Affectionately christened the Six Pack Series back in the 80’s Monday night racing off Shilshole Marina has evolved through a partnership between the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club and the Shilshole Bay Yacht Club into a solely Sloop Tavern Yacht Club event and participation continues to climb.
Often described by some as the salt water bumper boat racing akin to Duck Dodge or that silly fixed mark racing the yacht club down the road does – STYC’s Monday night racing continues to evolve and grow and has certainly outpaced and moved beyond the oft heard negative comments. With 64 entries in the 5 race evening Ballard Cup Series #1 the Sloop easily doubles the entries of the [considered by some] more serious keel boat buoy racing, offered by Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle, mid-week off the same marina.***
With a start area near the north end of the marina and utilizing fixed marks from West Point to Spring Beach the all-volunteer race committee rolls off starts for a non-flying sails class (no spinnakers), 6 handicapped rated flying sails classes and even sports a start for a one design fleet! Take a quick scroll through the skippers names on the entry list and you’ll find many of the top sailors on Puget Sound participating in this “not so serious” non-buoy racing series.
So is it less serious racing? Arguably racers have no idea how to be “less serious” on the race course but it certainly is less serious for the committee boat crew. No one is paid, no mark boats are out running around squaring up the course, there aren’t multiple starts for each class. The focus isn’t on the number of starts and turns around each corner, the focus is on getting out on the water after work, having some good competition with friends and foes and challenging yourself and your crew to deal with the various currents and wind angles that are inherently changing around each fixed mark location.
Take race #4 for example, raining, miserable and cold with winds out of the South East at about 8 knots. 40 of the 64 entered boats showed up for racing, the normal East/West line is set by the volunteer race committee and with the Southeasterly wind angle it was a port tack line – so port tack that if you started on port at the East end of the line you had to foot around the ship canal markers before coming up to close hauled to make the line to the permanent mark set off the West Point poop grinder. Not everyone was able to win the Port tack start nor was able to adjust their normal starboard tack approach to grasp ahold of the advantage of starting on port. An interesting challenge for racers that would normally never see a start like this on a “square” buoy race course. Is it different? Absolutely it’s different, but port or starboard, it’s sailing.
Next challenge was at the weather mark. With the wind angle a “normal” bare away set wasn’t as advantageous as executing a jibe set. Those with good crew work and quick movements were able to capitalize again by jibing around the mark while setting their chute, pop the pole out and then extend to weather of their competition. Once around the leeward mark at Meadow Point skippers had to look outside of their immediate surroundings and pick a line towards the weather mark that set them up to have clear air and good or at least not super negative current before jibing around the weather mark again and executing another difficult spinnaker set before extending off towards the finish.
Skills of a sailor and racer, but not necessarily skills learned from or regularly used on a square buoy race course. Expertise found in well-rounded sailors, those that can read the wind, see the angles, interpret the current and waves. Yes they still need the athleticism and focus that excels on the buoy race course but subdue and blend that physicality with the salty old sailor skills that seem to be lost in today’s modern sailor.
Obviously the flavor and style of Monday night racing as hosted by the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club appeals to a large number of local sailors. The sheer number of entries support this assertion, but it also appeals to a local business who is supporting the first series with 13 of their boats, creating one entire class with 9 of them. 20% of the Monday night fleet is supplied by the Seattle Sailing Club – their members and owners are getting their boats out racing in the local scene. You may not have been aware of this, but this one business is supporting racing in the Seattle area at unprecedented levels while at the same time educated and empowering an entire new group of adult sailors that wouldn’t have found this opportunity in a local yacht club.
Youth sailing, yes, the local yacht clubs support youth buoy racing at amazing levels but without a place like the Seattle Sailing club teaching the skills of sailing and promoting their members to get out and use those skills, the PNW would seriously lack an avenue for adults to join our sailing and racing culture and hell, we would lose 20% of the boats out on Monday night without the Seattle Sailing Club sending their members out. (FYI – almost 30% of the boats out on Corinthian Yacht Clubs Wednesday night racing are from the Seattle Sailing Club)
Sloop Tavern Yacht Club – you’ve evolved over the years, we’ve watched your membership and governing board evolve and change and you continue to provide fun, challenging and well attended events that the Seattle Sailing scene would sorely miss without your involvement. I’m sure there have been internal challenges along the way, silly personal behind the scenes stuff that every volunteer organization has at some point in their evolution. But you’ve persevered and I personally want to say thank you to every single member and volunteer that has put in their time and effort, in any way, at the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club to continue the traditions of the sailor and provide fun and challenging events that utilize all the skills of the old salts in order to prevail. What you are doing means something to Seattle sailing – don’t go changin’.
And I’m not even touching upon the great STYC cruising scene the club promotes and supports….
Check out the Monday Night Series entry list and scoring, sign up for Series #2 and learn more about the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club here on their website.
***(to be fair please know that I am a member of and supportive of both the Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle and the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club along with being a member of Port Madison Yacht Club since the mid 1980’s)