Saturday, May 12, 2018

Oregon Offshore Race Preview

J/105 sailing Oregon Offshore race (Portland, OR)- An interview with Dennis Damore about the 2018 Oregon Offshore International Yacht Race gives you a great perspective regards why the event has continually attracted members of the Pacific Northwest offshore community (thanks for contribution from David Schmidt).

If you’ve ever looked at a chart of the Oregon and Washington coasts, you’re familiar with the fact that this gorgeous stretch of shoreline gets hammered with weather, both in terms of the long-fetch seas and the storms that barrel in across the open Pacific. These waters can be millpond-calm on some days, but things can get nasty quickly, and while this is true of many areas, the rugged coastline is largely void of harbors to dodge the weather.

Because of this, entering the Corinthian Yacht Club (CYC) of Portland's Oregon Offshore International Yacht Race (May 10-13, 2018) gives skippers and crews a great coastal and open-water adventure while also exposing them to the kinds of preparation needed to engage in bigger events such as a Hawaii race.

Oregon Offshore race courseThis 193-nautical-mile race starts in Astoria, Oregon, and finishes in Victoria, British Columbia, giving sailors a taste of everything from offshore conditions to the tricky currents that flow through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, while also treating them to one of the most visually stunning racecourses in North America (provided, of course, that the old-growth forests and glacier-capped peaks aren’t shrouded in cloud cover).

This year’s fleet includes boats from two countries and multiple U.S. states, it ranges in size and sophistication from modest 30-footers to a 70-foot sled, and the race has set up a crew bank for sailors looking to catch rides from Oregon to Canada. Here is the interview with Dennis.

DS: The Oregon Offshore has a bit of a reputation as a gear-buster race that is often defined by rough weather—is this fair and if so, is the Oregon coast always a washing machine?

DD: Although the race is called the Oregon Offshore, it really only starts off the Oregon coast and then heads north along the Washington coast to the Straits of Juan de Fuca and then on to Victoria, BC. Like any true offshore race, the conditions are extremely variable. We’ve had years of pounding up the coast contrasted with races, like last year, where it was a downwind ride with squalls setting the pace. We’ve seen dead flat calm off Destruction Island and almost everywhere in the straits at various times. We’ve finished in foulies and in shorts and T-shirts. So, gear-buster? It’s not any more so than any other race. It’s a race of contrasts in scenery, weather, and tactics.

DS: How are your numbers looking this year versus previous recent editions? Also, what percentage of your 2018 fleet is American vs. Canadian (or other international entries) and is this percentage typical of this event?

DD: This year is gearing up to be a well-participated race. We average about 20-25 boats each year. Roughly 40 percent are Canadian, with several more from the Seattle area. Right now we are feeling pretty good that 30 percent of this year’s entries are first timers from out of state. We have been focusing on a grassroots marketing movement that seems to finally be paying off. Our best performance was in 2014 with 30 entries, and we happened to get epic wind conditions for that race.

DS: Strategy wise, what are the biggest considerations of the race’s 196 nautical mile course? What about tactics? Are there any bits of the course that typically require all hands on deck, say for a 0200 hours tack or gybe?

DD: This is a navigator’s race. What makes the Oregon Offshore a unique experience is that, from a tactical perspective, it is really three distinct races in one: the race up the coast, the race down the straits, and the passage through Race Rocks to the finish. Each segment has very different tactical considerations. After the start, in a typical northwest breeze, there are current and wind-shift considerations that can be challenging. Some years, boats stay within miles of the coastline, carefully avoiding crab pots and jutting-out landmasses like Destruction Island. Other years, we will see boats out twenty miles or more. After entering the Strait [of Juan de Fuca], knowledge of the tide conditions and being able to anticipate the direction, timing and strength of the typical Westerly [breeze], coupled with the critical decision of when to cross to the Vancouver Island side, require a whole new set of tactics to avoid shipping lanes and current, and to maximize wind angles. Then comes Race Rocks with the decision to cut through or sail around that [waypoint] can make or break the race. This is most likely going to be your 0200 hours, all-hands-on-deck situation. Then you just pray the wind doesn’t shut off before you coast into the harbor.

DS: Given that the “brochure” for Hawaii races typically calls for a rough first two or three days, followed by trade-wind sailing, is the Oregon Offshore a good stepping-stone event for bigger offshore passages, or do you see it more as it’s own stand-alone event?

