A real rip-snortin’ barn razin’ dog flyin’ along with the chain attached kind of wind came through the sound Saturday March 14th for the second race in the Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle’s Center Sound Series, the Scatchet Head Race. 66 boats made it out for the start in what Bruce Hedrick, in his Friday afternoon NWYachting.com weather brief, recommended boats “leave the dock in the morning with the crew all in pfd’s, safety harnesses, and tethers, with the jacklines rigged and in place.” Hedrick predicted a strong and fast frontal system to move through our area with its strongest winds soon after the fleet had started on its 26 mile course from Shilshole to Scatchet Head and back.
Once again, slow boats started first but with a new twist, a downwind start in the building 20+ knot southerly. Class 1 was led off the line by Nate Crietz’s little Olson 25 Three Ring Circus – a lone blue spinnaker pulling North into the rain with Freeflyte following under main and jib until the next class started 5 minutes later. The winds continued to build as the starts rolled off the line but it wasn’t until class 7 that the wipeouts began happening just after the start area – one of the Farr 30’s had some good rolls followed by the standard flogging sails with shaking mast until they finally gave up and took the chute down to re-orient things before giving it another go.
By 11am the winds began pushing into the 30 knot range and as the fleet moved into the narrower part of sound coming into Edmonds things began to happen. Broaches and round ups across the course, the old wind Gods testing the metal of the sailors on the course with many deciding the Gods were right, it might be a good time to bring that chute down and continue under main and jib. The wind didn’t test only the sailors will and the strength of the cloth and seams of their spinnakers but tested the rigs to the limit as some boats reported gusts from 32, to 36 and on up to 39 knots with sustained winds over 30 for quite some time.
First mast down was on the Tanton 37 Buckle Up – the old fractional IOR style rig had put in its time and decided to come down over the port side, breaking in at least 2 places. With the VHF on 16 and turned all the way up, sailors didn’t hear a peep from the dismasted boat but decided to gybe over and sail by to make sure they were ok. By the time they sailed by a J/30 was close astern and without any panicked gestures thrown their way continued by as Buckle Up looked under control and not in need of outside assistance as they collected all their sails and lines before they shifted to their motor. Eventually, the always ready photoboat with Skip and Jan Anderson arrived and stood by to render assistance if needed.
Second mast down was the G&S One Ton Absolutely – once again the old IOR fractional rig had put in its time and came to a glorious end as its runner shot off and rig went over the bow, again breaking in multiple spots. The able crew took care of the rig and got things under control before returning to port under their own power. Notifications were announced on the VHF of what was happening, but no requests for immediate assistance as the crew had the problem fully under control. I’ll add here that with channel 16 on all day the only Pan Pan’s and Securite’s broadcast were from up off Vancouver Island. We heard some minor notifications to the CG of situations happening near the ferry lanes on Puget Sound, but not anyone requiring assistance and heard plenty of race boats standing by or checking on situations, exactly how the fleet is expected to act.
Back on the race course things were fast and furious. The big TP52 reported boat speeds over 25 knots on their quick one round up run to the mark. The J/88 found themselves flying along with numbers pushing over 20 before the wind gods decided to shake them silly on their side for using an A2 instead of an A3 in such strong winds. The J/105’s reported flying along under control with their (smartly chosen) A3’s, their shy kites, pulling them along at speeds over 16 knots, pushing into 17 at times. The waves built and built as the fleet moved North, 2 feet became 3 and as they got closer and closer to the mark they built to over 4 feet allowing for the now sans-spinnaker boats to surf along at 14, even 16 knots at times.
The faster boats worked through many of the early starters near Scatchet Head with a few coming in from the west. Still under spinnaker, on starboard gybe and absolutely flying along the Farr 395 Ace was having an amazing ride, planing in towards their final gybe to the mark when BAM, it was their turn for a slap down. First they spun out, as Asym boats seem to do, but then as they tried to get her back up, the chute filled in just the right way to slap her mast all the way back down to the water, keel up above the mast tip until they quickly decided to blow the tack and get that sail down. The salty sailor and owner of Ace, Peter Shorett, reported “I’ve never been that sideways in my life.”
