Sunday, June 26, 2011

Brownsville Race-WSSA No. 7

Saturday was the seventh(and final) race of the West Sound Sailing Association(WSSA) series. Going into this race, Dulcinea(J105) was the leader overall with us on Great White(J35) three points back. Prior to the last race around Blake Island, we had been leading the series by three points. More about that later.

The forecast was for light winds and sunny skies. The wind at the start was northerly at about four knots. We got an excellent start, close hauled at the pin end. On the beat to the Agate Pass mark, we started stretching out a good lead. "The Boss"(J35) went east and got a good lift toward the first mark, even though they should have been in more adverse current. They rounded the mark about 150 yards behind us. We had a good spinnaker set and headed toward the leeward mark at University Point.

"The Boss" had some good puffs and sailed past us. We jibed toward the west into better winds and closed some on "The Boss" near Battle Point. South of Battle Point, we sailed into a convergence zone were a new southerly wind was competing against the fading northerly wind. We put the jib up and tacked east toward Bainbridge Island and the new wind. We passed "The Boss" and set the spinnaker for what looked like a run toward the start/finish line. The wind lightened ahead and once again "The Boss" passed us. Then the wind came northerly again, so up with the jib and down with the spinnaker. We sailed above "The Boss", but the still sailed ahead of us to finish the shortened course in first. Thanks to my crew of Jim, Michael, Walter and Kathleen for the good work in this race and the series.

Following the race, an anonymous donor sponsored a post series party/barbecue at the marina's facility. The final results for the series put "Dulcinea" (J105) in first overall, "Great White" in second and "Emerald Lady" (Catalina 27) in third.

Complete results can be found here: and

Now for the "rest of the story". We were ahead in the series up until the sixth race(Blake Island Race, June 18th). The series allows one throwout for the series(best 6th of 7 races). We did not place well in the first race of the series in February and I had hoped to use that race as my throwout. But, I got an offer to race in the Van Isle 360, a 580 mile, 10 leg race around Vancouver Island. The last leg of that race started on 17June and we finished 18June. Obviously I did not race WSSA No.6, the Blake Island Race. I was scored as DNC(Did not complete) for that race and had to use it as my throwout and count the series first race in my scoring. Going into the last race, "Dulcinea" had 12 points and "Great White" had 15 points counting the first race. There was nothing I could do to finish the series ahead of "Dulcinea" in fact they did not even need to race the last race to win the series.

I have two "rules" to winning the West Sound Series:

1. Consistent good finishes.

2. Race every race.

"Dulcinea" followed both rules, I broke rule 2.

This was one of our best series yet. We had great speed and placings(except for the first race). I have raced the WSSA series since 1978 when it was started. I have won it six times in two differant boats. There is always next year!

We nailed the start: on time and up to speed right at the pin end with clear air! Photo: Ben Braden

Sailing into the convergence zone. We eventually passed "The Boss", but they passed us again and finished ahead of us. Photo: Ben Braden

Our course for the day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Van Isle 360 Race- Leg 10 Victoria to Nanaimo and it is finished.

The 10th and final leg of the Van Isle 360 is a 60 NM race from Victoria to Nanaimo. It is a challenging course. There are many options for sailing the course through or around the Gulf Islands: Boundary Pass, Active Pass, Porlier Pass and Dodd Narrows. Some, like Dodd Narrows, are big gambles. If the wind doesn't cooperate, you may not be able to sail through before the current opposes your progress.

This leg started Friday afternoon at 1500 off the Ogden Pt breakwater. It was blowing from the south at about 15 knots. We had a good start and a close reach along the shore toward Haro Strait. The current was flooding nicely and boosted our speed by several knots.

After sailing into Haro Strait, the wind came aft and we set the chute. We reached toward San Juan Island and then ran along it's western shore. We originally had planned to sail the longer, more conservative route through Boundary Pass, but when we passed Turn Pt on Stuart Island, the management started thinking about sailing the same route through the Gulf Islands that a lot of the lead boats were doing. Since we were at the bottom of the scoring sheet, a late decision finally prevailed and we headed east through Boundary Pass and into the Straits of Georgia.

