• Day 2: Seymour Narrows Comes Into Play

    2019 Day 2: Redlight/Greenlight with Seymour Narrows
    Clip of the Day
    24 Hour Fact Sheet
    photo credit: Drew Malcolm

    Unless you’re Joseph Heller or that crazy guy on the corner, stories are expected to be chronological. Establish a reality, create affinity with the protagonists, introduce conflict, create some sort of climax, and then resolve everything by the end of the third act. These things have rules. To the ‘Cant. Stop. Watching.’ chagrin of the bleary eyed tracker fans and families of anyone in the northern third of the race, Day 2 was almost over before it got started. Friday TLDR’d sunrise to sunset and fast forwarded to the cluster run of Seymour Narrows as nature applauded the third/opening act with the pink-for-forever, sky-on-fire sunset with no less than eight teams hitting the first tidal gate at Seymour.


    For the new kids in the class, more than the first of two checkpoints teams are required to pass through, Seymour Narrows is the legendary passage that is spoken in hushed tones that are equal parts frightened and reverential. Midway up the inside of VanIsle, Seymour Narrows is more or less the battleground where rising tides from the northern Queen Charlotte Sound collide with the waters of the Strait of Georgia. 100+ miles of water in each direction pulled by the cosmic force, gravity of the sun and moon, and forced through a channel slightly less than 750 meters wide. It’s a hydrodynamic rugby scrum between north and south, an oceanic pendulum that swings from stop to stop at a velocity of upwards of 15 knots…or something like that. Regardless of our best swing metaphors that clock in at less than adequate, Seymour is a force to be reckoned with. George Vancouver logged it as “one of the vilest pieces of water in the world,” and even after the largest non-nuclear explosion was engineered to make it less horrible by removing the worst of it, even cruise ships that pack 10,000+ horsepower into their bow thrusters alone still make a point to get through Seymour when the current is theoretically slack.

    For the R2AK’s pedal-powered set, unless the wind is howling the Narrows is a gate that closes when the water goes the wrong way. Miss the gate, you wait until it opens again—even if you’re Team Pear Shaped Racing and well in the lead on a high performance trimaran. The Pears were handily ahead. They had gotten into clear air the night before and gone from slightly behind to well in front of the downwind engine of Team Angry Beaver. Not an over-the-horizon runaway, but they steadily increased the gap between them and anyone/everyone behind them. Then the tide turned, the gate slammed closed, and Seymour’s aquatic treadmill kept increasing speed in the wrong direction until the Pear Shapes had to admit that despite their sailing faster than anyone, their boat was going nine knots to nowhere. Time to take a number and wait.

    At the same time, lower in the course the sun was shining on a downwind run that sent the chase pack north at closing speed; licking their chops and bunching up like your oldest pair of underwear on a sweaty jog. Teams Givin’ the Horns and Angry Beaver worked what back eddy there was on Campbell River’s far shore—stemming the tide at sometimes as little as a couple of knots toward the gate but more than the leader was able to make as they waited for the tide to turn. Not far behind, Team Sail Like a Girl showed their champion streak and had clawed back to close enough and were matching tacks with the global talent of Team Shut Up and Drive, all the while fending off solid PNW trimaran sailors on Teams Trickster and Narwhal.
    It’s hard not to personify the tide table predicted, yet somehow random, nature of this year’s gambit at the Narrows. In years past, the leaders have tended to fly through before the gate slammed shut on the rest, giving a ‘rich get richer’ lead to the first ones through; playing a less than egalitarian role in deciding who got the money and who had to fight it out for the steak knives. This seems to be an Occupy Seymour year, with the Narrows showing a Marxist streak and doing their best to level the field; playing the role of the fair-minded parent who measures out the sugar cereal so the kids won’t “IT’S NOT FAIR” when all that was left was the dregs and the oat bran.

    Going through is easy at slack, no different from any other narrows but you want to be within the 1/2 hour mark. What is hard is to go through or come back without the against current slogging on one of the stretches. In the narrows, steer toward the tongue of the current stream (east of mid-channel) to avoid the whirlpools and eddies north of Maud Island up to North Bluff.
    The strongest currents in Seymour Narrows are near where Ripple Rock was, slightly west of mid-channel, directly beneath the hydro lines between Vancouver and Maud islands. On a flood, the strongest turbulence will be along the west wall and in the area south of Ripple Rock. On an ebb, the turbulence – and the set – starts between Maud Island and Ripple Rock. The current sets northwest to the west wall..
    On major tides in slow vessels it’s prudent to be at the Maud Island light at slack or just a few minutes into the north-flowing ebb. If the slack is low water, be sure to arrive at the pass before the end of the ebb because slack here on large tides is not long – five to 10 minutes at most – and you'll want to be past Brown Bay before the south-flowing flood gets under way, which can challenge a slow boat. On a large flood, Seymour Narrows can reach 16 knots – no place to be in any kind of boat. Going with the current on max ebb,really shouldn't be a problem for experienced crews. .
    Have gone through at max ebb on a minus tide under sail in a 33' sailboat no problem. Sailed through the worst of the whirlpools easily, then just after coming out of the worst whirlpools, got caught in the first of the minor whirlpools, kept our speed up first jibing then tacking as we did one complete revolution and then sailed right out of it. Most experienced sailors shouldn't have to much of a problem with this. Going through Dent Rapids followed by Yuculta Rapids is more of a challenge then Seymour Narrows.
    Boomer Deep

    Seymour Narrows: “Now wait for the others dear…”
    Team Pear Shaped Racing: *kicks rocks*

    Overnight, Johnstone Strait, R2AK’s other sometimes sentinel antagonist, appears to have offered only a half-hearted shadow of the angry god playpen it’s been for teams in the past. Saturday night winds clocked in far shy of the 40 knot gales that routinely rage against Johnstone’s serious tides in what amounts to a ‘hold my beer’ reminder to Juan de Fuca of how the pros do it. That much wind against that much current; in past years the square-headed mountains of froth it’s created has littered its shores and these write ups with broken boats and sunken spirits; masts have snapped, rudders broken, carnage stacking up of all kinds and teams coming to their senses. This year, with winds predicted at 15 knots diminishing to 10, it’s more like the guy at the haunted house who just can’t get into character. “Boo, or whatever.”

    As the day dawns and the curtain closes on Day 2, Team Pear Shape’s superior boat speed has put some distance between itself and number two, but with Team Givin’ the Horns close behind, Team Angry Beaver on the dark side of the tracker (yes, we think it’s annoying too), and five more through the gate—who knows what the day will bring.
    36 hours into Stage Two, and the lead pack has been forced into a restart—eight teams through on the the first tidal gate (the most ever), two more teams on the next, and with 500+ miles to go, this looks like the race-iest Race to Alaska that we’ve ever had.
    24 Hour Fact Sheet
    • 12 teams are through the Narrows as of publication time
    • 284 miles between first and last place
    • R2Ache made it to graduation, cheers!
    Comparison of time it took leaders to get to Seymour Narrows:
    • 25 hours in 2016 for Mad Dog Racing
    • 33.5 hours for Pear Shaped Racing
    • 36 hours in 2017 Freeburd/Pure & Wild
    This article was originally published in forum thread: 2019 R2AK: Let The Games Begin started by Photoboy View original post