An old, wise (and possibly slightly inebriated) sailor once mumbled out of the side of his mouth the classic phrase – “If the wind speed is approaching the temperature it may not be the best time to head out for a sail.”
Temperatures hovered around 44 degrees as the 114 boats entered in the 2015 Round the County race zipped up their lifejackets, fired up their motors and snuck out of the harbor under the morning darkness Saturday, November 7th. The forecasts Gale warning had been extended into the early afternoon and with the darkness giving way to that wonderful PNW fall twilight the fleet converged on the starting area off Lydia Shoal in the Rosario Strait for the 8:35am starting gun.
Winds weren’t into a gale yet as the first 3 classes reached off the downwind starting line, but with the winds out of the Southeast and rushing over the islands the wind quickly built up as the boats worked northward down the course through everyone’s favorite little rock islands (the Peapods). All the boats in the first start left the Peapods to port, all except that little yellow fast is fun Santa Cruz 27 Wild Rumpus and they were followed in the second start by the J/120 Time Bandit slamming the hammer down with their chute up and pulling hard towards Orcas.
Wild Rumpus took things a bit conservative and didn’t put up their spinnaker right away, but that J/120 whipped it out and sent it. They struggled up around the headland at Orcas with a bit of flogging and round ups but as soon as they could put their bow down they were lit up! That big J/120 was launched and kept the throttle down all the way around the course, correcting into the overall PHRF finish for Saturday. For the rest of the fleet the chutes began popping up as the J/120 turned down around Orcas Island and everyone had room to run out under spinnaker – that is when the real fun began for those that put up their colorful sails.
The winds began pushing over 30 near Clark Island, the waves built up with the current and as sterns lifted at just the wrong moment or at just the wrong angle the wipeouts began. The little SC27’s began flashing their keels at the fleet, some of the bigger boats ended up flying pendants off their mast tops that looked distinctly like the top few feet of their spinnakers and the real big monster trucks, those flashy boats in the IRC fleet motored through the fleet with their A4’s pulling rock hard and their helmsmen with eyes as wide as their leg stance, 25 knots of boat speed was a common number laughed about after the race.
This is where things got exiting for those who chose to push their boats hard and the solid and fast formula 40 Dragonfly pushed it just that little bit too hard in the big wind and waves, stuffed their bows and ended up ass over tea kettle, pitch-poled, and lying upside down in the deep cold waters east of Matia. Neptune smiled on those crazy pickle fork sailors Saturday morning and all aboard were seen standing on the bottom side of the boat, unharmed and waving as the fleet sailed by, astounded. The big schooner Martha was standing by to render assistance if needed but it was soon apparent everyone was ok and the fleets wonderful photo boats were there to help the stricken crew, right the multihull again and get them off to safety, so Martha rejoined the race.
Read the story and see tons of great shots by Sean Trew and others here.