Monday, April 3, 2017

J/Crews Excel @ Seattle Center Sound Series

J/125 sailing Seattle offshore (Seattle, WA)- The Corinthian YC of Seattle just finished their Seattle Center Sound Series.  It is three weekends of sailing in March that consist of random-leg buoy races around the gorgeous Puget Sound.

The first race took place on March 4th- the Blakely Rocks Race of 16.57nm.  Then, on March 11th, the fleet sailed the Scatchet Head Race of 26.29nm.  The finale took place on March 25th- the Three Tree Point Race of 14.1nm.

In PHRF Class 3, Pat Denney’s J/29 HERE & NOW took home the silver with a very steady scoreline of 3-2-2 for 7 pts total.  The J/105 Class saw an excellent ten-boat turnout, with Erik Kristen’s MORE JUBILEE walking off with class honors, posting a 3-1-1 for just 5 pts total.  The real battle was for the balance of the top five, with Jim Geros’ LAST TANGO getting a 5-2-4 for 11 pts.  Just one point back was a tiebreaker between Jerry Diercks’ DELIRIUM and Chris Phoenix’s JADED, with DELIRIUM taking the bronze.  Amazingly, sitting only one point behind them to round out the top five was Dave Cohen & Lance Rummel’s INCONCEIVABLE with 13 pts.

In PHRF Class 6 that was loaded with classic 35 footers, it was Don & George Leightin’s J/35 TAHLEQUAH that placed 4th while Stu Brunell & Joe James’ J/109 TANTIVY took 5th place. PHRF Class 7 was won by Andrew Mack’s J/122 GRACE with a 2-1-2 tally for a mere 5 pts.  In 5th was her sistership, the J/122E JOYRIDE, skippered by John Murkowski.  In PHRF 8 Class, it was Shawn Dougherty & Jason Andrews’ J/125 HAMACHI that nearly took class honors, posting a 1.5-2-3 for 6.5 pts to take the silver by a whisker.  Ron Holbrook’s J/133 CONSTELLATION took 5th place despite not sailing the first race!

Finally, in ORC Class 9, the province of the big boys on Puget Sound, the famous, beautiful J/160 JAM from Gig Harbor YC, was ably guided by her owner/skipper John McPhail to a steady 4-3-4 for 11 pts, taking a fourth place as a result of a tie-breaker for third place.

J/125 Hamachi crewThe “dos amigos” on the J/125 HAMACHI (Shawn Dougherty & Jason Andrews) were posting a blog of their experiences for each race.  Read on and enjoy an “armchair race” with these guys as they weave in and out of the rocks and islands to overcome the fearsome currents and whirlpools on the Sound!

Blakely Rock Race Report
“The 2017 racing season kicked off March 4th with beautiful but cold weather in Seattle.  Sixty two (62) boats had assembled for the CYC Blakely Rock Race.  A week of storms dissipated leaving patchy blue skies, sun and the remnants of a southerly.  This was forecast to fade over the course of the race leaving everyone potentially in a drifter.  Our crew of Mikki, Alyosha, Steve, Lucas, Chris and Max (along with Jason and Shawn) assembled early to entertain the camera crew making Max famous over in China.  We were off the dock, cameras and drones in tow, and after the cameos set about to racing.  We hoisted the heavy #1 in the stiff morning breeze and quickly dialed the boat in.  Based on the pressure we decided to return quickly to the dock to pick up some heavier air sails in case things did not settle down as planned.  Back on the water, we quickly entered the start box for our start sequence (#8), which had the highest performing PHRF boats.  We started amongst the usual suspects and PNW powerhouses including: Absolutely (Farr 39), Terre Moto (Riptide 35), White Cloud (Cookson 12.5), Wicket Wahine (Melges 32), Madrona (Custom 40ft), and Freja (Aerodyne 43).

We had an average start and ended up behind traffic in bad air so we quickly tacked out and back to set up our lanes.  We worked up the east side along the Shilshole breakwater and then worked back west, making several tactical tacks to gain on our fleet, eventually moving out front with White Cloud.  The upwind beat in 8-10 kts left everyone fairly bunched as we approached Blakely Rock.  As predicted the wind began to fade causing people to make extra tacks as they rounded the mark.  We rounded abeam Terre Moto and immediately behind White Cloud and Absolutely.  Once around most of the fleet hugged the western shore searching for puffs of wind.  We moved out towards the middle of the channel seeking the benefit of the ebb tide.  A group of four boats including Hamachi, Terre Moto, Absolutely and Dos started separating to the east chasing our own pockets of wind. After a half-mile Terre Moto and Dos jibed back west towards the fleet, while we continued on with Absolutely on our stern.  Surveying the course, we clearly saw more ripples in Elliott Bay and along the eastern shore, but apparently, only Absolutely and us had this assessment, because no one followed us.

