Wet and Wild
The forecast for Saturday morning’s Admiralty Cove race start was 90% chance of rain and a 10 knot Southeasterly breeze. SEAS racers motored down the Channel to the start line with a steady downpour of rain and not a breath of wind (except the kind a moving boat creates). As the 4-boat fleet of Loa’a Nalu, Haiku, Thalia & Optiminium gathered at Marmion Island for the start, everyone was suited up for the conditions and smiling at a nice breeze. Lyric (WR), serving as Committee Boat, would build anticipation for the start by voicing ‘5-second’ countdowns prior to each timing mark & hitting the horn on a couple others. As boats tacked back & forth below the line, the ripples on the water filled in along the Marmion end of the course and into Stephens Passage.
Haiku had the start with Optiminium, Loa’a Nalu & Thalia lagging behind. As the racers rounded Tantallon Point, spinnakers were flown and it was a very relaxing downwind run to the finish. Haiku stayed well ahead in a freshening breeze under symmetrical spinnaker & pole as the other boats flew asymmetrical spinnakers. Taking the North and South sides of Stephens Passage, respectively, Loa’a Nalu & Optiminium would play a game of ‘sailors hopscotch’, trading the second position in the race. Meanwhile Thalia’s downwind kite tore a seam, so she was slowed considerably with the ensuing sail change.
The final approach to the finish line was as thrilling as last year’s race, requiring boats carrying spinnakers to make the turn around Pt. Young on a broad reach to stay within the ½ mile distance to the little island in Admiralty Cove. All this with wind speeds clocked at 25 knots apparent required crews to make delicate adjustments to sail trim & helm while pushing their boats above hull speed. Haiku flew her #1 jib appropriately & finished well ahead of the fleet. Loa’a Nalu, 2nd around Pt. Young, was able to carry her A-sail to just within the ½ mile edge of the finish line. Optiminium, right behind Nalu, bore off too far below the point, so had to change to her headsail & tack back up to the line 20 minutes later than she first crossed. Thalia stayed the course with a wing-on-wing approach & finished shortly thereafter.
High Noon motor sailed out of Auke Bay & met up with the fleet in the afternoon. As the day progressed & the wind continued to blow 18-20 knots, several boats would drag anchor. Once the fleet worked out the kinks from their first anchoring experiences of the new sailing season, the skippers & crew motored their inflatable dinghies to the beach for food, stories & laughs around the bonfire.
Sailing always brings surprises and Sunday’s return race from Admiralty Cove to Marmion was no exception. Thalia agreed to be committee boat for the 10:15 start and Surprise motored from town to join the fleet at the starting line. Weather vacillated between hard rain and patchy sunshine, and the light winds and flat seas suggested a mellow trip home. Haiku, Surprise and Thalia led the fleet to Point Young before the fickle winds calmed even further. Haiku and Surprise favored the Admiralty side, while Thalia, Optiminium and Loa’a Nalu chose the Douglas side.
Seas appeared to flatten further and light winds brought boats to nearly a standstill. Surprise briefly changed to a light sail and then a small squall blew in a slightly stronger wind and light rain. That squall passed and the air stilled again. Opti and Nalu fell behind and to the Douglas side while Thalia and Surprise moved down channel trying to point as high as Haiku towards Admiralty. At the lull, Surprise attempted another light sail change in the hopes of breaking from the fleet when suddenly and without warning the wind blew in strong from the east. The light sail was stowed beneath for the remainder of the day.
Nalu and Opti quickly gained ground along Douglas Island as the wind picked up there. All boats were tightly overlapped, though Haiku appeared stuck fighting the current as it took longer for the breeze to reach the Admiralty side. Opti pushed ahead to lead the fleet. Surprise, sailing mid-channel, fell behind the fleet in inconsistent winds. At Point Hilda, boats approached hull speed and healed noticeably as the white caps increased.
Squalls continued to blow through with winds increasing sharply and then diminishing slightly, but never again subsiding. Sails got shortened in the 20+ knot wind. Waves increased in intensity with 3-4 foot seas, especially on the final stretch to Marmion. Nalu succumbed to the chop of the seas and scratched due to a seasick crew. A humpback seemed to enjoy the frothy seas as much as some of the other sailors. It breeched completely out of the water many times sending up an impressive salty spray, smacked its flippers audibly against the surface, raised its fluke well above the crest of the waves and sent the stench of fishy whale breath across the channel.
The breeze ultimately reached Haiku who headed to the Douglas side. She favored the north side for the remainder of the race, making shorter tacks and avoiding mid-channel. Opti got mired by current and strong winds on the Douglas side, and fell behind the fleet – later running out of wind within a mile of the finish line and scratching.
Surprise tacked across the middle of the channel several times, with Thalia closely following her lead. It was a reach to the Marmion finish with three boats close together. Surprise went from last place earlier in the day to cross first and claim line honors. Thalia crossed second and Haiku third. Thalia sailed a great race and won handily. All three wing on winged home with a following wind and sea.