Winter Vashon 2003 Race Report
submitted by Alex Krawarik
Winter Vashon has a reputation around Puget Sound for being a tough race. There never seems to be much room for any middle ground: either you drift slowly along for hours and hours, sailing half the race in the dark and cold and maybe the rain only to finish within 5 minutes of the time limit, or you get blown off the water by huge winds. The race does a full circle around Vashon and Maury islands, starting North up Colvos Passage, rounding the N tip of the island, and then returning South and West back to the start. Since last year was a no start due to lack of wind (thank god!), people were keen to get out on the course again this year. The weather was promising, with 25 knots predicted from the S.
This year, Mark Logan of Lunch Box decided to try the race for the first time, and rounded up the usual suspects. I got a chance to ride along at the last minute, after my own boat bowed out of the race when our port cabinets completely delaminated in Round the County, a few weeks earlier.
Sat morning we all met at the boat and go underway. The forecast had backed off a little, we were still expecting decent wind. A good turnout (around 90 boats) sailed around the start area. There were 4 Olson 30 registered, but only 3 had actually come out. Still, with Here and Now (a competetive J29) and the odd J105 tossed in, it was going to be a competetive PHRF division. The winds at the start were out of the South and there was a current running along the shore that made the approach to the start line quick. We started just behind Sidewinder and went up with the spin on port pole. While the air around the start was lighter, it built across to the South end of Vashon and all the way up Colvos Passage, to where it was blowing a good 18 with gusts.
We ran down Colvos neck and neck with Sidewinder. At times they were one boatlength behind us, directly behind us, for seemingly miles at a time. It was a pure drag race that affoarded no errors. Pushing each other so hard had side effects...we started burning through many of the boats in the starts ahead of us, which (no reverse start) had started 5 minuted ahead and were rated faster! Sidewinder took one gybe to the Vashon side, which hurt them a little (5 boatlengths? 10?) but when they came back out they were not going any slower and were within easy striking distance. The drag race continued. In the back of everyone's mind was Here and Now, easily visible just a few minutes behind and keeping up. When they are within sight, its not a good thing.
At the top of the island, everyone was anxious. We all knew it blew harder in the main channel than in Colvos, so we pulled down the #1 off the deck and put the #3 on deck. Only to reverse that thought once we saw the boats rounding a turning mark ahead of us in lighter air! The main channel was much lighter than the breeze coming up Colvos, defying previous experiences, so we scrambled to get the #1 back on deck Sidewinder made no such move, however. At the mark it got very light (5 knots?) and we had to milk and coast the boat past the windshadow of a big boat having problems and dousing too early. Sidewinder, on our transom, got stuck in their bad air and slowed.
We all rounded, and with the #1 up we took a long tack towards Des Moines. Sidewinder with their #3 up slowly dropped astern as they couldnt keep up the boat speed or point as high, and suffered a bit in dirty air. The wind slowly built as we approached Pt Robinson, in traffic of sorts with some large boats (Cheetah, Schock Therapy, a slow J120, another slow J35..) Mark, Chuck, Dan, and even I took some turns driving the 'Box. Past the point we could see the waves were noticably bigger, so we changed down to the 3 just after rounding the point, expecting more wind. But there wasnt any, it was tidal action or something. The wind remained at a steady 12-15 knots. Only after a few minutes, we changed back up to the one, looking aft and worried. Sidewinder and Here and Now were in a tacking right duel behind us, and eating up some ground. The final beat to the finish saw us sprinting to the finihs neck and neck with the J105, an X119, and the "slow" J35 that had now finally found its paces, all the while trying to extend on Here and Now. We needed to finish 10 minutes ahead of them to beat them, and so far it was looking difficult. Belated we realized there was better air in the center of the channel where the X-boat was, but it was too late.
We finished around 2:30, with the fastest elapsed time I've ever had going around Vashon Island. Here and Now finished a few minutes behind us, but outcorrected to 1st place in the division. Evenso, a great race on a great day!