Grand Island Delivers
To follow up the incredible Funter Bay races, the skippers met at 7:30 am on Saturday to decide on a course that would provide the most exciting race for the final installment of the Skipper's Choice in 2013. After looking at the National Weather Service's wind forecast, the choice was between Grand Island and Jaw Point. The risky choice of the circumnavigation of Grand Island (the last 2-3 Grand Island races have ended with DNF's all around) was made.
Five participating boats motored out to Marmion Island for a 10:15 start. As soon as the gun sounded, Haiku hit the west and favored side of the line clear ahead, never to relinquish the lead. Optiminium, Loa'a Nalu, and Tahlia tacked over on to starboard to get to the favored side of the course, leaving Lyric as the only boat using the strategy of heading more towards Admiralty at the start. This turned out to be a mistake, as the wind was considerably stronger on the Taku side, and the 4 boats on that side quickly took advantage to pull away from Lyric.
As the boats cleared Pt. Arden, the wind started picking up considerably out of Stephen's passage, with true wind speeds up to about 16 or so, the boats were traveling at hull speed up wind, and in some cases a little overpowered.
Noticing that the wave action and being heeled around 25 degrees was not advantageous, Haiku was the only boat to reduce their headsail, and this turned into an advantage, and Haiku was able to gain some distance on Optiminium and Tahlia.
L'oaa Nalu thinking that there may be less seas, was the only boat to attempt to go around Grand Island counter-clockwise. This may have been a mistake as there was quite a large wind shadow on the north side of Grand. And Nalu had to negotiate that shadow going upwind, so remaining in the shadow for longer than the the other three boats who later crossed it running downwind.
Having built a considerable lead, Haiku was the first of the other boats to reach the wind shadow and convergence between Grand Island and Pt. Arden. As the crew was struggling to choose which sail to use (the wind was clocking between directly behind and close-hauled), Optiminium and Tahlia after recovering from their own issues, reduced the distance to Haiku to the point where there was a question as to who might win the race.
However, Haiku was able to get up the big spinnaker and run dead down and a little to the lee until she could round Arden and head for the finish. Unfortunately for Tahlia and Optiminium that hole opened up even more and they were forced to struggle to as Haiku was finishing the race.
Loa’a Nalu having decided to round Grand in the other direction, took advantage of her spinnaker and solid breeze on the north side of the course and avoided the hole that had swallowed Tahlia and Optiminium.
Optiminium did manage to break out of the hole, and cross second, followed immediately by Loa'a Nalu. Tahlia took a bit longer to get out of the shadow of Grand, but did manage to make the finish interesting by finishing about 20 minutes behind Optiminium.
In the meantime, Lyric decided that the initial decision to go west initially created an insurmountable distance, dropped from the race, and had an enjoyable sail to Jaw Point.