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‘Tir Na Nog’ lone finisher in 40th Shaw Island Classic | Sailing
The 40th Shaw Island Classic hosted by the San Juan Island Yacht Club on Aug. 7 had the potential of being one of the most challenging in the event’s history, with forecasted winds of 17 knots and a nearly 10-foot tidal range creating a flooding current of over 2 knots at Reid Rock.
However, with no wind developing, the fleet was basically hove to. A rumble could be heard as far up town as Vic’s as the skippers alternately cursed Thor or pleaded for wind. Of 68 starters, only one boat technically finished the race. Bill Fraser in Tir Na Nog out of Shaw Island got the checkered flag.
The Shaw Island Classic is unique in that there is no fixed course. The Sailing Instructions are quite simple: Start from Friday Harbor, around Shaw Island either way, and back to Friday Harbor. Shaw Island is the only mark and the Sailing Instructions caution against hitting it. If one does hit the island a 360-penalty turn is not required.
The mass start of 60-70 boats of past years was modified this year by SJIYC Fleet Captain Peg Gerlock to provide a start for slower boats followed 15 minutes later by the faster boats. This lessened the near collisions of former years as the boats merged for the start in usually light wind conditions. The paperwork consisting of the Notice of Race and Entry and the Sailing Instructions were very good with an added touch of humor.
The weather however was a disappointment. Some boats did not get more than a couple of hundred yards from the start. Most with local knowledge chose to go counterclockwise, figuring on riding the counter current on the north side of Turn Island and then catch some breeze coming up San Juan Channel to take them to Upright Channel. Most of those boats hit the flood off Turn Rock — and that was all she wrote.
Bill Fraser, the winner, said, “I could see early on that this would be a mid-course race.” (Race Instructions provided that if no boat completed the course by 1800, finishes would be taken at mid-course, at 1700). He could see the trouble others were having with the light wind going counterclockwise, so he decided to go clockwise with the flood current and take his chances bucking the current in Wasp Passage. Fraser crossed the midpoint line at 1644, just 16 minutes before the time limit.
Moon Doggie, Great White, and Norn rounded Hankin Point and had the mid-point in sight when time ran out. Redline II, Temptress, Sea Puppy, Paradigm Shift, Mistral, Skededel and Tinette were just behind them.