Boats wrapped their chutes around their forestays in gybes, some of them shredding apart while they were pulled down the forestay. Boats dropped their chutes in the water, some recovered, some getting cut away after wrapping around their keels and becoming too much of a liability to try and recover. But just as quick as it started the downwind run was over and the reefs settled down on many of the boats in the fleet for the long slog south to the finish off Shilshole. Almost the entire fleet sailed up the east side of the course short tacking the beach, ducking or tacking away from starboard tacker’s while a couple boats worked up the Western shore, enjoying the westerly wind angle and open un-crowded course.
By this time the rains had passed through and the sun was out but the wind gods weren’t done with the boats yet, holding winds in the upper 20’s and causing at least one boat, the Melges 32 Ballistic, to drop out after their jib halyard failed. Behind them the J/80 Jolly Green had to switch to outboard motor after their rudder mount failed – too much stress on the old stainless gudgeons – fortunately an outboard boat so they still had steerage under power. What a day though, the strong breeze had caused some serious carnage, both in sails and gear but in the end there was no major injuries, no boats requiring outside assistance or help from the coast guard – even Dos didn’t go swimming!
The winds began settling down as the middle of the fleet approached Meadow point and wouldn’t you know it, Bruce Hedrick was right again (don’t tell him). Hedrick stated in his NWYachiting.com weather brief “you should also notice that by around 1500-1600 hrs the breeze will start to drop significantly and back to the east. So if you’re coming off the west side of the Sound this could be painful.” And painful it was – any advantage the J/88 had gained by working up the western shore disappeared about halfway across the sound as their bow came down below Meadow Point and they fell in line behind the 40’er in their class, Different Drummer. But the winds didn’t stop changing there, they continued to die down to the point that the Moore 24 Morphine, after dragging that little ULDB all the way back south to the finish line made it within 12 feet of the finish line before the wind crapped out completely and current drug them back north a good 100 yards before they could find a final puff to get them across the line and into the marina. Yet they left the three boats out there behind them, the Freya 39 Freeflyte, the Cal 33 Cherokee, and the J/30 Conrad J, to struggle through the glassy seas to finally finish another 30 minutes behind the Moore 24. As Hedrick said, “a fairly quick frontal passage.”
Full results can be found at the CYC Seattle website but here are the highlights. First in class 1 went to the Freya 39 Freeflyte, owned by Jonathan Cruse. As the only boat to finish they receive the glory of DFL too, as the only other starter in class 1, Three Ring Circus, decided to drop out and have a leisurely sail home. Class 2 was dominated by Andy and Jaime Mack aboard their J/27 True North correcting almost 8 minutes in front of the solid and fast Catalina 36 Mata Hari leaving third to the J/27 Wizard. Class 3 was sailed away with by that fun loving bunch aboard Pat Denny’s J/29 Here & Now. Almost 12 minutes behind them in second was the Cal 40 Madrugador with the Farr 1020 Kiwi Express in third.
Class 4, the J/105 A3 flying One Design class was once again taken by those fast sailors aboard Erik Kirsten’s J/105 Jubilee. Leaving the J/105 Last Tango over 6 minutes back in second and the J/105 Avalanche another 13 minutes back in third. Class 5 was once again easily sailed away with by Brad Butler and crew aboard the Sierra 26 Dos. Finishing first in class and correcting almost 22 minutes in front of the Wauquiez 40 Different Drummer leaving third, just a few minutes back, to Sail Northwest’s demo boat, the J/88. Class 6 was taken once again by the big beautiful Peterson 44 Sachem owned by Sailing Hall of Fames Bill Buchan, leaving second to the timeless J/35 Tahlequah and third to Commodore Burnell’s J/109 Tantivy.
Class 7 was taken by Denny Vaughn’s Beneteau 40.7 Bravo Zulu, finishing first in class and correcting almost 5 minutes in front of the J/120 Time Bandit leaving third to the Farr 30 Patricia. Class 8 was sailed away with by William Weinstein’s Riptide 35 Terremoto, correcting almost 7 minutes in front of the Farr 395 Ace leaving third to the younger Buchan’s Custom 40 Madrona. Class 9 was absolutely dominated by John Buchan’s TP 52 Glory correcting over 30 minutes in front of the OD 48 Flash leaving third to the J/145 Double Take.
Take a gander over to janpix.smugmug.com and find yourself a photo to buy your crew or boat owner, there are some amazing shots there and by supporting the Anderson’s your supporting two people that make themselves available for assistance to the those in need on the course while passing up great picture opportunities to render this assistance. Thank you, once again, Skip and Jan!