Round Pender Islands Race Report – Mar 17-18, 2012
With wind forecasts from the NW at 30 kilometres an hour, the fleet showed up hopeful of a fast sleigh ride to Browning Harbour and the possibility of spinnakers all the way. Fleet Captain Keith Simpson modified the course with a short beat to the Grace Point mark, heading off the mayhem of a spinnaker start, and the race got off without a hitch. Then the Wind Gods, laughing in the face of predicability, decided to give us two days of the most challenging, frustrating and enjoyable puzzles.
The ten minute colourful romp out of the harbour under spinnakers turned into an hour or more of struggle with shifting wind and line gusts that shook up the fleet. Greg Slakov on Imp did his usual masterful job of reading the shifts and led the way out into Captain Passage, then hedged his bets by beating towards Prevost and keeping his options open as to which way to round the island. Most of the fleet looked to be going with him but there were tantalizing signs of more wind coming down the Saltspring side and it looked positively tasty off Yeo Point.
The Kay D and Final Dash committed to that side from the offset, with Final Dash having to linger in the same hole she found last year for a few heart stopping minutes. Eventually Imp and Velica also committed to a port rounding of Prevost while the rest of the fleet disappeared around Peille Point. As promised by the dark water, the wind on the Saltspring side was good and the Kay D was strapping in the lines and de-powering to keep her on her feet. Imp also got some good shifts on the Prevost side and called the lay line to Liddell Point to perfection to stop the Kay D from moving into the lead of the port rounding group.
There was some consternation in this whole group as they approached the point as the large structure marking the rocks off the point had disappeared. Where did it go? This is also the moment where you get the first inclination of how you are doing overall as you sight down to Navy Channel. Good news for our side, not a sail in sight as we cracked off onto a beam reach and romped down to the entrance to this tricky channel. Intent on catching Imp the Kay D popped her spinnaker, while Velica trimmed to keep ahead of Final Dash. At last sails from the other group came into sight with the red hulled Caliente leading the way.
Fickle was the name of the wind in the channel and as Imp steered into the entrance her sails went limp. Kay D rode her spinnaker in close to the bank in a finger of wind and claimed the overall lead for a full three seconds before Imp found a breathe of air and shot back into the lead. Caliente entered the channel on the Mayne side very close to where she parked last year and watched the whole fleet sail by. This time she forged through in fine style. Much changing of places and high adventures were had by everyone. Once again I had no idea how best to tackle the conundrum of this part of the course and at one point I just let go of everything and had lunch.
David Wood in Final Dash did well through here again – last year I remember him coming by me at quite a clip, I am going to have to ask him some questions! I also miss the great tacking duel I had with Bob Jones last year. At the approach to Fane Island we got some good wind almost on the nose and the Fleet again split tactically with Imp and Caliente tacking out into Plumper Sound, Final Dash taking an intermediate course and the rest of us tacking only enough to clear the island. The further out you were the better your wind it turns out and yet again the wily Imp found the right spot and continued the battle with the charging Caliente. The rest of the fleet had some shifty conditions just past Fane Island which lead to some exciting crossings and much strategy.
Catching a shift and a puff, Kay D moved ahead of the pack and looked to have a fourth place line finish, but nothing is certain. Ahead Caliente took line honours with Imp, possibly having overstood a bit coming a close second and Final Dash in third. Kay D was beating to the finish line when her sails shook and hung limp and a glance behind saw the fleet no longer on the wind but reaching in with speed. And most improbably, there was Paramour, close in shore and running with even greater speed, sailing a great arc around the whole pack, no wind visible on the water but with a bow wave and sails straining.
An errant zephyr pushed the Kay D across the finish line just in the nick of time and this was further aided by Paramour sailing right by the finish line and passing it on the wrong side. This led to much good hearted ribbing of Eric in the pub later, and the collegial spirit of the fleet in general allowed his time to stand. Everyone was soon into Port Browning where we were able to join Wayne and Pete who had come over in a strange yacht that had no sails and moved by some other form of propulsion. There were padded seats and home made libations of rare quality and many stories were told. Eventually some mathematics was done on the inside of a cracker box and the finishing order was changed. We had dinner and many more stories were told.
Day 2 and an early start. The fleet motored or towed out to the start and we were off by 9:40 into a shifty breeze. The start line was favoured at both ends and the middle as I attempted to check it so I resolved to start at the un-favoured end in the hopes of gaining advantage as the wind shifted at the last moment. This did not work. I then proceeded to tack out of phase with the wind and seriously worked myself to the back of the fleet before I realized that there were a series of lifts happening prefaced with a fairly strong header. I had been tacking on these headers, mostly through 120 degrees and immediately sailing out of the next puff. Very wrong!
Once I figured this out I was able to notice a distinct wind sheer at about eight feet above water level and set about shaping my sails to suit the two different wind angles and I started to move back up through the fleet. I forced Paramour to tack, but Eric slapped a perfect lee bow on me so I had to tack away and then duck the very long Caliente only to see Soul Thyme, also on starboard.