The winds were light and variable most of the night and the early reports had most of the fleet stalled at Porlier Pass with adverse currents. Toward morning, the wind filled in from the east and we had a great spinnaker reach along Valdes and Gabriola Islands. We jibed at Entrance Island and we could see Nanaimo and the finish. But wait! The wind took this opportunity to go away and we set for several hours between Gabriola and Protection Islands. About 0830, I gave up the struggle and went down for a nap and within minutes, the wind filled in for the other crew and we sailed across the finish line Saturday morning at about 0930. Some of our competition tried sailing through Dodd Narrows and were stuck. As a result, we moved above the bottom of the standings. Leg 10 and the Van Isle 360 was over for 2011.

The dock was in full party mode with many of the crews still around. We went to a restaurant for a last crew breakfast. I then walked to the Greyhound bus terminal and caught the 1245 bus to Victoria. Of course the bus arrived in Victoria just a few minutes before the 1500 sailing of the Coho left for Port Angeles. I knew I would miss it and I did. So I went to a Starbucks for WIFI and then caught the 1930 Coho. After retrieving my truck from my cousin's house, I finally arrived home at 2345. A long day!

Here are some of my random thoughts about my Van Isle 360 experience:

It was busy! The days were full from early morning until evening nearly everyday. With boat prep, racing and then boat cleanup, finding shore side lodging, eating, etc. there was not much time left to explore.

Preparation is vital. Lennart(the owner) prepared Sjora well and had the necessary spares that we needed to keep her operating smoothly.

Shore support. In the early legs, we were short of shore support. We bummed space on other teams for our shore gear. Later when we had a vehicle and driver, I appreciated how well things could work. Thanks again Kim! One small team did not have any shore support. When we offered to help them by hauling some of their gear, their quality of life improved immensely.

Shore planning. Marion did a stellar job at arranging the shore accommodations. I originally thought I would stay mostly on the boat, but when I stayed in hotels, B&B's and Condos, I was able to destress and relax.

Van Isle 360 community. So many of the crews had done this race many times before and knew each other. It was like a large extended family, although a bit dysfunctional! Everyone helped each other with shore support, repairs and loaned equipment. I met a lot of people. Some I already knew, a lot I didn't.

The windy leg from Winter Harbor to Ucuelet. This was a challenging leg for a lot of boats. Some world class offshore sailors said that it was one of the worst beats they had seen. That says a lot. Boats were damaged, but fortunately nobody was injured and all but one boat made it safely to Ucuelet to continue the race(Tripp Tease had extensive sail damage and withdrew back to Port Hardy). I appreciated the Roll Call process that the Coast Guard implemented and the Coast Guard ship that shadowed the fleet. I think I weathered the conditions well. I did not feel ill. I was damp and cold at times, but surprisingly it was not that bad even with the water washing over us all the time. I was even washed down the deck once by a big wave coming onboard. Some of our crew did feel sick and one was incapacitated the entire time. As a result, I had to put in some extra time on deck and we did not have enough personnel on deck at times. After I got home, one guy at my marina(who has never done this race) made some comments that we should be expecting those conditions, so what was the big deal. History shows that this was somewhat unusual conditions. You had to be there.

Sjora Crew:

Lennart-Thanks for taking a chance on me. The boat was well prepared and capable.

Rob-It was great sailing with you. You ruled the foredeck well and I could always hear you! Just wished you had more stories to tell me at night in the ocean when I was having troubles staying awake!

Marion-Once again, your logistics support and planning was outstanding. I liked your mainsail trimming capabilities(we both were not afraid to let the traveller down) and wished we could have sailed the offshore legs together.

Bob-I saw you progress as the race went on and you gained confidence. You became a good spinnaker trimmer and with your "kung-fu" hands, you were a fast tailer.

