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Annual Shaw Island yacht race stymied by ‘Classic’ conditions | Around the Waterfront

'Around the Waterfront' by columnist Fred Hoeppner is published periodically by the Journal of the San Juan Islands and SanJuanJournal.com
— image credit: File photo

The 41st Annual Shaw Island Classic Yacht Race hosted by the San Juan Island Yacht Club, Saturday, Aug. 6, came off with a sputter.

Light winds and strong, unpredictable currents allowed only 22 of the 55 starting boats to finish the race.

The classic is one of the more popular races in this area, drawing racers from Bellingham to Seattle. And perhaps the most unique, in that the sailing instructions permit the circumnavigation of Shaw Island either clockwise or counter clockwise.

The Racing Rules of Sailing require a boat touching a mark of the course to absolve itself by making a 360 degree turn.

In this race, Shaw Island is a mark of the course, but SJIYC Fleet Captain Bish Wheeler stated that this rule would not obtain. Any boat hitting Shaw Island could use whatever means available to get clear, but not to better its position.

The start, off the northeast end of Brown Island, was the usual fiasco despite that the starting line was moved further to the east than in previous years.

With little or no wind the starters were set toward the pin end of the line causing some boats to do a 360-degree turn to return to the starting line. Several large boats in the second start group violated the racing rules of sailing by cruising under sail and power through the first groups starting area.

Their large sails also blanked the wind that smaller boats, starting properly, needed to get to the line. These boats should have been subject to a protest by the race committee.

A small red sloop with four crew was observed starting that had not properly entered the race by paying the entry fee and displaying their class identification ribbon.

Once started, we found the currents in San Juan Channel far different than predicted in the current tables. Some of the fast boats were able to get out and sneak up the shore of San Juan Island and then break across to Wasp Passage, but the rest of us just tacked back and forth stemming the current.

Mariana (Hoeppner’s boat) spent three hours within sight of the Friday Harbor marina.

A lot of the boats sailing clockwise through Wasp Passage lost the wind short of the halfway line, just beyond the Orcas ferry terminal and at that point had to declare DNF (Did Not Finish).

Those that passed the midpoint picked up some breeze and were able to finish.

None of the boats sailing counterclockwise were able to finish.

In the some 25 times I’ve sailed in the classic, I would say this race was much like all the rest.

That’s not to say, however, that in some years we have had great conditions and truly great races.

This is racing in the San Juans — sometimes discouraging — sometimes exhilarating.

As Howard Schonberger says, “go with the flow”.

Final results had Ben Colwell, in Barely 18, a Hobie Tiger, finishing first overall in corrected time, and in the Multihull division.

Mark Linderman in Serrano corrected out first overall in the cruising divisions and Lloyd Bacon finished first overall in the PHRF divisions.

 

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