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Thread: 2018 Race To The Straits: PNW Shorthanded Bliss

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    2018 Race To The Straits: PNW Shorthanded Bliss

    Race to the Straits, For Racers to Enjoy and Clubs to Notice. Plus, a Serious Injury on the Trip Home
    by Kurt Hoehne

    "At what point will the other clubs take notice?"

    This question came out with all of Nate Creitz' overflowing, bubbling, enthusiasm for last weekend's Race to the Straits (RTTS). The double and single-handed Sloop Tavern Yacht Club event from Seattle to Port Townsend and back (with an overnight in the unique sailing town Port Townsend) hit its limit of 125 boats several days before the race, and it's no wonder. The atmosphere before, during and after the event is special. Let's get to his question later. First, the race.

    all pics©Jans Marine Pics

    The Leg North
    It was hard to find a frown in Port Townsend Saturday afternoon. The fleet had just spent 4-6 hours beating in 12-18 knots of breeze all the way from Seattle, with a boost from a strong ebb much of the way. The winners, of course, had something to smile about. But the staggered start (starting times reflecting each boat's time allowance for the race) meant that the slow boat crews got to watch as much of the fast boats came thundering by.

    Kirk Utter and crew Pete Dorsey didn't get to enjoy that. Since Utter's early 1970s Cal 33 Teaser II is one of the not-as-fast boats at a PHRF of 153, he was one of the early starters. And in a breeze upwind that Lapworth design just rolled on through the earlier starters and stayed well ahead of the later starters. "She just loves that stuff," reported Utter. Carrying the #1 from start to finish, Teaser II showed a lot of folks who weren't born before her that old boats are not necessarily slow.

    Following Teaser II, the next monohulls in were Carl and Carol Buchan's Madrona and Frederic Laffitte's Kyrnos which finished virtually overlapped.

    The multihulls flew in the conditions. The Corsair F28R Aliikai was first to finish of all the boats, and Corsair F31R Freda Mae was the second catamaran in.

    The winds were perfect for those non-overlapping headsail boats that could keep up the performance by flattening out the main and not change headsails (or have to sail with the wrong one up!) Boats like Madrona, the J/120 Shearwater and the J/105s all thrived. Boats like the Evelyn 32 Poke and Destroy and a trio of Santa Cruz 27s were stuck changing down to #3s when the wind built and changing back up to #1s as the wind lightened up near the finish.

    There was the usual puzzle of fitting everybody into Point Hudson, and nearly all the fleet fit. The classic Q boat Grayling had engine issues that required a tow.

    Somewhat surprisingly, there were at least three collisions out there including one between Mark Brink's Tonic and the quarter tonner Bingo that resulted in Bingo's DSQ.

    Boomer Depp's video from Saturday:

    The Return Leg
    The race back to Seattle presented a different challenge - the beautiful northerly of Saturday teased the fleet with some great conditions that disappeared at times and the wonderful tides of the day before played havoc with the fleet, especially getting around the Double Bluff buoy.

    The orca J-pod made an appearance in Admiralty Inlet, presumably to help Dieter Creitz with his orca science project at school.

    The conditions meant a lot of gybes seeking out the right breeze while staying out of bad current. It took a toll on all these shorthanded crews, especially in the flying sails classes, and especially in the flying sails/singlehanded class. In that class, Different Drummer's Charles Hill figured neither he nor anyone else was going to finish the full course by the 7pm time limit, so he quit just a bit early. Sure enough, Bill Gibson on Latitude stuck it out, and finished before the deadline to take the class win for the weekend.

    That was a theme for much of the fleet on Sunday. Where few if any were expected to finish the full course, several did in a building southerly. "It was really weird," Alex Simanis reported. "We were trying to stay away from Edmonds but ended up there and did quite well, finishing within the time limit on our light #1."

    Not so, however, for everyone. Father Nate and son Dieter Creitz missed finishing the full course by 7 seconds, with Dieter counting down the time. As nobody finished in Class 5, the class was scored for the halfway finish and Three Ring Circus won handily anyway. There were no finishers in classes 2, 4, 5, 6, and 11.

    But it was Ben and Jen Glass on the lightweight Ocelot that mastered the light downwind work on Sunday, finishing about 25 minutes ahead of Madrona among the fastest monohulls. Madrona had a fresh crew, with Dalton and Lindsey Bergan stepping in while Carl and Carol Buchan stepped away.

    The results show a familiar list of winners including Madrona overall, Al Hughes on the ex-BOC boat Dogbark in the non-flying sails class, Moonshine, Tonic, Dennis Clark (btw, Dennis, give the boat a name), Poke and Destroy, and several others. But the thing that is truly special about this race is how welcome everyone feels, even the skippers who aren't the serious types and the boats that haven't seen a new sail in 15 years. There were kids, dogs, dodgers, grills hanging off about half the rails, moms and pops, and liveaboards. There's no doubt each and every one adjusted their expectations for the racing part and had a great time pursuing them.

    The Question
    Now, regarding Nate's question about when will other clubs notice and copy the success of Race to the Straits.

    I'm pretty sure they have noticed. In my experience, the traditional clubs have a hard time changing course. It is not like destination racing and shorthanded racing haven't been mentioned before. (they have, multiple times) But there's something special in the Sloop Tavern mindset that the leaders responded "why the hell not?" and just did it. Make no mistake, it's a logistical challenge get all the staggered start times, provide the not-usually-a-racer crowd with ratings so they can do this one event, dealing with the folk in Port Townsend (who are eager hosts). Add to that a pizza punctuated skippers meeting and the big dinner Saturday night, and it's a lot of work. But it sure seems the STYC folk are having fun doing it!

    Maybe the task is too daunting for clubs used to doing everything from Seattle?

    I'll add a question to Nate's: When will the sailors come up with some new courses and new formats? For whatever reason, the round-the-buoys race until you drop thing just isn't as appealing to many keelboat sailors as it used to be while the less predictable, more organic racing like RTTS, Round the County and Van Isle 360 thrive. Personally, I think there are places for both. But in the end, no matter how intransigent the clubs are, it's the sailors who get to decide. Want more shorthanded racing? Multiple stages? Season Championship series? Build it and they will come. Or not.

    Is there the will to energize the racing scene with some altered or new events? Perhaps not. Last fall's survey indicated there is the will.

    But judging from the scene at Port Townsend Saturday night and on the Sound both days, the excitement seems to be there.

    Bad News For Dan Randolph
    Dan Randolph on Saturday.

    The details are still a little unclear, but our fellow racer Dan Randolph suffered a serious accident while motoring his Farr 30 Nefarious home on Sunday afternoon. Randolph and a crew member apparently hit a gray whale, hard. Randolph was sent flying forward into the boat, and reportedly broke some ribs. He was in the hospital Monday. At this time, I haven't been able to get many details, but I'll be seeking those out in the coming days. Our thoughts are with him.
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  2. #2
    The crew of Nefarious are lucky the whale did not take exception to their rights violation.

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