This year’s Round the County was another amazing mix of weather, action and lessons learned. It was a challenging year for everyone to get ready as work and personal pressures just wouldn’t let up. A number of upgrades to running rigging and engine work got done just in time despite the hectic schedules. An easy delivery up to Anacortes on Friday included a few hours of sailing, which was nice.
Saturday’s departure was dark and damp as we joined the parade of boats making their way to Lydia shoals for the start of the clockwise trip around the islands to Roche Harbor. By the time we started at 8:40 the wind was cranking so the #3 was a good call. We short tacked our way south with everyone else, making good time, until we hit the current. Here we got pushed back more than I would have liked. I need to think about this spot and understand the best way through for next time. We lost a lot of distance here to boats that seemed to slip through.
Then it was off around the south end of Lopez. We mistook Bird Rock for a rounding mark and while we had more wind out in the channel, we also ended up in steep chop sooner than the boats that went inside the rock. We made up some distance, but in the end I think we lost some time here getting beaten back by the waves, which were coming over the bow back to the mast frequently for a good 30 minutes. By the time we had better conditions and a wind angle suitable for the A3 the wind had started to drop. In fact, it shut down like someone turned off the fan. We struggled with few dozen other boats until 3pm when I called it quits knowing we would never make the finish even if the wind returned. Typical RTC.
There were the usual nice arrangements in Roche. Party, friends, power, water, everything you need. They do a good job here. A gorgeous sunset arrived to end the day. The crew enjoyed a nice evening after a delayed meal prepared by the captain that underestimated how long it takes to cook things in a small oven!
Sunday was a completely different race. The day started sunny and dry for one thing. The wind was still very light and with the current pushing boats over the line we had a hilarious double general recall. Eventually, we started in good position by staying in clear air behind the pack and taking what little clean air there was. We headed off to port and away from a hole that had landed on the boat end of the start line.
The spinnaker run to Turn Point off Stuart Island was brilliant and memorable, albeit somewhat nerve racking (see video clip above, thanks to Tim for the GoPro). The faster boats, including the TP52’s, eventually ran us down and by the time we reached Stuart Island it was a mix of fast and slow boats, about 75 of them, gybing in and around each other. I finally couldn’t stomach it any longer and gybed out of the traffic jam. That turned out to be a good move as a number of boats got stuck in holes and current and had a hard time getting around Turn Point.
After Turn Point the wind slowly began to build in phases. We eventually changed out the #1 for the #3 as it built to 22-25K apparent. For a while we were close reaching under the #1 like a freight train, staying in a band of wind watching boats north and south drop behind. We were gaining back some time quickly with boat speeds in 8-10K range.
After the halfway point at Alden Point, Patos Island we came up into the wind and it was close hauled most all the way to the finish. We had a wild ride along the cliffs before Lawrence Point on Orcas Island with Here and Now and another boat in very gusty conditions. Amazing scenery that I had very little time to admire.
We finished a little after 4pm just behind our sail maker, who had a tough day. He is usually way ahead of us. We felt good on the whole having kept up with, or bested, some very good sailors on some dedicated racing boats. For us that’s almost as good as a win. Almost.