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J/crews prevail in Northern Century Race

by J/Boats 14 Dec 2020 15:54 PST
2020 Northern Century Race © Sean Trew

In the "it's never too late to report" department, the Anacortes Yacht Club hosted the Northern Century Race in the beginning of the fall. It is a 100.0 nm offshore triangle that delivers the toughest race you'll ever love.

The course extends through and around (skipper's choice) the San Juan Islands, and each year competitors are met with a unique set of challenges and some of the most beautiful conditions the Salish Sea has to offer.

Though a 50-mile option exists (for the sane people), the Northern Century 100 course starts to the north in Fidalgo Bay off Anacortes and heads further north to Point Roberts, then south any way you choose to Hein Bank, followed by a return finish at Anacortes.

The race starts on Friday evening, and night-time spinnaker runs are the norm on the way up to the first mark of the course. Due to the time of year, meteor showers and phosphorescence that light up the night add to the excitement of the race.

Bruce's Briefs from Sailish.com had this sobering forecast to offer the sailors this year:

"We said summer had arrived last week and this weekend it will arrive with some very, very warm temps especially on Sunday. Today's satellite pic shows just how spectacularly clear conditions are over the Salish Sea.

That's both the good news and the bad news as the Surface Analysis Charts show our Pacific high weakening and tending to flatten while a thermal trough of low-pressure expands along the coast running from San Francisco inland to southern BC. This will convert our current onshore flow to an offshore flow on Saturday which will bring some downslope winds and compressional heating to the area, hence the high temps. The weather charts also show the distinct lack of any kind of pressure gradient over the area. This will make for, once again, a very challenging Northern Century Race.

The real challenge for this race is that in this transition period from onshore to offshore flow, the Race course is right in the convergence zone where the flow coming down the Strait of Juan de Fuca (SOJ) meets the flow coming down the Strait of Georgia (SOG). As the flow coming down the SOJ weakens, the flow coming down the SOG will build slightly turning the southerly/southwesterly flow over the San Juan Islands to a north/northwesterly flow. The big question is always, when will this happen? The models are not in agreement which is not surprising considering the lack of a pressure gradient.

The keys for the race are getting out of the starting area, getting through the lee of Guemes Island, and getting up Lummi Island. From there to the Point Roberts Buoy there will probably be more wind slightly to the east of the rhumb line. The wind will be light and from the south/southwest with it generally going very light after around 0200hrs. You would really like to be around the Pt Roberts mark before 0200 and then be sure to take your time at the shorten course mark.

One model does have a northerly of 5-8 kts filling down the SOG and down San Juan Island just before dawn. That combined with the big ebb of the day could get you to Hein Bank in time to catch the flood to the finish. If you're a big boat with a tall rig and really wanted to roll the dice, you could try sailing down the inside of San Juan Island and gamble that you could make it out of Cattle Pass before about 0900 Saturday morning and the start of the big flood of the day. The big boats could finish by mid-afternoon Saturday.

Century race course for the once this year, expect the lighter air to be in the SOJ while the central Sound will have a delightful northerly of 10-15 knots on Saturday before it becomes light on Sunday. This will be a great weekend to be on the water just be sure to have plenty of sunblock and be sure to reapply throughout the day."

That was a pretty accurate forecast by the famous "Bruce the weatherman"! It was a light airs race, with beautiful vistas, and lots of flying code zeros to keep things moving.

In the three divisions that had thirteen J/Crews participating, each had a podium finish by a top J/Boats team. In the Full Crew 100 Division, taking second was Jim Hinz's J/120 Hinzite. The balance of the top eleven included Dougherty and Andrew's J/125 Hamachi in fourth, Cathy Van Antwerp's J/111 Valkyrie in seventh, Phil Dean's J/80 Rush in eighth, Bob Brunius' J/120 Time Bandit in ninth, Jason Vannice's J/35 Altair in 10th, and Tolga Cezik's J/109 Lodos in 11th. An amazing performance by these teams in very challenging conditions.

Similarly, in the Doublehanded 100 Division, J/Crews took five of the top 10! Taking the silver was Vincent Townrow's J/105 Kinetic. They were followed by Christina and Justin Wolfe's J/111 Raku in fourth, Emre Selzer's J/80 Reckless in fifth, Mike Powell's J/33 Keet in ninth, and Karl Halfkinger's J/35 Shearwater in 10th.

Finally, in the Full Crew 50 Division, taking third was Walt Meagher's J/35 Sunshine Girl. All in all, kudos to all crews for their perseverance and concentration to get the job done!

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