Daragh-Your navigating duties, wind and currents analysis were outstanding. You kept us in the current flow and maximum VMG to the mark. Now if those darn helmsmen wouldn't be chasing lifts and headers....

Ole-You had Sjora pointing higher than anyone else. You also demonstrated how to "heave to" in big waves and wind. Even if you did not intend to!

Don-We did not click, but you made good lunches.

The finish at Nanaimo.

The crew of Sjora in Nanaimo. Lennart(in the front middle), Left to right: Ole, Daragh, Don, Rob, Bob, Me. Marion sailed with us to Winter Harbor and is not in the photo.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Van Isle 360 Race- Leg 9 Ucluelet to Victoria and another layday.

Leg 9 was a 100NM leg from Ucuelet to Victoria starting at 0900 on Wednesday. Much of this leg follows the return portion of a Switsure Race and I suspect most of the fleet was hoping for a downwind ride instead of the persistent head winds we had encountered.

The start was off Amphitrite Pt and is set between the point and a buoy offshore. The line is very skewed and we were forced out of the buoy end twice before we got started. Once started, we set the heavy spinnaker and had a great downwind run, once hitting 11 knots.As we started entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the winds lightened and started becoming more westerly. We were then headed down the straits with a nice reach. The wind lightened some more and we changed to the 3/4 oz chute.

Off Clallam Bay, the wind lifted, so we jibed onto port and then had a nice reach toward Race Passage. As we neared the pass, the wind built and with the flood current, we had nice speed over ground. After exiting the pass, the skipper sailed a close spinnaker reach high of the finish line at Victoria. The wind was gusty and we rounded up a few times.

About 1-1/3 miles from the finish, we sailed into a hole and after tangling halyards and sails, we sailed across the finish line with the windseeker. One boat behind(California Girl (Cal 40)) sailed the traditional Swiftsure Race course from Race Passage to the finish by sailing east a ways before heading to the finish and sailed past us while we were in the hole. We finished about 0240 Thursday morning.

Since we finished in a good time, Thursday became another lay day. The next start was not until 1500 on Friday. I stayed on the boat in Victoria's inner harbor and played tourist. I wandered up town and found a good place to eat lunch.

Red Fish-Blue Fish. A eatery built in a shipping container. Great fish tacos and good looking fish and chips. Also a very long line of customers!

Narrow alley in the international district.

Radical Departure, a One Design 35 from Vancouver. A guy I know from Silverdale said that he was going to be sailing onboard during the Van Isle, but never showed.

Boats moored in front of the Empress Hotel.

Ogden Point breakwater. This is one end of the start line.

Boats moored in front of the Empress Hotel.

Van Isle 360 Race- Ucluelet Layday

As the races for the Van Isle get longer, more time is allocated for all the boats to finish. If the winds cooperate, this can allow time in port between races. Since we finished in the evening, we had a complete next day to recharge and work on the boat.

Some of us woke early in the condo we were staying at and it became imperative for one thing, BREAKFAST! Daragh's daughter Kim had taken over shore support duties and she drove us to a small cafe for breakfast. Because of all the sailors in town, the place was jumping. After breakfast, Kim, Daragh, Bob and myself took a short hike around Amphitrite Point where we had finished the night before.

After our hike, it was time for lunch on the boat and a short list of work items as well as provisioning for the next leg.

The docks were busy with all the work going on. Many stories were told of fun times in the ocean as well as sobering tales of flooding, sickness and mechanical failures. While we were working, some 5th grade students came by for a visit and presented the skipper with gifts. Seems that the school children adopted boats and followed our progress.

In the evening, we had a banquet and awards presentation at the community hall. Yum! Grilled salmon again! This would be the last time that all the crews would get together and the whole affair was great. Over $8000cdn was raised for the Coast Guard Auxilliary who escorted us into Ucuelet after finishing. Broken parts from "Cinco de Mayo" were auctioned off to help the cause.

During our time in Ucuelet, I cannot say enough about the support that Kim provided the crew. When we arrived, we were tired and in need of showers. She drove us to and from the condo to meals(usually requiring two trips each) and the docks, ran errands and even cooked us breakfast on race day among other things. Thanks Kim for your tireless effort!