J/160 JAM sailing SeattleAs we continued east, the breeze slowly built.  We jibed to lay West Point as well as the northern mark and carried this breeze steadily north.  At this point only Absolutely and Hamachi were in the wind and we put serious distance on the entire fleet.  In fact, we were reeling in the two lead boats: Crossfire (R/P 55) and Smoke (TP52); which were several miles ahead at the time we rounded Blakely Rock.  Over the course of two hours, we pushed north following the wind line that was clearly only on the east side of the course.  The wind was directly out of the west so we were in a very tight reach and Absolutely eventually had to fly a jib, while we had our A1.5 cranked tight.  This allowed us to put additional distance on them, and we somehow kept gaining on Smoke, watching them round the windward mark about 0.3 miles ahead of us.  As we approached the mark, we put up our #1 jib and reached in and around.  In the process, we struck the A1.5 and put up the A3, which was now serving as our Code 0.  We were the third boat to round the windward mark (behind Crossfire and Smoke) and, with the exception of Absolutely and Wicked Wahine, the rest of the fleet could hardly be seen.

We now pushed south towards the finish making good time, as Absolutely worked north.  After 20 minutes, we came across the race committee boat heading north.  They hailed us on the VHF and asked us to call their cell.  They relayed that they had a conundrum as they were moving to shorten the course, with the goal of making the northern mark the finish.  However, now that we were around it (by this time so was Absolutely), they could not do that without giving us some consideration, or making the entire fleet sail the complete course.  Over the next 10 minutes, a weird phone dialogue/negotiation ensued as they worked to figure out what they were going to do.  The wind was fading and we had good boat speed, while Absolutely was parked behind us.  It was also clear that we would finish with plenty of time on Absolutely to take the overall PHRF win.  The race committee was not at the windward mark and did not have clear timing between the boats. Absolutely claimed that they had the time they rounded and also timed how far behind they were from our rounding - they said around five minutes.  We did not have times for either.  In this scenario, even with the shortened course, the race committee said that Absolutely could have won. We pointed out that we were now 0.5 miles in front of Absolutely, with 1.5 miles to sail, heading towards the finish at 3 kts while they were parked - in our opinion, we were clearly going to win (we were).  We were happy to finish the full course to prove our point, but this would mean everyone else would have to as well, and most would not.  After a final discussion with the race committee and then our crew, we decided that the best thing to do for the fleet was to shorten the course.  Further, in the theme of sportsmanship, we agreed to "share" the victory with Absolutely.  We were putting good karma (and good will) in the bank for future occasions.

When the results were tallied, only 28 boats of 56 in PHRF finished the course.  On corrected time, we (and Absolutely) finished 45 minutes ahead of 3rd place and an hour and 15 minutes ahead of the 4th place finishers. We were all pleased with the overall outcome, especially given this was only our second race and fifth day sailing Hamachi!” Head Race Report
“Scatchet Head has been a wet and windy gear buster the last few years, and we were hoping to get a good blow.  While the J/125 has a reputation as a bomber downwind offshore sled, all we have been able to do is test its inshore upwind abilities with the races to date.  We have been pleasantly surprised by the boats all around capabilities, but are getting anxious to "send it".  We were hoping CYC's Scatchet Head would deliver and the Pacific Storms were lining up.  In the end, the race occurred between two strong fronts, so all we saw was 10-15 kts oscillating between the SE and SW.  So, the "go big" moment had to wait, but the boat continues to earn the respect of the fleet.

Our crew of Chris, Mike, Adam, Steve and Mikki (along with Jason and Shawn) were off the dock early.  The heavy rain rolled in for the start and we set up for our first real downwind leg, albeit in lighter than desired conditions.  Given that we have never even sailed the boat in a downwind race leg (it's hard to count last week since we never saw more than 5 kts downwind), and we are new to asym spinnakers (the J/36 had a pole), we were making it up a little as we went - but that's how we roll.  We debated about the wind and the forecast to build...or not...and decided in the end to go with the A2 based on the color-coded crossover chart on our bulkhead (hey - if all else fails, read the manual...).

J/122e Joyride passes ferry in SeattleWe chose the west side (pin end) of the start and set off down the course in 10-12 kts.  We struck the #3 and hoisted our spinnaker staysail, only to find that the winds were too light and it did more harm than good.  We stayed west and were getting better breeze than the rest of our fleet.  The larger ORC boats started right behind us and the TP52s hugged the west side, as all the forecasts said it would be slightly heavier air there.  A group of us jibed to head farther west in search of this breeze, while the other half of our fleet kept on their lines to the east.  The wind was out of the SE so many of these lighter boats (Wicked Wahine - Melges 32 / Terre Moto - Riptide 35) were choosing to sail deeper lines to lay the mark.  After a short run to the west, we jibed back pointing mostly at the leeward mark up at Scatchet Head.  We spent a bit of time trying to find the downwind sweet spot, and found we were pointing higher and faster than these other boats, but in the end sailed a longer course.  The wind built to 15 kts gusting to 18 kts and we felt the boat's potential, but never really got it on a plane.  We all converged at the Scatchet Head buoy and, after a conservative takedown on our part where we gave up a little time; we rounded immediately behind Wicked Wahine and abeam Terre Moto.

