Windy, Wet, and Wild


2013 has been a summer to remember. As the SEAS cup enters the last third of the season, no Juneau sailor can remember a better summer for weather, wind, and sailing.

Making for a classic race, the final Admiralty Cove Rally of 2013 may not have had the sunny weather, but the wind more than made up for a little rain.  But the weekend did not start that way.

The boats motored south in a nearly flat calm Gastineau Channel to the Marmion Island starting line. Ghosting around the pre-start area in a 5 knot southerly, the fleet had no idea what kind of a day it was going to be, and when the horn blew at 10:15, the boats were barely moving toward the starting line.

Haiku and Optiminium attempted to get to the right side of the line to reduce distance on the course. Tahlia having acted as the committee boat, started the race from the extreme west (left) end of the line. Recalling the fate of Lyric from the Grand Island start, Optiminium tacked earlier than Haiku to avoid the mire of currents and fickle winds that frequently haunt Marmion Island.  Haiku, however, saw better breeze on the right hand side of the line remained on port tack until prudence dictated tacking to avoid grounding on Marmion.  Combined with the healthier breeze and lack of current, Haiku was able to quickly round Icy Point, and crack off and get her spinnaker up.

Having chosen to avoid Marmion, Tahlia and Optiminium were unable to get to Icy Point as quickly.  By the time they hoisted their chutes, Haiku had been sailing at more than 8 knots for nearly 30 minutes in a freshening breeze and favorable current.  With a little bit of guile and a lot of luck, Haiku had seized an insurmountable lead, and finished the Ad Cove race in less than two hours, the fastest finish in SEAS Cup history.

Optiminium and Tahlia had an incredible run down Stephen’s Passage carrying spinnakers in 15 knot winds.  Once they rounded Pt. Young, they finished on a screaming beam reach in nearly 20 knots.

Having finished so early in the day, the boats took the opportunity to sail around Young Bay before anchoring in Admiralty Cove for the evening.  

Sailors that sail hard, play hard.  Saturday night’s festivities included some very wet dinghy rides, hand blended Margaritas (props to Opti’s crew!), sea Stories, a potluck dinner, and some pretty serious games of Settlers of Catan and Cards Against Humanity.  There may have even been some trash talking about the following day’s race (props to Haiku’s skipper).

Both the weather and the sailors’ heads were cloudy the next morning, and the calmness of the anchorage left some wondering what kind of racing was waiting.  

All fears of a drifter were allayed within half an hour of the start.  The boats were beating into 20 knots of breeze and an adverse current. Tahlia and Optiminium took the early lead, but as soon as the full force of the wind arrived Optiminium shredded her headsail and was forced into an emergency sail change.  Tahlia stayed closer to Admiralty Island out of the brunt of the current and retained the lead.  

Seeing the right side of the course advantage, and being overpowered, Haiku stepped down to her #2 jib during the tack back toward Admiralty.  Immediately after shortening sail, Haiku reefed the mainsail, and took the lead.

Tahlia reefed at roughly the same time, but she tacked toward Douglas.  Meanwhile, Optiminium having changed headsails steadily tacked up the Admiralty side.

After opening up a large lead on the other boats, Haiku threw in a long tack back toward Douglas, exposing her beam to the adverse current for an hour.  Tahlia, already on the Douglas side, was unable to take advantage of this mistake, but Optiminium stuck to Admiralty and passed Tahlia.  When the boats crossed in the middle of Stephen’s Optiminium had closed the distance to the extent that Haiku was forced to tack on top of them to protect the lead.

Over the next 4 or 5 tacks, Haiku kept on top of Optiminium until the confused seas and shifty winds at Icy Point sabotaged Optiminium’s comeback.  Haiku escaped and crossed for another win. Optiminium and Tahlia slogged their way through the slop to finish second and third respectively.

The best SEAS Cup season in memory comes to a conclusion with three races Labor Day weekend.  With the new skippers showing so much promise, and the old salts coming Labor day weekend promises to have the most competitive races of 2013.