The Pacific Ocean and rocks around Amphitrite Point.

The Pacific Ocean and rocks around Amphitrite Point.

The Pacific Ocean and rocks around Amphitrite Point.

Amphitrite Point Lighthouse. The start for the next leg was here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Van Isle 360 Race-Winter Harbor to Ucluelet

This was the longest, toughest leg of the Van Isle 360. At 138 NM, and in the open ocean, it has the feel of a true ocean race. Pre race chatter had a lot to due with the predicted 25-35 knot SE winds forecast for race day.

The first real obstacle of this race is to clear Brooks Peninsula. This land mass juts out into the Pacific Ocean and is notorious for nasty conditions. Brooks is 20NM from the start at the entrance to Quatsino Sound. The race committee took some precautions and decided to move the start time earlier to 0700 to hopefully sail clear of Brooks Peninsula before the storm hit.

After a comfortable night ashore, it was tough to leave the dock at 0530 to motor to the starting line. The line is set between the Kains Island lighthouse and a buoy across Quatsino Sound, about a mile away. The wind was blowing out of Quatsino Sound. We had a great start about a 1/3 of the way down the line from the lighthouse. We had clear air and most of the fleet was much farther down the line.

Since the wind was outflow from the sound, it was a convergence zone to get to the SE wind that we could see offshore. So, for three hours most of the fleet battled through light winds and many sail changes. We went to spinnaker, wind seeker, back to the windseeker and then to No. 1 before we could generate enough speed to head out into the ocean.

When we reached the SE wind, it rose rapidly. Within 1/2 hour, we changed from No. 1 jib to No. 2 and then to No. 3 jib. After a couple of hours, we reefed the main. Later as the wind built, we reefed the main a second time.

All day and night, we beat into 20-25 knot winds. In addition, the rain poured out of the skies with a vengeance. The seas built, the boat pounded and lots of water came aboard. We had one crewman get sea sick in the afternoon and was out of commission laying in a bunk all night. Others felt queasy. We had three helmsmen and we rotated through two hours stints at the helm. The time at the helm passed quickly with the reward being a chance to warm up in a somewhat dry, warm bunk. All night the beat down the coast of Vancouver Island. It was wet on deck. Many times waves would wash the length of the boat filling the cockpit.

Early in the morning, we were still beating off Nootka Island and suddenly the wind lightened and shifted west. Like a switch was thrown, everything changed. We shook out the reefs, went to a bigger jib and then set a spinnaker. We then had a 60NM run to the finish at Amphitrite Point. The winds built to about 15 knots during the run. We finished at about 1900. After finding our condo, showering, eating a late dinner, we enjoyed a good nights sleep in beds that still seemed to be rocking.

This was a challenging leg of the Van Isle 360. With the wet and cold, crews that could stay focused performed the best. This raced included some sailors who are world class ocean racers and the chatter on the dock was that they thought it was really tough too. Some boats had damage. The trimaran "Makika" hit a whale south off Brooks Peninsula, broke the rudder, returned to Winter Harbor, repaired the boat, restarted the race and should be finishing the race Tuesday morning. Another boat broke a port in the hull and took on a lot off water before discovering the damage. Still others had various systems failures and another boat reported a crack in the hull. At least one boat went into an anchorage along Vancouver Island to wait out the worst.

Today(Tuesday) is a lay day to rest up, repair any damage and sight see before starting the next leg to Victoria tomorrow.

The run toward the finish at Amphitrite Point.
With all the appearance of a locker room, we had wet gear everywhere. We tried to sleep behind the lee clothes that kept us from being rolled out of the bunks.

These gloves are now ruined. Fortunatly, I bought new spares before the start of this race.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Van Isle 360-Telegraph Cove to Winter Harbor

Here are more of my random thoughts about the Van-Isle 360 race.