We powered back up hill for home in 10-12 kts with our Heavy #1.  We dialed the boat in, making 7.25 kts through the water, and passed Terre Moto and then Wicked Wahine.  We pushed out to the west of the fleet to catch the incoming flood tide and stayed west of everyone.  About half way home there was a big wind shift to the SW, which we reached first.  This allowed us to point high and put some separation on everyone.  We had the ORC boats Jedi (J/145) and Jam (J/160) trying to reign us in and we were able to fend them off.  Within a mile of the finish, the next front overcame the fleet and the wind jumped up to 15-17 kts.  This allowed us to power along pointing incredibly high and cranked across the finish at 8kts.

We were the first PHRF boat across the line and fifth overall to finish behind the big ORC sleds: Crossfire (R/P 55), Smoke (TP52), Glory (TP52) and Neptune's Car (SC70).  On corrected time, Terre Moto was able to keep the gap small enough that they finished first in class while we took second.  Overall, this was not the race for the fast PHRF boats, as we corrected out to 22nd and Terremoto took 16th.  Through two races we are 1st in class and 5th overall.”

J/35 sailing off SeattleThree Tree Point Race Report
“Once again Hamachi is the fifth boat across the line behind the big ORC sleds and takes PHRF line honors. We correct out to sixth overall in the 58 boat PHRF fleet and 3rd in class. For the three race series we record a 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and finish the series 2nd in our division a half point behind Terremoto. Terremoto and Hamachi finish 1st and 2nd Overall for the CYC Center Sound Series.

After two marginal races, the weather was looking epic for a great March day of racing.  The rains would pause, the skies would clear, and the wind would fill in with 10-20 kts out of the south / southwest.  Going into the race, we had 3.5 points and were in first place, with Terremoto in second with 5 pts.  We knew that in heavy air we may have an upwind advantage over Terremoto so our goal was to load the rail and point it, hoping to leverage our heavy #1 in 15 kts to point high and fast.

However, on race morning there were a few conflicting weather forecasts with some indicating that a northerly would descend and shut off the wind around the finish.  Unfortunately, race committee got nervous about the weather forecast and decided to shorten the course, selecting Alki and Meadow Points as rounding marks.  This effectively cut the course in half.

We had a good start among the maneuvering boats and got clear air on the upwind side of the course.  The fleet charged west in 12-15 kts and our plan of big sails and lots of crew was paying off.  We pinned multiple boats on the inside but we all eventually ran out of water and had to tack back.

Absolutely snuck to the outside and came back on all of the boats now on port tack.  There was a lot going on and we didn't see them until the last minute and they had to duck us and called a foul.  We were in great shape up to that point, but quickly threw in a 360 and pressed on.  We all tacked out to Westpoint and there the boats divided.  We continued on into the channel to catch the now flood tide.  The fleet split with some continuing west while we decided to tack back east into Elliott Bay.  We could see boats getting lifted and stayed on the east side of the course up to the mark.  We traded a few tacks but most of our competition stayed west, and we caught a tremendous lift to sail straight to and then tack over to the mark.  This allowed us to get good separation from our fellow 40 footers.  We rounded, set the A2.5 and headed back for the finish.

J/125 Hamachi setting spinnakerHeading downhill we had 10-12 kts of wind, which means Hamachi is well below the point we could plane, but we still made 8-9 kts through the water.  We jibed east towards Magnolia, jibed again to make Westpoint, then jibed at Westpoint for the Meadowpoint buoy.  The forecast had the wind filling in from the south between noon and 1pm, and it was accurate.  Unfortunately, instead of riding this wind home from Three Tree Point, it meant that the slower boats in the shortened course were blown back up to the leaders.  We rounded Meadowpoint ahead of the wind line and then beat the short distance back to the finish line in the building breeze.  Like the previous weeks, we crossed fifth overall behind the big ORC sleds and took PHRF line honors.

In the end Terremoto and Absolutely used the building southerly to close the gap on corrected time with Terremoto finishing first, Absolutely second and Hamachi third in class.  Overall, those boats finished fourth, fifth and sixth in the 58 boat fleet.  On corrected time Absolutely finished 40 seconds ahead of us, so our screw up at the start became significant!! Yuuuge, some might say!!  We wish we could have sailed the long course, because the weather would have played to our advantage, instead of detriment - but that's sailboat racing!

We compiled some of the GoPro footage from the three races into a summary.  Only sailboat racers can watch videos of sailboat racing.  Most people find it equivalent to watching paint dry…  Enjoy!”   The J/125 HAMACHI total immersion YouTube sailing video is here- CLICK ME NOW!! :)

Follow the J/125 HAMACHI on Facebook here.  Or, on their HAMACHI blog here.  Sailing photo credits- Jan Anderson   For more CYC Seattle Center Sound Series information. Add to Flipboard Magazine.