Keith hailed me “Can you make it?” to which I answered “NO, Maybeeee, Yes,” as I was getting lifted with extra wind. Feet to spare! I was just about to congratulate myself on catching Ole when David roared by me in Final Dash looking very good. This beat to Blundel Island was one of the trickier legs I have ever sailed in the fifty years I have been racing. If the race had ended here we would have had a worthy champion in the form of Greg Slakov and Imp, but the Wind Gods were not done with us yet, not by a long way.
Greg got through the channel and turned the corner with the wind. Then David got through with less wind. I was next but while still going through the water my progress over land stopped. Soul Thyme and Caliente hunted me down, relentlessly. Caliente tried to pass me inside on the point as I prayed for a gust to help me stem the tide. Suddenly there was this booming noise like a 45 gallon drum struck by a baseball batt and Caliente came to a stop, aground. Simultaneously, a finger of wind scooted me round the corner. I had a close reach to Growlland and the sight of Imp and Final Dash alternately waiting for me then romping away on a gust.
I tried not to imagine the frustration behind me as the rest of the fleet tried to fight through the tide at Blunden Island. Many tales will have been writ large and I look forward to hearing them. Meanwhile my thoughts were on the two ahead and watching David’s mighty struggle with Tilley Point. He battled the tide again and again in the light air as I rode a gust offshore with hope of going round him. At last he got a gust that drove him through just as mine dropped and I was spit backward. Caliente and Soul Thyme then rode their gust right up to and around Tilley Point while I struggled in a header to get back to the same spot I had been forty five minutes before. I watched and learned as another lull swept the leaders backward, I clung to shore and used tiny puffs to round Tilley.
Once round, I had my own private band of wind and drove into Bedwell Harbour letting the tide carry me across, a trick that river men use called “ferrying”. One by one the fleet fell behind until on rounding Wallace Point I was able to look aft at all the fleet but Greg, who was abeam. Just as I started feeling pretty smart the wind shut off on me and turned on for the rest and I got to watch them all sail past until Eric and I were side by side, tied for last. To avoid frustration I lowered my limp spinnaker, lashed the helm and had lunch.
Greg and Ole had found a nice band of wind and were dots on the horizon. I got to watch a great battle with Oasis, Soul Thyme and Final Dash that raged back and forth, then watch as Wildfire and Velica roared by well to windward. Far to windward I saw Greg drop his spinnaker and go hard on the wind, heeling, and one by one the fleet got the new breeze with Eric and me getting it last. (Bravo Zulu had just motored by having sailed herself back into the race but needing to get home).
The new wind was coming over Saltspring and dropping to the water so was much stronger further from shore. Refreshed from lunch and happy to be in good wind I raced on, hiked over the side and smiling. I was lee bowing the tide coming down Swanson Channel and that was throwing even more wind in my sails and by chance I was heading to a band of even more wind. Bob Jones was to windward of me but in less wind so I was able to keep pace with him which was great fun. Over by Beaver Point my good friend Vincent was struggling in even less wind with the tide right on the nose, a most frustrating position indeed. As I headed to the band of stronger wind I called to the Wind Gods, “A header would be nice!” and moments later my jib went flat aback, the boat tacked herself and I was back in the middle of the pack.
The lovely wind began to fade so I set my sights on the shortened course mark that Philippe had mentioned and took my time at the transit. The wind shifted 90 degrees and dropped considerably, so Bob and I hoisted our spinnakers yet again. Ahead an interesting tactical split was happening, Greg was holding close to Prevost while David was reaching across to the Saltspring shore to get tide relief. I was watching intently as both these two sailors had given me valuable lessons several times today. Alas the outcome was not to be decided as the wind dropped to nothing. I had already passed one offer of a tow from the ever sensible Bob Jones, and so drifted by U60 three times going forward and three times going backward before finally getting a tow from Gyle in Wildfire. With nine of the 10 yachts powering for home and our ever clever Fleet Captain having got finish times at the shortened course mark on his radar, hot chocolate was made aboard Wildfire and served across the waves to the Kay D. – Report from the deck of the Kay D by Martin Herbert
|ROUND PENDER ISLANDS RACE RESULTS – MAR 17, 2012|
|First leg: Club start – Grace Point (S) – Captain Passage – Navy Chan – Port Browning|
|ROUND PENDER ISLANDS RACE RESULTS – MAR 18, 2012|
|Second leg: Port Browning start – Teece Pt (S. Pende Is.) (P) – Club finish|
Under Club rules, DNF boats received 11 points each in the second race. Final result includes the total point count after both races: 1st place: KAY D (2 pts) – 2nd place: IMP (6 pts) – 3rd place: TIED, FINAL DASH and PARAMOUR (9 pts) – 5th place: TIED, SOUL THYME and WILDFIRE (11 pts) – 7th place; BRAVO ZULU (13 pts) – 8th place: VELICA (15 pts) – 9th place: OASIS (17 pts) – 10th place: CALIENTE (21 pts).
Note: this is a revision to the previously published placement order, re-calculated to reflect multiple-race scoring.