Saturday is the Blake Island Race. It was the sixth race of the seven race WSSA(West Sound Sailing Association series. This race starts near Pt Herron, goes through through Rich Passage, around Blake Island(either direction), leaves Bainbridge Reef Buoy #4 to port and finishes off the Port Orchard marina. This race is sponsored by Bremerton Yacht Club and has a history of at least 40 years.
The weather forecast is calling for sunny warm weather, but winds of only about 5 knots or less. The direction in one model is variable, but others indicate NNW shifting to NW later in the day. The currents are somewhat favorable with a nice ebb most of the day turning slack at the East End of Rich Passage at about 1500. And to make things interesting, Seattle Yacht Club is also running their Blake Island race at the same time!
Here is what I would do. At the start, based on the weather, I would make a start at the pin end of the line and tack to port as soon as possible. This should get me into favorable ebb current as well as what should be the favored tack. Approaching Rich Pass, I try to head toward marker R10 in the stronger current without sailing too close to Bainbridge Island and into the back eddy along the shore. With a NNW wind, it may be possible to sail through straight through the pass. Whatever the case, I would give Pt Glover a wide berth to avoid the back eddy along that shore. From there, I would tend toward the north side of the pass if the wind cooperates and head through the pass between Orchard Rocks and Bainbridge Island. Exiting the pass, I would be careful not to get caught in the back eddy east of Beals Pt. From here, it could be a nice reach or run to the NE point of Blake Island. Since the current could still be flowing strongly out of Colvos Pass, I would jibe into the shallow bay along the east shore of Blake Island for current avoidance. After working along the shore, I would head around the SE point of Blake Island, giving it a wide enough berth to avoid the nasty rocks. After clear of the point, I would parallel the shore riding the west flowing current.
ALTERNATE TACTICS: Since this race allows the racers to round the island in either direction, some people try the counterclockwise rounding. Frankly I have only seen this work once maybe twice. The tactics are a lot like the Rich Passage Ramble Race. With the light winds predicted, you should sail a low course toward Southworth to avoid the current. As you near the shore, you should find a nice backeddy. Sailing on east, you can find the north flowing current which will help you flow past Blake Island. This is ussually a flyer in this race and I have only seen it work when the wind died and boats on the east side of Blake Island could not sail south through the current.
Back to how I would do it. Ok, you have cleared the SE point of Blake Island and sailing west with the current. The wind could be very light hear and ahead. I might give some more distance with the island to avoid the back eddy around the moorage field, but head up if possible to cut the west point close and get into new wind. The course to buoy R4 could be a beat. When you reach R4 a decision needs to be made. If it is much before 1500, the current could still be ebbing and I would sail toward the south shore. If it is flooding, I would sail north of orchard rocks. From Rich Pass, it should be a straight course to the finish at the Port Orchard Marina. I would probably stay more toward the east and stronger current. I would also be cautious of a large whirlpool combined with no wind just to the south of the pass entrance. Many of these races have been won and lost there.
There it is, my opinion. Take it or leave it, but what ever you do, have a great race!
The current predictions for the West and East entrances of Rich Passage.
Here is the currents predictions for about 1330 based on a low of -1.2 FT.