RTC 2018 One to remember

Every year Round the County delivers one of the best racing experiences in the Pacific Northwest. The weather in November almost guarantees some challenging conditions. Combine that with the amazing geography of the San Juan Islands and you have all the ingredients for some great fun sorting out tactics and strategy. This year the weather was dominated by mild, light wind conditions so knowing when and where to stay out of the current was the key to doing well. It also generally favored the lighter boats that accelerate quickly in light, puffy conditions. On Kinetics we had some new and veteran crew ready to do our best with the mighty beast.

Jan’s Marine Photo from Saturday’s leg of the RTC 2018

We failed to stay out of the current enough on Saturday fearing a lack of wind under the lee of Lopez Island after a late start. That put us way down in our division 3 which was dominated by the J105’s that day. The wind was a bit too light to get the big Nordic 44 moving well. On the plus side, we finished and the weather was really nice with sailing in water with almost no chop or swell of any kind.

After an excellent start on Sunday, hitting line within seconds of the horn, we sailed out to Turn Point on Stuart Island where the entire fleet went about trying to find the best way around in an adverse current and light wind. Ultimately  it was decided to short tack around the point. Others went way outside in what looked like a visit to Canada. Amazingly, the cross border people did OK and for the boat Sir Issac, it was a brilliant move putting them way out front. That boat has a lot of sail area!

The next few hours of the day were spent struggling to stay out of wind holes that seemed to land on us from out of nowhere. A lot of boats went south after Waldron Island and others stayed out in the channel. There was current in the channel and without enough wind to keep us moving we fell behind. Soon it was looking bleak for us. We went from good to awful. But maybe not as bad as the ones that got 5 horns from the container ship!

However, never give up in a sailboat race as you never know what the winds have in store. As we approached the turn around the east end of Orcas Island the wind started to build and we were soon gybing downwind with the A2 at a decent pace. We picked off a few boats in the process. The big surprise was when we passed the Peapods and saw the majority of the fleet parked up short of the finish in zero wind! Kinetics was riding a wall of wind, at times 15 knots or more, right down to them. It was hard to believe. I had trouble figuring out what they were all doing as boats were trying to get to the finish line from the north and the south but almost no one was going right at the line. Time Bandit came up to us from astern and was soon really the only boat close. Time Bandit being a very successful team from many previous races was probably wondering why we were in their way!

We hooked up with them, letting them go below to lead the gybe in (although I grumbled a bit about the timing). The two of us rode the wind right up to about 100 feet short of the line where the wind died. Our momentum carried us across the line in front of what I suspect were some very surprised crews. Unbelievable finish. Lucky? I guess so but we worked hard to get to that spot that got us over the line and we had our own bad luck on the way there. Some days it goes your way.

Many thanks to my crew this year who persevered and helped make this RTC one of the most memorable. Thanks, Ann, Dave, Jeff, Jenn, Mike, Sara and Tim. Below are links to more photos.

A fun new addition to my post is Jeff’s YouTube 360 video with our start and finish. Use your mouse to view the action in any direction!

Dave’s photos: https://lase.smugmug.com/2018-RTC-on-Kinetics

My photos from Sunday: https://adobe.ly/2FuhgLE

RTC 2017

The race of the year here in the NW for a lot of people is Round the County and we made it again. Barely. The top end of the Universal engine got rebuilt after a total failure just a week before departure. The crew pitched in with the repair work and moving sails to make it happen. Added some new people to the roster that were a great addition and I think everyone had a great time.

Steve driving on the way up

Rented a house for the first time this year which was great. It made life so much better on Saturday night for a crew of eight. Nice dinner, hot showers and some comfortable quarters to relax and discuss our day’s efforts. Turns out we did rather well considering it was a light air day. The wind was light but never completely gone and that is what works for the big Nordic 44. If you can keep momentum up it will glide from puff to puff. We watched the boats ahead and did our best to avoid the places where they were parked up. It was an evening for celebration.

Trimming in light air
Wild Rumpus was next to us both days
Something interesting over there

I managed to be over early for the first time ever and had to clear the line and restart. I figured that was going to be the end of our day so I was very happy to see we managed a good come back with great crew work from everyone. The start was wild with a crazy move by a big Beneteau making a dive in on port tack at the committee boat forcing several of us to dive out of the way and then yell for them to come up. That pretty much forced us to go up and over the rest of the fleet now heading towards the line. Who barges on port tack? I hope they learned something in the process and no one got hit thanks to some good boat handling by the rest of the fleet.

Light touch on the spin sheets in light air
Driver and trimmer work together on Saturday

Sunday dawned a bit on the gloomy side and the forecast had left me uncertain of the best call for headsail choice. It was light but gusty in Mosquito pass so we hung on to the #1 thinking it would be light enough that we’d need it to get out the starting area. Unfortunately, the wind just kept building and we were quickly over powered and falling behind. I chose to reef the main rather than switch to the #3 thinking it might go light soon but again, I guessed wrong. We fell further behind and eventually had to go to the #3. We were now out of touch with our division and unsure of going into the beach or staying out. We ultimately started gaining back some time but it was too late. We got caught in a wind hole just after Salmon bank and had to put up the drifter to get out of it. That thing really works! We now call it the “weather changer”. We soon had to pull it down and go back to the #1.

Rounding Lopez the wind was up and the rain was starting to fall. Finally on a beam reach we launched the A3 for the long run up Rosario to the finish. The rain and the wind kept building and soon we were ripping along in 20-25 knots of wind. We had to dump the main a few times but never wiped out. We slowly reeled in another boat in our class but it was nearly race over and dark by then. With the light gone, the finish all but invisible, I elected to drop the kite and unfurl the #1. Just didn’t feel safe bombing downwind with smaller boats around us in those conditions flying a kite. Not worth it to place second from last instead of last in division. The finish in the dark, wind and rain was not fun but we got it done. Pretty sure everyone was as  relieved as I was to have it over and get on the way back to Anacortes.

Another exciting RTC, the 30th edition, according to the tee shirt. We’ll be back next year for a CCW lap and hopefully do well BOTH days this time!

Asmus in Southern Ocean mode for the drive back
Birds take flight near southern exit of the cut


RTC 2015

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.

Kinetics in the RTC 2015
Kinetics in the RTC 2015

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. Continue reading “RTC 2015”