The Duwamish Head Race is the second race of the four race South Sound Series. This race is sponsored by Three Tree Point Yacht Club and starts at the Des Moines Marina breakwater. The course then heads north around Alki Pt into Elliott Bay, around the Duwamish Head light, west across Puget Sound to Blakely Rocks. After passing Blakely Rocks (leaving them to port) the course continues south to the finish off the Des Moines Marina breakwater. The total length is 30.8 NM. Even though this race is run in the middle of the winter, the winds are often light and the course has been shortened at the Duwamish Head mark several times since I started racing it. But this year, the forecast was for strong gale force winds and thunderstorms.
I was underway Friday morning at 0700 for the delivery to Des Moines. The winds were huffing at speeds to 30 knots. This created a rough wet ride most of the way to Des Moines. I arrived at Des Moines at 1040 and found an empty slip in the transient morning. By mid day other boats were arriving. I helped the arriving boats moor which gave me some time to kibitz with other competitors, many that I know from previous races. Surprisingly, only 19 boats arrived by the end of the day. Normally with this race, the boats are rafted across the harbor. And most of the boats were from the larger faster classes with only a few that were smaller boats from the slower classes. Maybe these people knew something?
All night the winds blew strongly from the SW. Occasionally, stronger squalls woke me with heavy rain and winds. A few times I turned on the wind instruments to see how hard it was blowing. The highest I saw was 35 knots.
At breakfast, the race committee was considering the conditions and said that they would meet to decide what action to take about the race. Sure enough, by 0900, a postponement was signaled. And by 0945, the race was cancelled before it was started. It is unusual that a race in the northwest is cancelled due to too strong of winds. But other factors entered into their decision. While we were waiting at the dock, lightning flashed to the south and even though the wind was only blowing at about 25 knots, gale warnings were forecast for later in the day. Had the race been started, the results could have been very skewed with most of the small boats unable to even leave the marina against the waves. In the year 2000, similar conditions and constant 40 knot winds also shut down this race. And someone said that it was also cancelled in the 80's for high winds. Most of the competitors were in agreement and several prominent boats left to go home even before the race was cancelled.
After the boat was cleaned up and the gear stowed, I started for home at 1015, which was coincidentally my starting time had the race been run. I thought I would use a small jib and sail back, but the crew had already put the sheets away, so I motored. With the wind behind and a favorable current, I soon rounded the north end of Vashon Island. As I approached Blake Island, the wind came forward and increased to 40 knots. The wind also brought a violent hailstorm and brought visibility to less than a quarter mile. The winds also heeled the boat 20 degrees with out any sails up. The squall cleared after about a half hour and the wind settled to only 25 knots for the rest of the trip home. I arrived back to Brownsville by 1315 and was home to watch the Seahawks play New Orleans.
It was still a great time to be out on the water and spend a night on the boat.
Although this looks strange, with my face fully covered, it was quite comfortable.
Following the hailstorm, it took a while for the hail to melt.