DD: We like to think of it as both. Despite being a relatively short race, the race provides valuable experience and practice in preparing a boat for offshore conditions, giving crew valuable offshore experience, building a crew into a cohesive team and, probably most memorably, giving participants a valuable and ever-expanding store of great stories to tell. Moreover, it is a qualifying race for the Vic-Maui, and is also a means for Oregon[-based] skippers to get their boats north to participate in the Swiftsure International race. While some might consider doing it only as a shakedown cruise for their Hawaii race, it really is its own adventure. There is a reason why we have multiple participants who have done the race over twenty times. You get the adrenal rush of offshore racing in the space of just a few days, rather than the week and half or more it takes to get to Hawaii.

DS: Obviously an offshore race is just that, but has the event tried to do anything to “green-up” and reduce it’s environmental footprint?

DD: Over the years there has been a growing understanding and respect for the responsibility all of the participants have to keep a clean footprint. [For example,] we have reduced the amount of printed materials we use to promote the race, and [we] have opted for face-to-face meetings and focused more on social media. While [we] have not made a deliberate attempt to associate ourselves with outside organizations, there is always more we can do in this regard and partnering with a national organization is on our short list of things to do for future races (hint, hint national organizations).

DS: Anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

DD: There are two cool things that make this race unique. One is that we have someone blog through the entire race so friends, family and race supporters at home can get a more in depth understanding of what is happening in real time. In conjunction with the race trackers, this creates an edge-of-your-seat experience for even those who have never stepped foot onboard. And two, we greet each boat in Victoria, BC with warm wet towels and champagne!

In the 2018 edition of the Oregon Offshore, twenty-three boats are entered, six are J/teams (26% of the fleet, a significant increase over last year).  Those rugged, adventurous souls include the following crews:

J/46 Riva sailing Oregon Offshore raceJ/46 RIVA- She is based in Portland, Oregon and skippered by Scott Campbell. She has had an active racing schedule since 2003 with almost annual participation in both the Oregon Offshore and Swiftsure races. She has taken first place trophies numerous times in both races in her division and class. She is also a three-time veteran of the Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii in 2006, 2010, and 2016 and also the Van Isle 360 race in 2013. RIVA will stay to compete in the Swiftsure Cape Flattery race.

J/122 Anam Cara sailing Oregon Offshore raceJ/122 ANAM CARA- Her Portland-based skipper, Tom Kelly, will close the gap this year for participating in the most Oregon Offshores ever. This will be Tom's 37th year (this will be the 42nd year of the race period, so this is quite the feat)! ANAM CARA is no stranger to the race, with a 2013 First Overall Win under her belt. She has also performed well in Swiftsure's Cape Flattery with two Overall wins and a Second Overall, to boot.

J/42 Velocity sailing Oregon Offshore raceJ/42 VELOCITY- He's back for more punishment! Hood River based skipper, Tom Keffer, and his VELOCITY crew will be racing hard aboard his J/42 in the A2 class again this year. These guys know how to work the coast and Straits (not to mention they are usually up for some post-race shenanigans, too)!

J/105 Free Bowl of Soup teamJ/105 FREE BOWL OF SOUP- Team Free Bowl of Soup began in 1999 with a J/24, now being campaigned in Seattle as "Sopa Libre" by one of the team members. In 2011, a 3-way partnership was formed with Eric Hopper, Matt Davis, and Doug Schenk to acquire a J/105 to continue to race Offshore races, including Pacific Cup, as well as regional One-Design races. This will be the Soup's sixth Oregon Offshore, with the highlight being the overall win in 2017! The Soup guys will also be competing in the Swiftsure Cape Flattery race this year.

J/105 Abstract sailing Oregon Offshore raceJ/105 ABSTRACT- This is their second Oregon Offshore.  After an action-packed year of one-design racing throughout the Pacific Northwest, skipper Doug Pihlaja plans to compete in this year’s Swiftsure and the 2019 Pacific Cup in the Double-hand division!

JJ/30 Taku sailing Oregon Offshore race/30 TAKU- Yet another new participant! Hailing from Bellingham, WA, skipper Theo Singelis and crew will race their beloved J/30 TAKU. Over that past five years, they have been participating in the Pacific Northwest's longer races that include Swiftsure, Southern Straights, Race to the Straights and Round the County. Some of their best results have been Second in class in last year's Swiftsure Juan de Fuca race, which they will be participating in again this year.  For Oregon Offshore Race sailing & tracking information Add to Flipboard Magazine.