• One For The Record Books: The 2014 Oregon Offshore

    The stretch of water from Astoria in the very southern end of the Washington Coast up to Victoria, British Columbia is some of the most unforgiving stretches of water on the West Coast. It's to no one's surprise that the area is populated with ship wrecks from centuries past to the present, the remote Western Washington Coast has but a few harbors facing the mighty Pacific Ocean, and for the most part, do not provide easy quarter for boats seeking shelter from the tumultuous conditions the North Pacific can deliver. There is not a whole lot of offshore racing in this area, but on event, the Oregon Offshore, which celebrated its 38'th running this year in conditions which may never be equaled. One of the boats which took on the OO as they refer to it is Neptune's Car, the Santa Cruz 70' sled was originally built on the East Coast to the IMS rule, initially Starlite Express, she was sold to Jim Muldoon and campaigned heavily on the East Coast as Donnybrook,where she wreaked havoc on the record books before being sold to Paul Lamarche back in 1997. The 2014 edition of the Oregon Offshore was the 2nd for the boat and crew which tends to focus on off season winter series in Puget Sound before returning to work for Paul's charter enterprise Emerald City Sailing. On board for this adventure was Alex Simanis , co owner of Ballard Sails in Seattle Washington.

    Alex has done dozens of deliveries up and down the Washington seaboard between Ancortes and the Straits of Juan De Fuca and admits the stretch of water between the two port is some of the most unforgiving stretches of water he has treaded. As far as competing in a race that is a logistical pain in the ass for Seattle boats, he says " You really need to want to do it in order to do it". Developed as a feeder race for Portland boats to participate in the Swiftsure or summering in the Inside Passage, the Race starts with negotiating the infamous Columbia River Mouth, a virtual graveyard for ships and pleasure vessels and the testing ground for the USCG and it's rescue vessels. It isn't unusual for the USCG to delay the start of the race by closing the bar when conditions become so intense, it becomes a suicide mission to try to cross it.

    So for Seattle boats to send a crew all the way south and cross the bar not once but twice and then race back to Seattle or other destinations does present a certain obstacle. On average, the race constitutes a beat up the Washington State Shoreline and hopefully a run down the Straits to the finish in Victoria. But in 2014 all was much different. With 30 boats on the line and a predicted late season weather system zeroing in right at race time, the elements were in place to upset the 2000 record set by Steve Rander' Rage record of 19:46:41.

    The obvious elapsed time beaters were the aforementioned Neptunes Car, Kevin Welch's Custom Bob Perry Designed Icon and Kevin Flanigan's Fox 44 Ocelot. While Icon and Ocelot have both been campaigning in offshore events over the past several years, the real darkhorse was Neptunes Car, sailed with a completely Corinthian crew of :

    Nick Bannon - Bow
    Tyler Sayvetz- mid bow
    Geoff Carlin-pit
    Rowan Stewart -Mid bow
    Joey Lamarche-Grind
    Greg Worstell-Grind
    Brian Douglas-Grind/pit#2
    Scott Walsh-Trimmer
    Charlie Macaulay- Trimmer
    Alex Simanis-Trimmer/driver
    Mike Barton-Runners/trim
    Colin Dunphy- Main/Bowsun/Driver
    Greg Johnston-Main/driver
    Matt Wood-Tactics/Navigator
    Paul Lamarche-Owner/Driver/Navigation

    The boat, sporting a quiver of Ballard Sails and the taller IMS rig, longer boom and deeper keel than the original SC 70's enjoyed white knuckle conditions as they traded leads and with chased Icon and Ocelot up the coast. At time the SC 70 was outrunning the seas and would stuff her bow into the back of the swell ahead sending a wall of green water across the deck and completely flushing the cockpit. " I think I know how the Volvo Guys feel now" said Alex who drove for 5-6 hours through the gnarliest parts when winds were gusting to 30-30 knots. "All in all the boat handled the conditions very well and we only had 1 wind check where we flogged the main for 30 seconds" Alex added " Things got wet enough that our transponder went on the fritz, putting us in an unplanned stealth mode for a while. We had a period when we were neck and neck with Ocelot and then she sort disappeared, then we realized she had taken a knock and was laid down on her side. Scary stuff, as this stretch of coast gives you no place to hide"

    The least amount of wind Neptune's Car saw was 12 knots and top wind was 37 knots. Asked if he thought this years records could ever be matched, Alex replied " Not sure, but it would have to be identical conditions and a boat like Rage or maybe one of the Volvo 70's!"