Day 6-Telegraph Cove to Port Hardy: After an early morning breakfast and coffee, we started the race at 0900. The wind was light and after 4 hours of racing, the fleet started motoring the 25 miles to Port Hardy. The race ends at 1800 and if 50% of the fleet cannot make it on time, the race is abandoned. There are no throw outs for this race and each race is "weighted" more as the races get tougher.

Day 7- Port Hardy to Winter Harbor: This is a 69 mile race and is the first foray into the ocean. It leaves Port Hardy, crosses the Nahwitti Bar, rounds Cape Scott and ends at Kains Island at the entrance to Quatsino Sound. The winds were light, but the day was sunny. We managed to get over the Nahwitti Bar and into the ocean before the current changed. We had a light beat across the north end of Vancouver Island and rounded Cape Scott as the sun went down. We beat into light SE winds and when the sun came up, we were 7 miles from the finish. It took us untill 0930 to drift across the finish line.

Winter Harbor is a small isolated community. The people are friendly and welcomed us here.

Tomorrow, the longest race to Ucuelet starts at 0700. This race is 139 miles. Gale warnings are forecast.

Telegraph Cove

Presenting the daily race flag to the city of Port Hardy

Port Hardy

Cape Scott, the most northwestern point of Vancouver Island. This was my third rounding of this notorious point of land.

Crewman Rob exhausted after the long race from Port Hardy

View of Winter Harbor from the house we stayed at

Boardwalk in Winter Harbor

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Van Isle 360-Nanaimo to Telegraph Cove

I am writing this after the first five days of racing in the 10 leg, 14 day Van Isle 360 race. This is a 580 nm race starting and finishing in Nanaimo BC and going entirely around Vancouver Island.

I have been busy and quite tired! The whole event rolls along like a big road show. Each day is filled with boat prep, racing, cleanup and socializing. Shore crews support many of the teams. I am racing on a Sweden 36 named Sjora with six other people. The boat is out of Victoria and I was asked to race on it.

Here are some random thoughts on the race.

Day 1-Nanaimo to French Creek: The race starts on the waterfront of Nanaimo in front of huge crowds then proceeds upwind for twenty two miles to the small harbor of French Creek. The beat was pleasant with warm weather and nice northwest winds. It took a long time with lots of tacks,

Boats at Nanaimo.

Welcoming party at Nanaimo

Day 2-French Creek to Comox: Again this was a race beating into the wind for about 25 miles. We also played the north side and passed a lot of boats that sailed into adverse current. We got second. Marion, our great organizer and mainsheet trimmer got us a place to stay in a families home with dinner and breakfast.

Day 3- Comox to Campbell River: Once again, another 25 miles or so of beating into the wind. The wind was consistent until we got near Campbell River when it puffed up strong. That was good because the current was starting to change against us. The First Nations people had a welcoming ceremony for the visiting sailors.

Campbell River

First nations children performing a welcoming ceremony dance.

Day 4- Campbell River to Deepwater Bay to Hardwicke Island: This day starts with a 10 mile motor through Seymour Narrows to the start in Deepwater Bay. The waters of Seymour Narrows really rips through the narrows. We had to hug the shore to get through against the current.

Today the wind was ripping! This is common for the Johnstone Strait area. WE saw winds to 30 knots and we sailed with a #3 and reefed main for most of the 28 mile beat. Now the wind was against a 2 knot current and it was very rough! The finish and overnight stay was at a salmon farming facility. They served us a great salmon barbecue dinner.

Hardwicke Island salmon farm.

The salmon dinner in the storage building.

Salmon barbecue.

The view from the salmon farm.

Day 5-Hardwicke Island to Telegraph Cove: The winds started strong and after two general recalls, we started 35 minutes late. All day the wind was up and down from 13 to 30 knots requiring several sail changes. We sailed fast all day, but finished 30 minutes after the 6pm time limit. Remember the 35 minute delay in starting? This leg was 44 miles of beating into the wind.

Telegraph Cove

My fashion statement: boots, white legs, shorts and polar fleece. This is usually covered with foulweather gear.