Socially Distant Kick-off
Well, 2020 sure has been a downer, but these sailor's aren't going to let that stop them from having some fun. The board met, and discussed how, in light of Covid-19 and social distancing, to hold the 11th SEAS Cup season kick-off race. So, they decided to kick-off the 2020 season by having a socially distant race. Boats could only be single-handed or crewed by people who lived together.
As the Saturday approached, the short-handed skippers began to look at the weather, and the forecast was calling from 10 knots and 2 foot seas, which every sailor in Southeast Alaska knows means: "It might gust to 10 somewhere at some point." So, the boats were expecting a long day of floating around alone on a lonely sea, a kind of metaphor for 2020.
Someone, Lori I think, mentioned that she had heard that morning that the national weather service was calling for potentially some westerlies later in the day, so the call went out over the radio, "Let's do the back side of Douglas". It really is the only one of the three choices for the Skipper's Choice. So, it was decided. We were going to race from Marmion to Pt. Hilda and back.
SV Surprise acted as the committee boat, since she was so well crewed with the husband and wife combo of Anthony and Lori Crupi. The race started in really light air, at 1030 on Saturday, May 16. The boats jockeyed for position, but it was clear that the shorthanded crews were practicing the safe social distancing of not really challenging for the line because they can't really see to leward at all. No foredeck to yell what boats are on a collision course.
Shoreless and Asterix got the best start with Surprise, Haiku, and High Noon following close behind. As the boats moved out away from Marmion Island, they could see a wind line farther out in the channel, and dare they hope even some small white caps. The boats reached the line, and sure enough they heeled over, and began a windy and sunny beat to the Hilda mark.
Of course, the boats had been trimmed for light air, so sails were brought in, mains were flattened, tillers were lashed so that the short handed crews could trim the sails. At one point Haiku's skipper lashed the tiller to pull out the outhaul of the main, and as the main became flatter, the boat had less power, and the tiller which had been lashed to weather forced the boat down, and Haiku fell off her course by 45 degrees, but eventually Haiku got close hauled again, and resumed going toward the mark.
The boats spent the next 2 and half hours beating into a slowly increasing westerly (thank you National Weather Service). High Noon as she does, took the lead. Haiku and Shoreless kept exchanging crossings. While Surprise and the single-handed Asterix weren't very far back.
By the time the boats reached the windward mark, the wind had built to around 20, and they were almost all over-powered. It isn't that easy to change headsails in a race, so the boats just lived with the power, maybe pinched up a little, flogged their mains until they could turn downwind and really head to the finish.
High Noon reached the mark first, followed closely by Shoreless and Haiku. Surpise was next, with Asterix coming around shortly.
High Noon used good sailing, large rig, and long waterline to really put some distance between her and Shoreless who was using that J-30 large main to reach a little bit and Haiiku, who was single-handing and has a large headsail, ran wing on wing towards the finish.
As they have for 20 years, every time Haiku and Shoreless converged, they had a crossing situation. With one crossing the other in a constant eternal battle to be the one to cross first. Boats reached speeds of 8 knots as they ran to the finish.
But the "Marmion Triangle" had other plans. High Noon took the approach to Marmion wide, reaching in fast, getting up to almost 9 knots with the hope of drifting through the perpetual hole that lives to destroy the hopes of sailors at Marmion. It worked, she crossed first.
Haiku tried the direct approach, running in towards Marmion as close as possible, only to have Shoreless reach in a bit higher, go into really shallow water and roll over her within 100 yards of the finish. Then the wind died, and the boats fought to catch the wind first, and be the first across the line. All the while watching Suprise and Asterix running in that beautiful wind getting closer and closer.
Eventually, Shoreless caught some breeze in that big ol' main, while Haiku's skipper struggled to get the gigantic jib around. Shoreless crossed slightly ahead of Haiku, with spectators cheering the boat from the Marmion Island mark.
Suprise had closed the distance to about 10 minutes, with Asterix finishing 30 behind that.
Alas, this is a PHRF race, so the handicaps changed the official finish order.
These sailors wouldn't let social distancing get them down, and it paid off with a fine fast race, and maybe, just maybe bodes well for a better 2020 than it seems.