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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2011 Race to the Strait...

Each year the Seattle Sloop Tavern Yacht Club hosts what is called Race to the Strait -- what makes this event unique is that it is exclusively for single & double-handed boats.  Double-handing Icon is challenging to say the least and is physically very exhausting.  This being said we thought we were up to the challenge and entered:

We awoke early Saturday morning in the marina to a stiff SE breeze, probably a little more than we were comfortable with flying a spinnaker.  Since it was a reverse start we had nearly three (3) hours to watch the rest of the fleet depart - in doing so we observed many wipe outs and a couple of torn spinnakers.   As the time wore on I was beginning to think that we were over our heads and that bad things were going to happen.

We left the marina about an hour before our start time and motored around checking things out.  We started conservatively under a headsail with the intent to fly our yellow A2 using a sock.  Neptunes Car started about 1:30 in front of us, but thought they were over early since the recall flat on the committee boat was over the side.  They turned around and came back only to find out this was an accident -- bummer!

We sailed down towards Point No Point under the A2, dodging a big ship that made it clear on the radio that anyone who got in his way would be protested and DSQ'ed.  As a result we stayed in the separation zone in our low & slow mode.  Unfortunately other than the Car behind us (who was getting smaller by the minute) we couldn't see anyone ahead -- a very bad sign as everyone was being flushed to the finish by the large ebb.

Near Point No Point we could see on the water that there was going to be a convergence, but it hit so hard and fast that I had to spin the boat 180 degrees to get the kite down and headsail up!  Other boats reported hail and heavy rain in that transition.  From Point No Point we worked over to Double Bluff, rounded the mark while trying to stay in the current and aimed directly for Marrowstone using our J3 and a single-reefed main.  In this reach we made good time and started catching a few of the no-flying sails boats.  After rounding Marrowstone we headed directly for the finish, completing the run about 10 minutes off the Port Townsend Dash record time, despite having to cross Admiralty twice in order to round the Double Bluff mark.

In the end after Day #1 we were near the bottom of the pack in the overall standings but first in our division -- we knew when we started that it wasn't going to be a good big boat day.  That evening we went to the awards party and hung out with friends while watching Andy Schwenk prove he really can't sing.

After a calm night in Point Hudson marina we awoke to a reasonably nice day with light westerly winds.  We knew from the start that this would be a better day for the big boats given the adverse currents and increasing winds from behind.

Like the day before we started about 1:30 behind the Car under our A1 spinnaker.  They immediately tried to cross to the Whidbey Island side and fell miles behind right out of the gate.  We headed for Marrowstone and then crossed to Bush Point.  By the time we were at Bush Point we were already passing boats, plus we could see a huge cluster of boats stuck at Double Bluff..

We worked the Whidbey Island side trying to stay in the wind but out of the current.  Whenever the wind lightened up we headed inshore, but when the breeze was on had the power to buck the current.  By the time we got to Double Bluff we had passed nearly half the fleet and reached off across the river to Skunk Bay.

When we got to Skunk Bay we were solidly into the top boats.  We rounded Point No Point with only a few boats ahead, including Banshee sailed by our friends Scott & Derek.  Following Banshee's line we short-jibed the beach south of Point No Point, tiring ourselves out in the process.  Eventually we passed them when unfortunately the wind shut off.  We immediatley dosed the A1 and put up a headsail.  Behind us there was a building northerly and boats started to head over towards Edmonds which didn't bode well for us as they could easily make an end-run around us.

In order to stay in the game we decided to put up the Code Zero and lead the boats back to the east side as the A1 was not re-packed and staying with Banshee on the west side was not an option.  We managed to make it over the east side using the Zero, but watched the northerly sweep those who stayed on the west side down towards the finish -- another sould searching moment.

Once we reached the east side we put up our now repacked A1 and worked down towards the finish hoping we could keep moving.  Our jibes were much more difficult now as the Code Zero was up and the foretriangle was much smaller (we usually inside jibe the A1).  Meanwhile the train of boats was approaching -- we overstood the finish and jibed between the train and the mark.  In retrospect we should have gone further as there was a big lift at the finish.

In the end both us and Banshee had to throw in a last minute jibe just before the finish.  In doing so we finished about 20 seconds ahead of them and took first again in our division and overall for day #2.  It was great to see Banshee do so well both days giving them 3rd overall for the regatta.

After putting the boat away we were extremely tired -- getting in jibing duals with a Melges 32 is not recommended!  All things considered is was a great even with many wonderful memories!