explaining the problem at Double Bluff. I get pretty excited as I put these together and my mind races ahead of my fingers and it sometimes doesn’t come out clear plus I’ve got the webmaster screaming at me to get this done so he can get it posted. No excuse, I will take your advice to heart. I am envious of your CS-36 as that is one of those vessels that is not only great looking, it also has a nice turn of speed and will take care you as the breeze comes up. Very nice. As I said, I appreciate the input and don’t hesitate if you want to send me more suggestions, I do appreciate it.


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