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    The recently relocated Ocelot was also in the mix to take the lin honors, we managed to track down the boats owner Kevin Flanigan to get some introspective on "The Spotted Cat's" history, her design, the race and her future:

    We created the Fox 44 when I asked Kernan to design a sloop rig into the Wyliecat 44 as an upwind improvement to a fast Wylie hull. Schooner Creek Boat Works built the molds of the hull and deck , built the hull and did the structural redesign work to the Sloop in 2006. My First mast failed in the 2006 Big Boat Series and we re rigged with a hall spar, the bowsprit was added in 2009.

    Ocelot raced out if Alameda since 2006 as a Portland boat with Bay Area crew. Skippered by Campbell Rivers in 2006 and Charlie Smyth in 2007 and then Greg Nelsen until 2012, we won Windjammers in 07 and podiumed each year we did it. We finished 2nd in the Coastal Cup three years in a row and finished third overall in the 2012 PV race. Having been to Mexico 3 times and winning the ORYA series in 2010 and the Great Pumpkin race 2013, I decided to return to my home waters in Portland this year and do the Oregon Offshore and Swiftsure race.

    Given the state of the Grand Prix race yacht market it is unwise to produce the Fox 44 on spec., however the molds are at Schooner Creek Boat works and like minded sailors wanting a narrow light speedster can have one built in either glass or carbon to meet their budget, with any sail type. Semi custom orders are welcome at Schooner Creek Boat Works. The boat is a weapon either way.

    The OO is the only international yacht race from Oregon that many Oregon boats have done for decades, I first did it in 2006 on a previous boat. This time I knew it would be a tough race in IRC and I needed a good crew. I was joined by My brother Chris from Sun Valley who has raced with me for years, also the Watkins (Pete and Kurt) brothers and Alex Krawarik of Wasabi's crew, Campbell Rivers returned to the crew after racing on Rio in the super series and my tactician Bill Colombo of Doyle sail makers who built the new main for the race.

    We pushed the boat hard from the start after an over early redress, planing from the first mile, averaging 14 knots to Cape Flattery. We led the 70's early in the race but they got outside to more wind while we sailed the ruhm line in 27 knots max doing up to 22 knots in rough seas and pounding rain. It was a rough and wet ride until the Straits which were flat with steady and increasing breeze. We finished five miles behind Icon in her record run. It's a great race, not always downwind but always a challenge. I hope this proves to be an increasingly popular race.

    The knockdown was one of a handful where we jumped over a wave and dropped into a trench with no way out. The resulting piercing of the water caused us to slow radically and round up. We had to shrimp the A4 and it was destroyed in the process. Sounds like we were not the only ones with these sorts of issues. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say this was a 10 for sure.

    Ocelot 28909

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    The record setter Icon was briefly featured in the front page Here

    Kevin Welch's 65' Custom Bob Perry carbon fiber sled Icon has just crushed the 193 nm race Oregon Offshore race record
    by 4:50:21 held since 2000 by the Tom Wylie designed Rage! Following closely in her wake, another Wylie design
    the modified Fox 44' , Ocelot crossed the finish line 13 minutes and change later. The race is still very much still on
    and correct time winners will be announce soon.

    image © Jan's Marine Photography

    Icon's boat manager Ian Sloan reports that they had winds of 18 to 20 at start, increasing to to 20-25 then building to 25-30 with gusts to 35 later on the course!

    "We were well ahead of our routing" Ian said "With SE winds and and confused seas all the way to Cape Flattery. We pushed the boat as hard as we have ever pushed it, sending 6" inches of green water into the cockpit at times" Ian continues " It was the wettest ride any of us have ever had, with rain at the start and rain, heavy at times all the way up! With only 9 people on board, everyone was working all the time, so we never really got cold! "

    Swells maxed out in the 12-15' range and the boat averaged 15 knots all the way up the course...

    It really was a great race at the front between the three IRC boats. Ocelot was late to the start but came on strong, sailing past ICON and NC about 15-20 minutes after the start. Then we lost track of them in the rain/fog. We had to keep pushing pretty hard to stay ahead of the Car. It was touch and go in the Straits as the westerly filled, and though we thought we chose the correct side, it seemed as though NC and Ocelot always had more pressure on the south side. We finally converged about 15 miles from Race Rocks with ICON ahead by only a minute or two. Then the only gybe of the race on layline for Race Passage and we were able to hold NC off to the finish. Really a great contest.

