Wasabi headed North to participate in the 2012 West Vancouver YC South Straits of Georgia race. This race is run every year on Easter Weekend, one of the classic Pacific Northwest distance races: this race can serve up just about anything - from screamers like the abandoned 2010 race, to drifters like the 2011 race, it's always challenging. Wasabi sails it because of the abundant race course, and the change of venue from Puget Sound where we do most of our sailing. Face it: after countless Center Sound races, you've seen a fair amout of the same territory over and over again. Vancouver is very scenic to be sure, and the Straits long course, which goes all the way to Sisters Light, is a pretty nice tour of the central and northern Straits of Georgia.
This year the long-term forecast leading up to race day was looking pretty reasonable, but the closer we got to race day, the lighter it looked. Race day set up with a forecast that was basically light and variable until Saturday afternoon: not so great to be going to Sisters. Oh well. We motored out of Royal Van to the start and at least there was some wind. Not much. The start line is a not-so-tricky affair if you have done your homework on just how much the current is pushing you towards it, prior to starting. Its not a place to be over early! The long course boats all start together, then the medium, then the short course boats.
There was a big wind hole just past the start, which forced the first decision pretty quickly. Left or right? On Wasabi the initial choice was to go offshore instead of inshore, and that was forced a bit by Icon deciding to go inshore and having a good start that forced the hand of some boats. Otherwise things were farily uneventful and we settled into a light-air beat up the shore for the first hours, trading tacks with Dark Star for a long way, sticking to Icon and Neptune's Car like glue, and slowly extending on the fleet. This first leg - all the way to Ballenas - was a carbon copy of the 2011 race, which was to become the recurring theme throughout the 2012 race. The day was pretty nice, with breeze in the 2-5 knot range for the entire day. This is enough to keep Wasabi going about 3 - 6 knots boatspeed, and we made relatively good progress towards Sisters as the day progressed. It was really tenuous sailing but we patched it all together quite well. We left Dark Star in the late afternoon, and while Icon and Neptune slowly crept away, we ourselves got passed by Mad Max and only caught them when the breeze went aft a bit and we put up our code 0 for an hour. We got to Ballenas before sundown, which was actually ahead of last year's race schedule! Past Ballenas we parked up in a hole for a while and Max passed us, then we got going again, passed Max again, got to Sisters, and Dark Star caught us both here, riding more breeze on the eastern shore than we had had. So at Sisters Wasabi rounded just a minute before Dark Star, and both of us a few minutes before Mad Max! The moon was full and the racing was pretty cool!
After the rounding we headed over to the eastern shore for whatever breeze Dark Star had had to catch us again, and while both 44 footers got in a match race in 3 knots of wind, Mad Max went west and put 5 miles on us before we knew it! Gah! So now we chased them down again, in the wee hours of the morning, kites up, the slow work to the turn mark and on to Halibut Bank. It was too light to fly our A2, so this was mostly A1 work. To top it off, one of our crew had a fall and tore an ACL or MCL and was in serious pain for the rest of the race, so we had to manage that over night. By dawn, after a cold night with less wind than we had had in 2011, we had only made moderate progress on the course and were still on our way to Halibut Bank. We finally, and for the last time, passed Mad Max with our kite up half way between Ballenas and Halibut, and rounded Halibut Bank with perhaps 7 knots of wind from the North. It was a jib reach the first few miles back to Ballenas, but the N'ly went NW and it was a beat for the remainder, and the race was on to see whether we would reach Ballenas before the other long course boats still coming from Sisters! About 5 miles from Ballenas we passed through that fleet, all quite close to oneanother and clearly a good race going on there, with the Bravo Zulus seemingly doing pretty well, but a bunch of boats in the mix.
We were still within range of a podium finish at this point, as by our estimation Icon and Neptunes Car were only 10 miles ahead of us or so and we had our corrected time on them at this point: we saw them returning from Halibut on our way out. So Rounding Ballenas, Dark Star had pulled away somewhat, perhaps 2 miles on front of us now, and us a mile or more in front of Mad Max. Mad Max really sailing a lights-out race so far, Dark Star too! Once around Ballenas we finally got to go with the current and put up our A2 for the run to Entrace, which was uneventful in 8-10 knots of now-building Northwesterly. This was *still* a carbon copy of the 2011 race, and if we had learned anything then its that this Northwesterly would diminish in the afternoon and everything was turning time-critical. Up until this point we still were unconvinced we would finish within the time limit, but as the wind freshened the angles and pressure really turned in our favor, and the final leg from Entrance was post-card perfect cold-champagne sailing with the A4 up, in 12-15 knots of pressure, doing 11-13 knots of boatspeed! What a wonderful way to finish what had been a battle from the very start!
Dark Star was ahead of us now, legging out, but this was a great crossing on a real picture-perfect day so can't complain too much. We threw in a bunch of gybes on the approach as the current was sweeping very hard right-to-left at the end of the race and it was hard to get the boat to the finish line even with the current wind. We headed over to the inspection dock, did the quick inspection, and got into return-delivery mode, as we still needed to head over to Royal Van to drop everyone off and get the boat on it's way home to US waters.
Replay the race here: http://tracker.southernstraits.ca/
Last edited by rogue; 04-09-2012 at 12:53 AM. Reason: spelling
Why is it that Seattle boats bash this race? Perfect weather, killer views, and plenty of time to enjoy them. Our rounding of the first mark of the course took us something like 14 hours. So maybe that is a long time. But there were lots of boats rounding right about then, and actually all our mark roundings on the middle course were busy and competitive. And our romp home with boat speeds in the 8-10 knot range was worth every minute of frustrating light air beating. Maybe I am just stubborn, but this is a cool race...great hospitality by WVYC and close racing with a pretty damned even bunch of boats. Thanks to everyone who made it happen, and to the gcool fleet of boats that are regularly doing the distance stuff. We had a great time!
Got any good photo's? way go Graeme!
A little disorganization goes a long way toward fun sailing.