Monday, February 23, 2015

Toliva Shoal(not Shoals) Race-Feb 21, 2015

It is February and once again the crazy sailors are released from the asylums and they make their way south to Olympia for the Toliva Shoal Race. This is the third race in the four race South Sound Series. It is a 37.4 NM distance race from Olympia to the Toliva Shoal buoy and return through Balch Pass and other narrow passages. Even though it is still winter, this race has a reputation for light winds and shortened courses. I enjoy this race even with sometimes cold, wet, windless conditions. I must be one of the crazy sailors!

My race started on Friday morning when I got underway for Olympia. Even though the currents were not favorable, I chose to get underway very early in the morning. I was underway at 0415. Even though the current was against me the entire distance, I practiced current evasion techniques and arrived at Percival Landing at 1310. The day was actually quite pleasant and warm.

That night Olympia Yacht Club hosted a pre race party and dinner of prime rib with several veggies and salads. After a quiet night on the boat, I again went to the Olympia Yacht Club for their hardy breakfast. After the crew arrived, we talked weather. All week, the prediction was indicating NNE winds to 14-16 knots for the South Sound. The crew that came from Kitsap County confirmed that the winds were blowing well through the Narrows.

We got to the starting area just as the winds started to fill in. Soon it was blowing in the lower teens and gusting higher. We considered the heavy no. 1, but looked around at the other boats and determined that the No. 3 was the better choice. As we sailed around the starting area, I failed to notice that the starting sequence had been compressed and at what should have been 6 minutes to go was really one minute. I was able to sail around the boats closest to the starting area and get a mid line, second row start. 

The wind was somewhat NE and we carried one tack down the west shore of Budd Inlet. Whenever we thought of tacking, the wind would lift and increase. We were slightly underpowered, but by the time we reached Dofflemeyer PT, the winds had increased to the mid teens.

 We had a great beat out Dana Pass with now favorable current and rounded Johnson Point for the reach to the Number 3 marker. The wind was too far forward for us to set a spinnaker until we were about halfway to the marker and then we only flew it for about a mile before we had to take it down. Rounding the marker, we again were close hauled on one long tack along the Nisqually Flats before tacking toward Ketron Island. We tacked several more times until we rounded the Toliva Shoal buoy. By now, the wind was steady at about 16 knots.

We rounded the buoy and set the spinnaker for the run toward Balch Pass where the current would be starting to flood. Often with a northerly, this would be a reach, but with so much easterly, it was a run and the wind stayed fairly steady through the pass. A couple boats had spinnaker issues and we passed them. We had a great run down Drayton Pass. At Devils Head, we could see a lot of boats  go wide, but with the easterly bent to the wind, we chose a tighter course around Devils Head and reached toward Johnson Point. Unlike previous years with northerly winds, we were able to carry the spinnaker on a close reach to Johnson Point. We had gained on a boat ahead and thought we could catch them. 

But then some silliness happened. A sport boat from another class came planing up to us and tucked in close to our leeward side. With their asymmetrical spinnaker, they were sailing on a much higher angle then we would have liked to have sailed. But every time they would make a run at going under us, they would be blanketed by our sails and we would forge ahead again. And we were sailing away from the boats in our class that we thought we could catch. We finally convinced them that they were not going to make it through our lee and they jibed away only to jibe back and try it again with no success. We finally "stopped" our boat by luffing the spinnaker to finally let them go by so that we could jibe back toward our competition who had now gained on us. The boat that was messing with us went right and tangled with another boat before getting straightened out. Funny thing is that they came close to correcting on another boat in their class. If they had not been so insistent with trying to get by us, they might have saved their time and moved up one more spot. Strange!

So back to the race. We had a good run down Dana Pass and after a last jibe at Dofflemeyer Pt., we had a close reach up Budd Inlet where we finished at about 1612.

We motored in to Percival Landing, cleaned up the boat and went to the Olympia Yacht club for some post race soup. I started home at about 1800 and had a fast motor home with a now ebbing current and arrived back at Brownsville at 0100 in the morning. The sky was perfectly clear and the starts and planets were intensely visible.  

It was a great weekend for a race. The temperatures during the race were warm, the sun was out during the race and the winds were pretty consistant. Thanks to my crew of Tom, Jim, Michelle and Rainer for working hard at keeping us heading in the right direction. And thanks to Olympia Yacht Club for the great hospitality.

Results can be found here: Toliva Shoal Race Results
And report and pictures here: Toliva Shoal Race Site

Our track for the day. With the favorable current, we had great tacking angles! From Nisqually Reach to Toliva Shoal, we stayed on the right side. Those that went left after Lyle Pt did not do as well.

 Here we are just after the start just ahead of Grace E.
Photo Credit: S. Nelsen
Fast reach toward Dana Pass.
Photo Credit: S. Nelsen