    Ian Sloan
    ICON video on the race:


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    The SC 27 Blade Runner in upwind mode, Andy notes they did no "Leg Hanging" during the Oregon Offshore

    Blade Runner Report

    Andy Schwenk, business partner at Northwest Rigging in Anacortes Washington has 6 Oregon Offshores under his belt, and 22 trips across the Pacific and was part of the crew of the Santa Cruz 27 "Blade Runner" which corrected out to 1st overall in this years edition. The bright red Blade Runner was using this years race as a tune up for the Pacific Cup, in which Andy and owner Ward Naviaux will be competing. "I have never been in a race where it blew this hard for this long" Commented Andy "Most sailors in the PNW sail a lot in Puget Sound but not a lot of ocean time, and this race started off with insane conditions. With all the rain we have had this year, the Columbia River was flowing very high which created very confused seas at the start, that with already brisk conditions, some sailors hung over from the previous night and other seasick, made keeping it together a real challenge. We had 15-22 at the start which climbed to 15-25 shortly thereafter and by noon we were in 25-35." Andy adds.

    Andy and owner Mat along with Christa Bassett Ross and Alex Waldron were loaded with all the Pac Cup gear yet the buoyancy of the SC 27 kept the ultralight above the water for the most part. " We had a rooster tail s coming off the rails once we started planing" Andy says " We had talked about skipping the kites altogether at the dock and sailing wing on wing with a pair of 150%'s , but we thought better. The reduced kites on the SC 27's have an elevated foot, providing a lot of lift, that really helps keep the bow out of the water. We started with a fullsize 1.5 kite, changed down to the reduced kite in the mid morning and then just white sails for a while when things really got crazy, mostly so we could have lunch a rest a bit, then relaunched the reduced kite with the shackles taped. As things went more west we switched to the blast reacher which we carried to Duncy Rock!" Blade Runner completed the 193 nm race in just under 24 hours and corrected out for the overall victory, a corrected time of 15:17:31 some 16 minutes and 22 seconds ahead of the closest boat , the J-105, Free Bowl Of Soup and hours ahead of the big boys in IRC!

    Andy adds more color and information in his report:

    Once upon a time the Delta Ditch Run was simply a way for boats to get to Stockton for the South Tower Race. The Pacific Northwest has their own version of this phenomena. The Oregon Offshore Race started as group of boats headed North from Portland to Victoria BC for the annual Swiftsure yacht race held every Memorial Day weekend. That was 30 years ago. Now the CYC Portland organizes an army of volunteers in two countries and puts on a wonderful 193mi yacht race.

    The start is at the mouth of the Columbia River off the red #2 buoy, simply travel North 120 miles, take a left at Cape Flattery making sure to leave Duntze Rock buoy to starboard, another 70 miles up the Strait of Juan de Fuca and you're all done. The time limit is 72 hours and this year 30 boats turned up ranging from a SC27 to a SC-70. The fleet is comprised of the Oregon fleet as well as several Canadian and Washington yachts that deliver down just to wring out the water and turn around to race back home.

    The skippers meeting is hosted by the local ale house and the raffle assures almost everybody gets some swag. The start line is about 12 miles from the harbor and involves crossing one of the roughest river bars in the world, suffice it to say many is the sailor that has fed the local salmon before the race even starts.

    The start is timed with the tides, this year 8am with 15kt Southerly keeping things lively at the start. There was one small accident but the fleet quickly broke out their heavy kites betting on the predicted forecasts of building breeze swinging Westerly in the afternoon.

    A sharp lookout is required not only for commercial traffic, but two years ago a breaching whale took down the rig of a 35' and crab pots are thicker than the hair on a sail makers back. The fleet is a mix of primarily racers and a few cruisers on their way North to the cruising grounds of the San Juan Islands.

    The wind built fairly quickly and with the confused seas left from the river influence resulted in several yard sales and those that had them were considering if not setting their reduced size chicken chutes. The fun meters though moist from rain squalls were in the teens in no time and the Sc-70 turned in a 28kt run.

    Icon, a local Perry 65 proved a formidable opponent and a speedy Wylie 44, Ocelot stayed in touch. A certain amount of nylon was sacrificed and many competitors took the white sails option as the wind gusted into the 30's. The leaders clearly would make the 72hr time limit in fact every single boat was done in less than 42hrs.

    The wind went West in the afternoon and if you had a blast reacher now was the time to use it. The Cal 40, California Girl, J-120 and J-105's were in their element and the results reflected this. The leaders entered the Straits in daylight for the first time in modern history and even the smallest boat in the fleet was to the corner before midnight.

    The run down the straits was epic with several boats making it without even having to gybe. The rain stopped as the sun rose and still the wind blew. Of course the leaders were done long before with the Big Blue Show, Icon, making to the finish line in under 15 hours. Neptune and Ocelot were hot on her heels even the pesky SC-27's were done in less than 24hours by a whisker.

    The Canadian hosts meet each boat with a cooler of warm wet washcloths, champagne and a firm handshake. As the fleet at the dock grows so does the cheer as each boat joins the after a quick stop at the customs dock. The lights of the Empress Hotel and the Houses of parliament light up the harbor and the sailors drift off to watch hockey or baseball depending on their country of origin.