Daffodils shimmered on the wave tops once again as sailors floated those yellow emblems of spring into the winds while rounding the beacon on the rock and remembering the light that was taken from us too early – a race that should be properly called the Kelly O’Neil Memorial. Beautiful yellow flowers floating about the race course on a day so civilized the Commonwealth of Nations stood up and took notice, once again asking the name of the boat in second place – “Your Majesty, there is no second.”
66 boats made it out for Corinthian Yacht Club Seattle’s Blakely Rock Light race; the first in their 3 race, spring is here, Center Sound Series and conditions couldn’t have been better for slowly sweeping off the proverbial cobwebs. Winds were out of the north at 6 to 8 by start time and at 10am class one led the fleet off the line towards the first mark in the course. With a starting area off Shilshole Marina the Northerly breeze takes sailors up to a temporary mark set off the tank farms south of Edmonds, then all the way south to Blakely Rock before returning to the finish area off Shilshole Marina, a distance of just over 20nm – an easy distance for any boat out there.
Nailing the Port tack start with the left favored line Nate Creitz and crew aboard their Olson 25 Three Ring Circus led the fleet towards the first mark in this reverse starting sequence – the slower rated classes starting first. The Race Committee kept trying to grab the mark and pull it south to make starting on starboard easier but the deep water and only a minute to burn before the preparatory flag came up they just couldn’t get it to shift south and start after start tried to make the tight starboard line better while the adventurous few in each class snuck across their bows on the port tack start. Finally, by class 9, the problem came to a head as the pin had taken its limit of getting jerked around and began shifting all over the place as the 8 boat IRC fleet tried again and again to get their start off.
Picture 66 boats working up the sound in sunny skies, through the last of the ebb and the winds building up towards 10 knots as it slowly oscillated right to left. The solid J/105 one design fleet became the indicator for many as they split across the course and those from behind watched who had the advantage on which side of the course before making their tactical choices. The right seemed to pay on that first beat and in the middle of the fleet the big Wauquiez 40 Different Drummer waterlined out of the lee of the little J/88 and the even smaller Sierra 26 before tacking over to layline and rounding first in class 5.
Most in the fleet pushed west into the last of the ebbing current and as the later starters compressed into the fleet ahead a few boats were seen heading off to the East, towards Shilshole Marina. One in particular took their line all the way into the breakwater off Shilshole before jibing over starboard and pointing their bow at West Point. Ian “it’s not a flyer if it’s the right way to go” Beswick and crew on the Sierra 26 Dos jumped out into the lead in class 5, blowing by the J/88 that had been giving them trouble and leading another boat, the Farr 30 Bat Out Of Hell on the “right way to go” flyer down the sound. Winds built a touch more on the run down the sound, solid 10’s and 12’s with a few puffs to 14 knots as the sun continued to warm up the city and create that solid thermal suction as temps downtown moved into the 60’s.
Rounding the rock first, Dos was quickly passed by the big speedy TP 52 Glory and the long drag race across the sound to Magnolia began. Each boat battled for a clear lane and if you got your bow across a boat that was slightly faster and could sail slightly higher you were tossed off the wheel and had to tack away to clear before coming back on port and lining up again for Magnolia. While sailing through the yellow memories of Kelly one particular J/105 stuck their bow between the new J/88 and Blakely Rock while being told “that isn’t going to work for you” by the mainsail trimmer. As they hardened up the J/88 easily peeled them away able to point higher and pull out faster sending that J/105 off on starboard as one of the first boats on the clearing tack.
Below them the new J/122e Joyride lined up below the J/111 Adalgisa, bow to bow as they hardened up on port with the always fast J/29 Slick and the J/88 to weather of them. After a minute of setting up, that shiny blue CSR Marine paint job on the J/122e began edging out on the J/111 and with their bow down and speed building they lifted right up around the J/111 forcing them into a clearing tack and leaving the J/29 and J/88 in their dust. Speed and beauty combined to make sailing fun, even if you’re just watching the action from afar.
The bigger faster boats continued to blow through the fleet on the long tack towards Magnolia Bluff and the closer you got to that shallow muddy beach the better you made out against your fleet. Tough to keep a clear lane but if you got forced outside to the left you found yourself coming back in on the transoms of your competitors. Next up was West point and how to get across the sand bar without running aground but stay close enough in to spend the least amount of time in the adverse flooding current. A true depth sounder test and the J/29 Here and Now played it in tight and close. With cheers of triumph as the numbers got bigger and bigger on their screen they hardened up after gaining a huge advantage on their fleet after crossing the sand bar so close inshore.
But then an odd thing happened; usually you tack onto port and get out of the current along the beach and sail away from anyone on the outside. But there was still a finger of ebbing current out in the middle of Shilshole bay. If you held out to the left just long enough boats tacked over onto port in positive current and lifted right up past the ship canal towards the breakwater before tacking over onto layline and the finish. A tricky day for the hidden currents but what a civilized day for sailing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Wind, sun & sailing combined in that perfect way to slightly challenge everyone without stressing anything to the breaking point – spring is truly here.
And now for the results – full scoring can be found at cycseattle.org but first place in class 1, that port tacker that led the fleet at the beginning of the day, the Olson 25 Three Ring Circus, owned by Nate Creitz, sailed away from their class correcting to over 11 minutes in front of the Thunderbird 26 Selchie leaving the other Thunderbird 26 Havoc in third. Class 2 was taken by the J/27 True North, owned by Andy and Jamie Mack, correcting over 7 minutes in front of the Cal 33 Cherokee leaving third to the Catalina 36 Mata Hari. Class 3 was taken by those risk takers on the J/29 Here and Now, owned by Pat Denny. Correcting just 3 minutes in front of the J/29 Slick leaving third to the Farr 1020 Kiwi Express.
The 7 boat J/105 One Design group, class 4, was dominated by #114 Jubilee, tillered by Erik Kirsten. Just a minute back in 2nd was #272 Delirium leaving third to #403 Inconceivable. Class 5 was absolutely dominated by the Sierra 26 Dos, owned by Brad Butler. Correcting over 8 minutes in front of the next boat in their class, Sail Northwest’s stock J/88, leaving third to the Wauquiez 40 Different Drummer. Class 6 was barely won by the beautiful old Peterson 44 Sachem, owned and driven by Sailing Hall of Fame’s Bill Buchan. Correcting just behind Sachem was Commodore Stuart Burnell and crew aboard their J/109 Tantivy leaving third to the Dehler 39 Katzenjammer.
Lance Staughton and crew aboard the Farr 30 Bat Out Of Hell held onto their lead and finished first in class 7. Leaving second to the Beneteau 40.7 Bravo Zulu, correcting less then minute behind BOOH and third to the Farr 30 Patricia. Class 8 was taken after correction by the Farr 395 Ace, owned by Peter Schorett and Zig Burzycki. Finishing just behind them in second was the Riptide 35 Terremoto followed by the custom Buchan 40 Madrona. Class 9, the IRC fleet, was taken by the big blue TP 52 Glory, owned by John Buchan. Correcting just over 13 minutes back in second was the old Santa Cruz Sled Neptune’s Car, leaving third to the One Design 48 Flash.
Take a swing on over to janpix.smugmug.com and get your crew some pictures of this amazing day. Without them we’d all be sailing laser’s!