Our first Round the County is in the books. It was exactly what I had heard RTC’s could be. A little of everything and a bit rough. Overall we performed well for our first effort. There is a lot involved in this kind of race. It starts long before the race weekend. The crew eagerly took on assignments from boat prep, logistics to meal planning and shopping. I could not have done this without their help. In another way, I owe this race to my mother. She passed away just two weeks prior. We knew she nearing the end but the timing allowed me to go. I know she would have wanted me to do this. I thought of her often over the weekend. Fair winds and following seas mom.
There are a couple nice write ups of the race which I will link to and keep my comments here focused on our experiences and what we learned. There is one here and one here. The always excellent photos from Jan’s Marine Photography are here.
We did the transit up from Seattle to Anacortes, Cap Sante Marina on Friday the 6th. The weather was decent and we sailed most of the way on a broad reach with the new #1 up doing 10+ knots. We had a bit of an “oh crap” moment on the way into the marina though. Managed to snag a crab or shrimp pot and wrapped the prop. Lost reverse and had to limp in. Fortunately we were able to get Jim from Bottom Time Divers out to unwind it all. Thanks Jim! No damage and we had a green light for the weekend. The party seems to have moved to Anacortes as there were a lot of boats in the marina for the race. It is a nice marina and the Anacortes YC puts on a nice event too (although I never made it because of the boat issues).
Up early Saturday for the ride to Lydia Shoals. It was clear pretty quickly we were in for a wet and windy day. The forecast was for 20-30K out of the SE and that was what we got. While circling for the start (we were division 3 so part of the first group to go) a shackle pin worked out of one of the main sheet blocks on the boom. Great timing. I dove below and managed to find the right replacement shackle on my second try and we were back in business with 10 minutes to go. We hoisted the #3 and made for the start. We crossed the line a 5 minutes late. Oh well. We made it. The angles were wrong for the kite so we drove up to the first left turn around Orcas but by then we were seeing quite a few boats crashing and burning with kites up. The crew wasn’t volunteering to rig the kite and I don’t blame them. The waves were picking up and the boat was moving around a lot. The consequences of a screw up with the kite were going to be high so we decided the better plan was to ride it out with the #3 and live to fight on Sunday. As it was, we still saw speeds over 12 as we surfed off the backs of waves. The boat was a bit out of balance and required real concentration. We swapped out helmspeople a few times; going below to warm up. Yes, we have heat, comfy seats, and hot beverages down below.
I was so busy driving and picking lines I didn’t make any notes but somewhere around the top of the county the winds picked up into the high 20’s with gusts over 30. We put one reef in the main to make the boat more manageable. The rain was coming down as well. Everything and everyone was soaked by now. The damn Raymarine e7 Chart Plotter’s touch screen became useless in the rain. Not just hard to read but flat out didn’t work. Between calibration problems and the rain I was ready to toss the thing overboard a couple times. I need to check the firmware version but the rain issue is probably not going to be fixable. About 1pm or so the wind started to drop and continued to do so. By the finish line (for us around mid afternoon) the wind was really light and we were crossing fingers and toes that the #3 was going to get us across the line. In the end we did’t place very high on the day but we had a real experience and nothing got broken and no one got hurt. We learned a lot which was the primary goal for this first effort.
After dropping the sails we motored off to Roche Harbor for the next party (assuming you weren’t totally wiped out like I was). I spent my time filling water tanks, which were unexpectedly empty, and checking weather for the next day. A few went up to check out the party. We saw the rescued crew of Dragonfly (at least I think it was them) retelling their tale of pitch polling in the morning. Another person on another boat was seriously hurt but I didn’t hear about it until after we’d gotten home. This is a sport with risks and people do get hurt and worse. I hope this person makes a full and speedy recovery.
Sunday was forecast to be a light air day. After joining the motor parade to the start line in the morning we locked onto the transom of our sail maker’s boat Poke and Destroy. I figured if I stuck to him we could at least get out of the start area and have a chance at a good day. I had no idea how good a plan that was. After almost getting cut out of that plan by another boat we managed to follow him over the line a minute or so late. The wind was very light and there was a real snafu at the pin end. The 84′ Martha had gotten in trouble with current pushing them into the mark with us sliding down onto a smaller boat. We all headed up as high as possible but only Kinetics made it out. The good old Nordic just glided forward and the 60′ mast and big #1 scooped up enough of the dying breeze to take us out of the growing hole at the start. We had no idea that over 30 boats would never make it over the line that day because of the wind shutting off. That included a good friend with his Swan 46. I felt very bad for all those boats. So much effort goes into getting to the line of a race like the RTC that to miss a day like that is crushing.
We watched Poke and Destroy (P&D) slowly escape as she always does but we gave it everything we had and focused on trim and helm for hours. We managed to pass or stay ahead of a lot of boats on Sunday. Something I think might have surprised a few people. The big Nordic 44 does not look like it would sail well in light air but it will and the new Ballard Sails laminate #1 did its job. We pointed higher than we have ever be able to and our speed was as good as we wanted it to be depending on how high we wanted to sail. I think we can even get a bit more out of it with some experience. A real transformation. Better be as we gave up 6 seconds a mile to have it on the boat with our new 93 rating. The entire day was tacking on shifts or when it seemed to make sense. We try to limit our tacks as that is not what the boat is good at. Eventually we came around into Rosario Strait again to begin to close the loop for the weekend. The wind was holding but not by much. It was a tricky final few miles up the Strait. Some boats went up the coastline to the west. We went to the east hoping to catch an angle that might allow us to throw up the kite. That never happened and we were worried for a while. I should have stayed with our competition but I didn’t realize I was splitting with them when I failed to check the division list. Lesson learned is an old one, don’t split unless you have really good reason.
We crossed line in pretty much the same order we entered the Strait and our effort paid off by moving us from 70th overall on Saturday to 30th overall for the weekend. That’s not bad when you consider it includes some seriously amazing racing machines and very experienced racers. My crew is awesome. They put up with me and we’re all learning more every time we go out. This coming year will be like no year yet as I will be able to sail the boat lot more than in the past. Look out 2016 RTC. We will be back. Thanks to OIYC for a great event and we enjoyed the fine meal they put on Sunday night at their club in West Sound.
Check out the modest photo gallery here.