View Full Version : Round Whidbey 2011 recap on a SJ24....

05-09-2011, 11:38 AM
Round Whidbey 2011 recap on a SJ24....

Round Whidbey is a 65 mile race around the island. The start line is on the west side of Deception Pass and the finish line is in the entrance to Oak Harbor. Conditions for this race are always fickle and challenging. On the west side of the island it is open water from the straits of Juan de Fuca and the east side has the potential of doldrums or huge puffy conditions. I was asked by Mitch Rinella to do the race on a San Juan 24 called Skamokawa. With huge hesitancy (I have a rule now that the boat must have a heater and be as long as I am old) I said yes. As I was driving home after I had said yes I went to the website www.winsa.org to see who was going on the race. “Wow” is what I said to myself when I realized that we were the slowest rated boat that was attending. What have I done…

The WINSA organization does a great job of putting on a great FREE barbeque on the Friday night before the race at Cornet Bay State Park. They also do the Skippers Meeting at the same time. This year with lots of smiling faces dawning all of their foul weather gear in a nice Puget Sound Rain we ate hamburgers and hotdogs while drinking beer and or wine till darkness set in. The Commodore of WINSA Michael Thomas gave me good insight for the night on San Juan 24’s by saying “San Juans are capable of much faster speeds than they are rated. They just take it slow so everyone can gawk at how beautiful and classy they are- much like a gorgeous woman. With THAT much style and raw mojo, they needn't rush.” As I drove home thinking about that comment I could only wonder what tomorrow would bring.

Five-thirty my alarm went off to get up and ready for the race. I opened up my front door and the wind was blowing and it looked like it hadn’t rained in a while so things where looking up. I drove to meet up with the crew at 6:30 in Oak Harbor so we could carpool over to Cornet Bay to the boat. Mitch, Kim and Keith my other team mates all had smiles of anticipation for the race of which none had ever done a longer race like this before.

With a short trip through Deception Pass we made it out to the starting line. Wind strength was about 12 knots out of the SW and looked like it might hold for awhile. The starting line was placed really close to the main flow of current coming out of Deception Pass and made it interesting. We pinged the start line with our new Pro-Start Velocitek and headed for less current to wait for the start. Not 300 yards away it was only about a half a knot of current instead of the 2.5 knots of current the start line was on. We positioned ourselves east of the line so we could reach down for a port start. We ended up not judging the current as well as we had hoped and ended up being about 40 seconds late for are start.

Before the race we had decided that the other 3 San Juan 24’s would be our focus of attention. We figured if we could beat them, then at least we would have bragging rights at the Awards on Sunday. Starting late is never good except in this case it showed us how bad boats where being set by the current and were not to go. After about 15 minutes we had caught up and passed the other San Juan 24’s. The winds were shifty and started to drop slowly over the next hour. As we made it to Partridge Point the wind shifted to a Northerly and we had to make a huge decision on going east or west down Admiralty Inlet. We were about an hour before the tide change and then we would be swept down into Puget Sound.

A huge rain cell was sitting on top of Sequim and was not moving. To the east the wind looked like it was shutting off. We gambled and broke away from the fleet and headed towards Point Wilson. For the first couple miles it looked like we might be in jeopardy of the way back machine when we had a chance to get back to the fleet. Then the wind and tide filled in for us slowly and we charged off to beat all the boats rated from 70 to 231 to the entrance of Admiralty Inlet. I asked Mitch how he felt on being the slowest rated boat in the front and all he could do was smile.

13 miles or so in and we had about a 10 minute lead on the next San Juan 24. Getting down to Marrowstone Island was challenging because the winds started to shut off completely for moments in time. We had to reach hard just to keep the spinnaker full. The rain started in also to make the day all that much more exciting and special. Kim and Keith where trimming the spinnaker like they were on the America’s Cup team keeping us fast and focused. Several other boats started to come from behind with wind including two of the San Juan 24’s in our class. Our lead had dwindled down to about 15 boat lengths at the top of Marrowstone.

“Bob” the J-30 grabbed the current in on the shore of Marrowstone and was ripping along south so we heated up to jump on the freight train ride also. All of the boats that had a chance to do this picked up about 4 knots of current and had great ride for about an hour. We got down past Marrowstone Island and had to figure out when to lose some of the current benefit and head towards the bottom of Whidbey Island. We did our jibe and fortunately Magic Juan the closest SJ24 to us jibed with us. We charged across Admiralty Inlet dodging tug and tows and cruise ships. I don’t think the tug operator liked sailboats because he just kept heading for any sailboat that he could to make it a close call on what to do.

Mean while another rain squall was sitting over the end of Whidbey Island at Possession Point. The sun popped out behind us to give a great double rainbow to look at. A couple of the large boats had punched out ahead of us and where sitting under this incredible view. I wish I had my camera out at that time but it was just not handy….bummer. We sailed past Possession Point at 6:52 PM and recorded it as our half way time. We were the first boat in B-Fleet to pass so we knew if the wind died we would be the winner in our fleet.

