Second Snowflake Race 2021 Report
Report by Tony Brogan with some help from Douglas Woolcock
December 19, 2021
It was a normal winter day for Salt Spring, but the weatherman said no precip was expected, as crews for 5 boats received the info on the course at the skippers meeting. After a little spirited debate, K2 was selected. (Credit for what turned out to be a brilliant choice must got to Paul Faget, but even at that, the soft breeze was making us lean towards an equally modest course (K-1), until John Gauld exclaimed, in some frustration, ‘but we did that last week’. Therefore, K-2 it was – FCR)
The course started off the dock. Out to Trincomali. To Sphinx Island (S), Charles island (P), Wise Island (P) and finish at 2nd Sisters. (Which speaks again to the Race Committee’s wisdom of adding a new start/finish line for 2022 – more options to allow for more interesting courses – FCR)
The forecast was for 6-8 knots with gusts to 14 from the North but at the start it was more like WNW at 3-5 knots.
At the start RH was over the line at the dot. Spinnaker pole ready and the spinnaker up in seconds and pulling spasmodically. Over to the left was Sorcery X who also had the spinnaker up with the masthead Asymmetric fully powered. Shingebiss and Firefly trailed a little and were closely followed by Skeena Cloud. (Not quite, they followed SC. As it doesn’t happen often, I had to speak up, if only to defend Nicky’s honour – FCR)
In the light air down the harbour Sorcery X drew ahead never to be seen again, except in the distance. (Mightily benefited by her formidable crew: Paul and April Faget – FCR. I mean, it is not often one has to chance to welcome the winner of SISC’s 2021 Most Improved Sailor Award (Paul) aboard – FCR)
By the time we got to Second sisters RH was overtaken by Firefly and then Shingebiss and Skeena Cloud drew abeam but 100 yards away in the centre channel. (I thought Douglas was, at this point, swinging over to say hi, but as he describes what happened, his happy wave was the result of…’ What a fantastic day, thank you! I started super early this morning hoping to finish getting the new autopilot installed. A bit jury rigged, but I made the start just in time! As we headed out of Ganges I was reading the instructions for commissioning it, and when I hit the SETUP button I veered right towards you Greg! Furiously hitting the cancel button! Lol. Did manage to get it to work until the jury rigged quadrant spun on rudder stock’.
Suddenly, the wind went East for what turned out to be a beat to Captains Passage. Sorcery X could be seen in the distance changing to headsail. RH made a smart change down and was pulling away from the other three boats who were slower on the sail changes as we headed in a straight line toward Scott Point.
The superior speed of Firefly and Shingebiss had them both catching us by Nose Point and after 4-5 tacks Sorcery X was headed up Trincomali.
Some close tacking exchanges with Firefly had her showing that she both pointed higher and was faster than RH as she split off to the Salt Spring shore. Shingebiss after a couple of tacks and a close encunter with RH joined her.
(Skeena Cloud upon entering the Pass, followed Shingebiss into the center of the channel, but our little less speed meant that the tide overtook us, and we couldn’t make Shelby Point, forcing us to tack. Okay, we said, we will follow Radiant Heat, but again, RH’s superior speed had her make Peile Pt, whereas we again had to throw in an additional tack. Firefly short tacked up the SS shore, avoiding much of the tide. Shingebiss took off on her one tack up the SS shore, and Tony sped off towards Galiano, enjoying a lift. Skeena Cloud, on the other hand, enjoyed some more tacking practice to escape the tides embrace. Proving once again, there is a penalty to be paid for being both dumb and slow. – FCR)
RH moved out into the channel and tacked several times according to winds variations heading us. Finally we found a permanent lift to the right up Trincomali whereas the three boats in the lead still had the Northerly wind and proceeded, now a long way ahead, up the SS shore.
Skeena Cloud was a half mile back now but appeared to have the same lift as Radiant Heat. RH was on a direct course for Sphinx Island and the three boats ahead looked to tack across. However just before a tack they were connected with the same lift we had and were forced to sail extra distance to the north west before making the tack accross the channel.
Sorcery X was still ahead a quarter mile as she passed accross headed for Sphinx , Firefly was just ahead but on a near collision course and she tacked away and Shingebiss was a 100 yards back.
We cross tacked with Firefly twice as we headed to get round Charles Island and she slipped ahead of us out sailing us again (grumble, grumble, we seem slow today) and escaping down the far side of the island to take a commanding second place as she headed out to Trincomali around Wise Island.
Meanwhile Skeena Cloud was yet to join us and Shengebiss closed on us and then sailed briskly past us within two boat lengths as if they had a different wind and were 100 yard ahead by the time we reached Trincomali. (Actually, we on SC were pretty proud of ourselves to be within 5 or 600 meters of the rest as they disappeared around Wise Island, but speaking of grumbling, where we could see they had wind on the backside of the island, when we got there, we had fickle breezes that forced us to tack several times before we were able to finally get around Charles Island. And even to the last, the wind played another trick, forcing Nicky to steer closer to the rocks that the alarm on the sounder liked – FCR)
It was lighter air again on the downhill run to Captains Passage. Shingebiss drew further ahead but we had a direct line to the pass after a wind switch to the NW caused us to gybe to Starboard tack for the second half.
We noted Firefly doing wide angle gybes with her asymmetric but speed kept her further ahead.
Looking back before we went into Captain’s Passage we saw Skeena Cloud determinedly on course to see if her handicap rating would allow a podium place finish. (Here SC caught a break, the wind increased to 10 – 12 knots, and the angle allowed us go WoW with the asymmetric, usually the slowest point of sail for SC. But with the wind speed, Nicky on the helm, and a warm sun on our faces, we had great VMG. It was brilliant. Entering the Pass, we gybed the main, and took off, when we finally doused the spinnaker nearing Welbury on a close reach, it was a bit puckering, but with the genoa blanketing the spinnaker and Nicky on the helm quietly suggesting it might be time, everything went well – FCR)
The run down to the finish was a close reach or close hauled tack and sorcery X was well past the line and out of view. Firefly was a few minutes ahead and Shingebiss less minutes but in view . The wind had increased now to 10-11 knots and we made our best speeds of the day as we finished
It was a cold, chilly 3-4 degree day but a great sailing day for all that. (After spending a few weeks crewing in the South Seas, Nicky’s blood was a bit thin for the temperatures. She tells me her next crewing job is Granada in the spring, then later there is another gig planned for Ireland. I know that soon it will no longer be First Mate Nicky, but Captain Nicky, and I will be out of a job – FCR)
Compared to Saturday it was paradise and looking at the forecast lucky to not be sailing on a frozen even snowy Merry Christmas day.
See you all and more, hopefully, on New Years Day.
(And from your FCR, the best of the season to all, and a thank you for making my job a easy and fun one. I will see you all in the New Year – FCR)