As the short days and long nights take hold of the Northwest, most boats are neatly tucked away in their slips while owners only visit for the weekly emptying of the dehumidifier. However, there are some people who just can’t shake the need to be out on the water, and for them there is the South Sound Series. This series began this year before the new year with the infamous Winter Vashon race and was followed by Duwamish Head competition on January 7, 2017. Based out of Des Moines, the race takes sailors northward towards Duwamish Head Light in Elliott Bay and then across the Sound and around the Blakely Rocks. Boats then head back south towards the finish off Des Moines.
The starting sequence of the Duwamish Head began while the weather showed just how sneaky it can be this time of year as wind speeds gusted up to 20 knots and more, leaving many crews diving down below to add layers at the last minute before racing began. The reverse start sent the cruising classes off first, giving the faster boats a chance to see what the winds were doing as boats left the bay and headed north. To the surprise of most of the faster fleets, leading boats seemed to hit a wall of light air as they left the starting area, going from heavy air spinnakers straight to drifters as the wind seemingly evaporated around them. The next five hours were spent ghosting from puff to puff, all the while working the current swirls along the shorelines. Big gains were made by crews that could make the transition from drifting to sailing and keep the boat moving along through the holes. The battle continued as boats began to round the Duwamish Head pilings and sail towards Blakely Rocks where fleeting attempts to set spinnakers were quickly abandoned as the wind shut down again. The forecasted southerly began to fill in as the sun set, making for a bit of rare upwind night sailing. At the end of the race, sailors were welcomed with hot food at the dock. As fingers warmed and sails flaked, it was all smiles.
The race marks the beginning of the 2017 sailing calendar and with a strong showing from many fleets, even the below-freezing temperatures couldn’t stop this group of Northwest sailors from having a great day on the water. With such an impressive gathering for one of the coldest races of the year, hopefully it is a sign of a turnaround of declining fleet numbers that many racing events in the Pacific Northwest have experienced over the last few years. The South Sound Series continues with Toliva Shoal Race hosted by Olympia Yacht Club on February 18 and culminates with the Islands Race hosted by Gig Harbor Yacht Club on March 18. Remember to stay warm and I hope to see everyone out on the water this spring!
To see the results, continue on Issuu.