Friday, November 29, 2013

J/Sailors Enjoy Round the County

(San Juan, WA)- 89 boats made it out for Orcas Island’s annual romp around the San Juan Islands, well they made it out and a few made it around, some almost made it, and most just didn’t have a chance. Boats began their deliveries as early as Wednesday, some chose the rippin’ southerly on Thursday to make the trip, with Here & Now breaking their boom on the way up, and a large group made the trip in the sedate conditions on Friday. Beginning what for many is a four day marathon – delivery on Friday (often a 50 mile delivery), head out at O-dark-thirty Saturday to get to the starting area and then the 34 mile sail from Lydia Shoals to Roche Harbor, head out just after sun up Sunday for the 31.4 mile sail back to the finish inboard of the Lydia Shoals Buoy, then deliver back home on Monday. What seems like a short race around the San Juan’s quickly develops into over 200 miles of deliveries and racing in what is usually 40 to 45 degree fall weather – yet still 89 boats made it out to race.

The current was flying at the start on Saturday. The fleet had winds out of the North but with a current of 3 knots heading into the wind the boats had some good power heading off the starting line. The problem became holding position before the start, timing it just right and spinning around at precisely the correct moment to fly across the line with the current. 34 boats in the first start barely making headway against the current on the non-course side then spinning around and charging towards the start with really no way to bail out if things went wrong. Inevitably some spun too early and with 6 boats OCS the race committee decided to call a general recall instead of naming the boats that were over early. Everyone spun around as quick as they could, fired up their motors and began the long slog against the current to get back across the line for another try. 20 minutes later they tried again and this time the RC let ‘em go, but that 20 minutes became a huge loss on a day that had a large group of boats not make the halfway point at Patos, 8 boats missing the time limit by just 5 minutes or less.

Muffin quickly charged into the lead after the start and worked a bit East before heading North around the Pea Pods - looking great, but as they approached Orcas the wind just crapped out and it became painfully apparent that the further East you went towards Lummi the more wind you had. More wind, but not much wind, and with this information Here & Now, More Uff Da, and Chinook worked well up the course on the right before the faster boats began catching up and working through the early starters. Dragon Fly, of course, defied the logic of the right and worked through low along Orcas and Clark with Neptunes Car, Wasabi & Flash hot on their transoms. Eventually, though, it became a race against the clock in the light air, and since the tide waits for no man, the current eventually went against the majority of the fleet and spun them every which way.

Boats that had made it past Sucia and up to the South end of Patos without rounding Alden Point got swept back with the change in tides. Some scooted through the large gap between the islands and began the slow slog up into the eddy below Patos but Bravo Zulu & More Uff Da were lucky enough (thick sarcasm) to find the river along the North end of Sucia Island. The current sucked their transoms closer and closer to the island until they were just feet away and charging sideways towards the west at over 2 knots – testing their nerves to the point that motors were readied and eventually fired up and engaged on both boats to avoid ripping the rudder off on the jagged cliff wall - An exciting few minutes for the two adrift boats. Bravo Zulu decided to throw in the towel here but More Uff Da killed their motor after one boat length and kept racing, but in the end missed the halfway point by 5 minutes. Soon after the excitement along Sucia, the Northerly finally filled in and everyone worked their damnedest to make Alden Point before 4pm. Chinook almost made it, missing it by just over 30 seconds with Por Favor just behind them. The RC could be seen packing things up on shore as boat after boat sailed around the point and aimed their bows towards Roche and another 2 hour delivery to the marina.

The party tent was hoppin’ and bouncin’ as everyone arrived at the marina, most well after dark and with a break in the live music the short list of finishers was rattled off, and I mean short list. One boat made the full course finish in the Multi-hull class and only 2 boats made the halfway point. The IRC division had 6 of 10 boats making it to the full course finish with Wasabi crossing the line first at 5:08:47pm. Division 0 had 1 boat finish the long course, The Farr 395 Ace, finishing with less than 5 minutes left on the time limit. 11 of the 20 in Division 0 made the halfway point. Division 1 had just one boat make the halfway point, the Express 37 Ptolemy. Division 2 also had just one boat make the halfway point before time ran out at 4pm, the 30/30 Blackout. The 16 boats in Division 3 didn’t have enough steam to make it to the halfway point by 4pm, many missing it by less than 5 minutes – that over early call really came back to bite them at Alden Point.

Sunday was different, the racers had wind, the current didn’t seem too bad and off everyone went from the start line near Snug Harbor. Boats shot out into the lead by working down the shore of San Juan Island, with Madame Pelle & Muffin leading the way. The closer you got the better you did. Although the big benefit was in making it to the Canadian shore from the starting area and then joining the incoming tide in the straits, but most of the early starters simply didn’t have the boat speed to cross the current and get to the huge benefit that Martha & Por Favor caught by working west. The bail out point on shore was obviously Lime Kiln Point. Every boat that bailed off the shore there and headed west made out huge, if you made a few more jibes along the shore you got stuck in the way back machine watching your competition pin wheel around you towards Cattle Point.

Still sailing along downwind, the racers had to make a serious tactical decision passing the South end of the islands. Follow the rules in the SI’s and sail within ½ mile of Iceberg Point so their halfway time could be scored while setting themselves up in light air and adverse current, or ignore the SI’s and stay well offshore in favorable current and breeze, ignoring the halfway time and hoping to make the full course finish. A tough gamble at the time, although in the end it didn’t matter for those fleets that used the halfway times as the RC decided to score everyone no matter how far offshore they were.

The leaders in the IRC & Multi-hull divisions got around Davidson Rock and into Rosario near slack water and were able to work their way up the strait in a nice northerly breeze to begin finishing at 12:15pm but the later it was when you got around Davidson Rock the harder time you had in making the finish. Division 0 began finishing at 2:50pm and the first boat in Division 1 didn’t finish until 4:30pm and the leader in Division 2 finished at 5:06pm! The current was rippin’ out Rosario towards Juan de Fuca as the majority of the fleet worked north towards the finish. The left shore worked great early and boats sailed along Jones to Blakely and then found themselves in everyone’s favorite hole to the North of Blakely island. The later boats made huge gains by sailing across to the right and along Cypress, at times in positive current until cutting across to Lydia Shoals and joining the drifting masses as the sun set and everyone spent the final painful hour trying to get to the finish well inshore of the Lydia Shoal buoy in little to no wind and adverse current. As the clock ran out at 6pm three boats had made it across the line in Division 2 and Martha had the line in site with More Uff Da hot on her tail after working up the Cypress shore and across to the Lydia Shoal buoy.

It was a tough day on a tough weekend when at moments boats made amazing tactical choices to get far ahead of their fellow racers only to run into an equalizer and watch everyone catch up or simply ran out of time within sight of the finish. 8 boats managed to finish the full course on Saturday and 40 boats managed to finish the full course on Sunday. It didn’t rain much, it never snowed, the racers were in the San Juan’s, and absolutely no one out there spent the weekend mowing their lawn or raking up leaves – another successful Round the County!   Full sailing results can be found at the Round the County website   Sailing Photo's by Jan Anderson