Skippers make tough decisions in Shaw Island Classic | Around the Waterfront

The 2008 San Juan Island Yacht Club-sponsored Shaw Island Classic started exactly at 1200 Saturday, 9 August, with 61 racers.

I’m sure it was a colorful sight with the departing ferry claiming her right of way through the middle of the pre-start. With the usual quarter to half knot current setting everyone toward the start line, and the no-wind lee of Brown Island making the first 30-some boats totally unmaneuverable, think how Bob and Toni Bailey must have felt as the fleet descended on their anchored committee boat “Bailey’s Irish Cream.”

Looked like a five-car pileup on I-5 during the evening rush in Seattle.

Fortunately, Fleet Captain Bruce Hall remained unperturbed and got the starting sequence off with no reported casualties. Several boats were over early but they were recalled and restarted.

Once clear of Brown Island, the decision had to be made as to whether to go clockwise or counterclockwise around Shaw Island. The finish line would be the same as the start. A halfway line was established near the Orcas ferry slip in the event no boat in a class was able to finish the entire circumnavigation.

The problem facing the skippers was whether to go clockwise using the flood current up to Wasp Passage, then buck the flood through Harney Channel, hopefully some ebb in Upright Channel and buck the ebb to the finish, or counterclockwise bucking the flood to Upright Channel with some flood here and in Harney Channel. Then, possibly picking up some ebb in Wasp Passage and an increasing ebb to the finish.

Most skippers figured that wind velocity would be the deciding factor. Strong winds — clockwise to get to Wasp Passage early before the ebb started. Light winds — counterclockwise to have the ebb carry them south in San Juan Channel to the finish line.

The writer did not have the race results available, but it appeared that there were winners for each direction. Lack of wind in Wasp Passage and Harney Channel skewed all calculations and many boats were unable to finish. For those who did win, it was a great race. For the rest of us, it was a great day on the water.

The event ended with a nice dinner at the yacht club followed by the presentation of awards by SJIYC Fleet Captain Bruce Hall.

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