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Weeknight Sailing Kicks Off

by Doug Hansen

Blakely Rocks Benefit // Photo by Jan Anderson

The final competition of the Corinthian Yacht Club Center Sound Series (CSS), Three Tree Point Race, traditionally marks the end of the late winter races and ushers in summer sailing. The race course usually takes the fleet south of Alki Point and around a permanent mark set just to the south of Three Tree Point. With shifty wind conditions dominating the forecast and an expectation for wind to go away completely, the race committee took the positive feedback from the Scatchet Head Race’s shortened course and opted to send the fleet south, but not quite as far as planned. The “medium distance” course acted somewhat like a large buoy race, with plenty of corners and opportunities for passing while still giving boats time to play with the winds and currents.

Off the start line was an aggressive game of playing the shifts while working close in towards the beach along West Point to stay out of the current. Once the fleet passed beyond the point, the race got interesting. Wind shifts of over 90 degrees brought boats just a few yards away from one another, sailing in completely opposite tacks yet headed the same direction. Big dividends went to those who kept their wits about them and reacted to what was happening in the moment. Ken Chin with his Olson 911 Kowloon was the first to navigate the rocks, finishing a perfect series for the team by rounding the weather mark first in all CSS races.

After rounding the rocks, the wind began to build into the high teens as boats reached from Blakely Rock to Duwamish Head. A few crews decided to push things and flew spinnakers in hopes of outpacing the competition before the downwind run. The puffs settled into a nice southerly just above ten knots. With the sun shining, it was almost enough to make racers forget about the frustration of the first leg. The course made for some long days onboard the smaller boats in the fleet, with the scratch boat Crossfire finishing in three hours and thirty-five minutes while Chris McMuldroch’s Tartan 3800 Wind Dancer crossed the line after nearly eight hours.

All in all, it was a challenging race course to round out the CSS and a welcome change from the same courses year after year, although some navigators were disappointed that they weren’t given the chance to test themselves against the traditional course. Keeping the fleet close to the marina in the event of the eventual wind shut-off was a well-executed alternative to sending the fleet on a wild goose chase at the north end of Vashon Island.

Blakely Rocks Benefit // Photo by Jan Anderson

Left to Right: Crews earned their foulies on the windward run to Blakely Rock during BRBR; Airloom, a Baba 40, rounds Blakely Rock and tries their kite during the gusty BRBR; Rounding the rock was the primary challenge for BRBR, especially as high tide obscured the small island’s actual size.

Following the Three Tree Point race, the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club played host to the nearly legendary Blakely Rock Benefit Race (BRBR). Part race and all party, the event has grown into itself since the first run in 1981, and now stands as one of the most well-attended races on the spring calendar. This year’s forecast called for strong winds from the south and while the intensity was high, it did not discourage over 60 boats to brave the conditions. Gusty conditions gave many crews the chance to test high wind sails and build confidence in themselves and their equipment in the first big wind regatta of the year.

The event continued off the water back at The Sloop Tavern with what has become one of the most impressively stocked sailing raffles in the country. Haulouts from several boatyards, chandlery gift cards, and memorabilia were up for grabs with all proceeds going towards The Sailing Foundation. Established in the late ‘70s, the foundation has been at the forefront of safety and fleet development in the Northwest sailing community, and currently sets the bar for supporting local youth sailing and keel boat racing safety training.

With the CSS and BRBR wrapped up, it’s now time to look towards the weekly series beginning to take shape both on Lake Washington as well as Shilshole Bay. Dominated by several growing, one-design keel boat fleets including the J/80, J/105s, and J/24s, as well as the Thistle, Laser, and RS Aero fleets, there are plenty of options for competitive racing nearly every night of the week. As for the big boats, eyes now turn to the Seattle Yacht Club Tri-Island Series, kicking off with Smith Island on April 28, and, of course, the venerable Swiftsure starting May 26 out of Victoria, British Columbia. Be sure to check back here for updates on those races as well as other events from around the Pacific Northwest sailing scene.

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