Looking up the North side of Whidbey Island I was glad it was still daylight and we had a chance to make it through the “dead zone” somewhere around Mukilteo. The wind started to shut-off as we made our way up to to Mukilteo. We again where battling the tides and with wind shutting off and we had to commit soon to a side. We saw Skookumchuck the Baltic 37 charging across to the East in what looked like good tide and wind so we footed off for the ride to the east and made it to the beach. We slowly made it passed the ferry landing and held our position against the tide for about 3 hours. Both Majic Juan and Separator SJ-24’s had passed us on a personal puff up the middle and had about a 100 yard lead on us.

Finally the wind started to go east and we picked up and moved passed them. I went down for a two hour sleep shift and when I woke up I asked for the status of where everyone was. “Well we had that big lead when you went to sleep and now we are about a mile behind because the tide swept us backwards” Mitch says. We where almost right in front of the Mukilteo Ferry terminal again and it was raining.

Mitch and Kim went down for sleep and Keith and I battled on in the no wind and pouring rain. We made it up to where we were almost even with the other San Juan 24’s when the wind shut off again and we drifted about two miles backwards to be exactly in the same place in front of the ferry’s at Mukilteo. At 4am I said to Keith in the pouring rain “this is not fun anymore”. We started figuring out how fast we would have to go to make the time limit in Oak Harbor at 1PM. Things just didn’t calculate out well so we woke Mitch up and made the decision to pull the plug. Keith went down quickly for some much needed rest as well as Mitch. I looked back as someone else was on the boat to start driving when I realized crap I am on duty in the rain to drive back… Daylight came and Mitch came out to take a shift on the helm. About an hour later we were all up on the deck drinking beer laughing so hard our eyes hurt.

So in the end good friends and a great time - even in the rain - made for a wonderful weekend. Next time maybe I will remember my rule…or not.

Pictures to follow when they become available.

Ballard Sailor
05-09-2011, 11:29 PM

PD Staff
05-11-2011, 01:05 PM

Sailors from Kirkland to Anacortes competed in the annual Round Whidbey sailboat race this past weekend.

The 65-nautical mile course lived up to its reputation for wide-ranged conditions and fickle weather when light winds, opposing currents, and an unrelenting rain proved too much for more than half of the boats competing in this year’s event.

Of the 22 registered racers that started out from Deception Pass Saturday morning, only six boats completed the entire race. None of the 13 vessels in the Class “B” division were able to finish and three of nine Class “A” boats dropped out.

“What happened this year was fairly common,” said Michael Thomas, commodore of the Whidbey Island Naval Sailing Association.

The group, commonly known as WINSA, has been organizing and holding the race annually almost since its inception in 1991. The event typically lures sailboat racers from throughout Puget Sound and 2011 was no exception. More than half of the competitors, numbering about 90 people, hailed from outside Oak Harbor.

Starting just west of Deception Pass, racers follow a course south through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into Admiralty Inlet before rounding Possession Point in South Whidbey. Boats then turn north through Saratoga Passage and on to the finish line in Oak Harbor.

The race is well known for its varied conditions. Racers can face wind and wave conditions in the strait that are downright nasty only to hit placid water and no wind on the east side of Whidbey Island. This year, the fleet encountered just such conditions when they rounded Possession Point late Saturday evening.

All of the Class “B” boats, along with many Class “A” vessels, spent hours fighting an opposing current and ghosting winds between Clinton and the Mukilteo ferry docks. Many skippers said they crossed the ferry lane in the dark multiple times before finally calling it quits and motoring home between the hours of 1 and 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

The Class “A” boats faired better largely because they are faster and better performing. It’s enough of an edge that it allowed them to make it around the point before conditions changed.

“It’s all about rounding the point before the wind dies,” Thomas said.

But even the larger boats had trouble. Aboard Lissa, a Crown 34, those crew members that proved hardy enough not to retreat below decks to warm sleeping bags spent a miserable night making little to no headway between Hat Island and Clinton.

Most sat huddled in unmoving soggy lumps of brightly colored foul-weather gear. Shifting even a little in the pouring rain resulted in nothing better than a fresh deluge of eye-opening rainwater streaming past a hood and down a warm neck.

“In a race like this, if you make it all the way around you did good,” said Ted Clifton, Lissa’s skipper and a 15-year veteran of the Round Whidbey race.

The issue is common enough that all competitors mark their time when rounding South Whidbey. If enough vessels in a division don’t finish the entire race, WINSA officials will use those times to determine the year’s winners.

For example, Mitch Rinella and the crew of Skamokawa rounded at 7:21:28 corrected time, earning them a cool first place. Second place went to Shannon Buys on Magic Juan while Dave Steckman on Renaissance secured third. All three vessels are San Juan 24s and call Oak Harbor home.

In the Class “A” division, first went to skipper Tom Hume and Kentucky Woman, a Petr40-1; second to William McKinnon on Skye Rocket, a J-80; and third to Joseph Geck on Bob, a J-30.

Despite its challenges, Round Whidbey is one of those events that people seem to love to suffer through. Everyone has a horror story to tell, and no matter what they tell you after the race, they come back again and again.

According to Clifton, it comes down to perspective. There is a secret to sailboat racing, he said, and knowing it makes coming back year after year an easy choice.

“When you win it’s all about the trophy and when you don’t it’s all about getting out there and having fun with your friends,” he said.


Ballard Sailor
05-11-2011, 05:42 PM
Nice write up, thanks for finding it Max.