Ahh Winter Vashon – lovingly sitting at the forefront of sailors minds as they think longingly all year long about this balmy jaunt around the last stronghold of hippiedom in the Pacific Northwest, Vashon Island. At Just over 30 miles, it’s an easy 6 hour sail with those consistent south sound winds the area is known for and with our 8 hours of light this time of year finishing in daylight is even a possibility! Right? Well it was this year!
Sailors began arriving into the super fund cleanup site previously known as Tacoma Yacht Club soon after sunlight began filtering through the cloud layers, increasing everyone’s sight noticeably, well everyone except the delivery crews that arrived late Friday night under the veil of darkness that needed to be kicked out of their bunks and told to clean themselves up and try to smell a little better, but that’s another story. For those of you that haven’t been down to TYC recently its now a huge clean-up/construction site complete with every kind of large piece of equipment, gravel and construction mud are the new parking lot surfaces along with some new rock outcroppings both in the entrance of the marina and outside near the starting area that grabbed ahold of at least 2 different boats (watch out for that).
Winds were forecast in the normal south sound 6 to 11 range but as the cruising classes started down the course at just after 9am it quickly became apparent that the foreguessers were wrong once again; but for the first time since man learned to cure cod with lye they had under guessed the wind speeds! The waiting boats watched as the cruising class boats began rounding up in the puffs while reaching across the south end of Vashon towards Colvos Passage with a few chutes opening up in the middle to help depower the rounding up boats.
Not deterred by the out of control behavior of some of the cruising class boats the rest of the fleet began crossing the line as their class start horns blared away with chutes pulling hard. One particular yellow boat (the Morgan 36 Stay Gold) in the Class 6/7 start had a very colorful and large pennant flying from the top of their mast from soon after the start for most of the way down the island. Flogging ensued behind them when first Dulcinea and then Flim Flam rounded up hard after classes 4/5 started while watching that little 900lb. Sierra 26 take-off on a plane and round the point into Colvos passage before the J/105 and Soverell 33 recovered from their roundups back near the starting area. The bigger faster boats had their fun too as the puffs continued to build over 20 knots and took their toll on a few more boats with the Aerodyne 38 separating their spinnaker cloth from the tapes around the edges in one solid puff.
Once around the point and into Colvos passage the drag race was on – the big monster truck Neptunes Car mowed through the fleet with their white a-sail pulling strong and a few miles later the big J boat Jam (Marmalade…he he he…:) barreled her way through the slower boats that started well ahead of them. Even though the wind was behind the fleet now the excitement wasn’t over yet as the sailors were treated to views of a few Flying Tiger keels and nice shot of the bottom of a Farr 30 before sailing past the north end of Vashon Island, the turning mark in sight.
A full mix of boats came charging into the anchored turning boat just north of Vashon island and to make things even more interesting, and unbeknownst to almost everyone in the PNW, shrimping season was open and in full effect when the big J/133 and the Jeanneau 519 were seen slowly and painfully grinding their spinnakers back aboard after dunking them in the water looking for those tasty little buggers, I’m sure…. Small jibs pulled in tight, crews on the rail, it was time for the starboard tack drag race all the way down the island to the light house on Point Robinson – all the way on starboard tack with boats footing or pinching for clear wind lanes and mainsail trimmers praying for just one tack after the point so they could switch to their other hand.
The winds stayed consistent in the 12 to 16 knot range on the drag race to the light house and once around the point it even backed down into the 9 knot range causing many to peal down to their big jibs, warming their crews and testing their abilities – if the sail change was done smoothly boats made huge gains on their competition. With gear or crew problems boats were left bareheaded for a short time as the J/109 Tantivy got to experience. Then, less than 20 minutes later, the winds were back over 20 knots and those happy crews got to pull that little jib out of the always too small foredeck hatch and make that change all over again for the windy final stretch into the finish off the Tacoma Yacht Club clubhouse grounds.
Boats from out of the area did the quick touch and goes, folding some sails, discarding some of their crews and throwing their dodgers back on before heading back out into the dwindling sunlight and building breeze for the trek back up to Shilshole that many in the fleet were making that night. Boats reported winds up to and over 30 knots as they set record speeds on their deliveries from Tacoma to Seattle with at least one blown up spinnaker and broken pole on the old wood Davidson 29 plug Madame Pele.
Class 7 and the overall best corrected time around the island was won by everyone’s favorite Evelyn 26 Nimbus, skippered by Mark Harang. Class 6 was taken by one of those downwind surfing machines, the Cal 40 Madrugador, skippered by Mike Irish. Class 5 was won by the slippery hiking strap boys aboard the light little Sierra 26 Dos, owned by Brad Butler. Class 4, the 5 boat One Design class of J/35’s was won by Something Special, skippered by Glen Cowling. Class 3 was easily won, by over 4 minutes over the next boat, by the shrimpers aboard the Jeanneau 519 Equus, skippered by Dean Conti. Class 2 was also easily won by the replacement spinnaker boys aboard the Aerodyne 38 Kahuna, skippered by Jenny Leitzinger. Pax the Space Spider won the two boat pickle fork fleet (the other boat didn’t finish).
1st place in the No Flying Sails Cruising Class was taken by the C&C 34+ Jolly Rumbalow, skippered by Richard Bigley. And last but certainly not least, the Flying Sails Commodores Class (cruising boats with spinnakers) was smacked down by my favorite flat deck downwind surfing machine, the Cal 40 White Squall, skippered by Roger Deitz – winning their class by over 15 minutes! Full results can be found at the South Sound Sailing Society’s South Sound Series website (http://ssssclub.com/ssseries/) and more of Jan Anderson’s beautiful pictures of these deranged sailors that think sailing around Vashon Island in December is a good idea can be found at https://janpix.smugmug.com/