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An interview with Regan Edwards on the 2023 Blake Island Race

by David Schmidt 30 May 08:01 PDT June 3, 2023
Glory was the first boat home to the barn at the SYC's Vashon Island Race, which was the second event in the SYC's 2023 Tri-Island series © Jan Anderson (

Spend enough time racing sailboats on Puget Sound and a curious mindset often starts to form where the fall, winter, and spring seasons become favored over summer. This is especially odd given the Pacific Northwest's reputation for delivering drip-drip-drip rains from early November (OK, late October) through early July, but when one looks at a long-term weather forecast, it becomes obvious: there's usually wind on Puget Sound during the fall through spring, before a big high-pressure system develops over the Pacific, ruining the wind-driven fun.

While summer's arrival often signals the start of cruising season, the Seattle Yacht Club's annual Blake Island Race (Saturday, June 3), which is the final event in their Tri-Island Series, often represents the last day-long big-boat race until fall.

Needless to say, it's a must-race event for many boats, and for many sailors.

The SYC offers three courses (long, short/sportboat, and cruiser/racer), two of which round the event's namesake island (which is located south-southwest of Seattle).

While I've only raced the long course, I'm happy to report that when (and if) the clouds part, racers can expect fantastic views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic and North Cascade mountains.

I checked in with Regan Edwards, regatta co-chair of Seattle Yacht Club's 2023 Blake Island Race, via email, to learn more about this exciting Puget Sound big-boat race.

Can you please give us a bit of history on the Blake Island Race?

I think Seattle sailors have been racing around Blake Island since 1896. I actually looked up the race in our SYC history books and found very early versions of the race being held when we were still the Elliott Bay Yacht Club.

I searched to find the original winner of the Tri Island series and found that Dorade, owned by J. Franklin Eddy, was listed as the winner in 1950.

It's not exactly the origin story of Blake Island Race, but it is mind-blowing to think that we are part of something that has endured and brought joy for over 100 years.

Let's talk about the racecourse itself. Can you please break the race down into a few notable "chapters" and give us a quick précis overview of each?

The idea of "chapters" is very appropriate. The different segments of this race can be so different; it's almost like three completely separate short stories.

Chapter One is the start and getting the [Ballard] Locks [out]flow (if it's ebbing -which it [will be] until 1100—go to the West Point beach). If it were flooding, it can work out for you to sail towards Bainbridge [Island].

The tide change is at 1100 [hours] so if there's any wind at all, take it to the deep water. Being aware that the tide will change quicker on Bainbridge Island side.

Chapter Two: South of Blakely Rocks, if there's any wind at all you want to cross the Colvos Passage. Nine out of ten times, it's preferred to go counter-clockwise.

Chapter Three: Go to Magnolia ASAP. First one to Magnolia wins.

What kind of a role do tides lay in the race?

Puget Sound tends to be a one-way highway. The tides play a huge role.

Blake Island isn't all that far from the north-south convergence zone that often develops off of Seattle's West Point, but is is a bit to the south of this imaginary line. How does this north-south convergence typically affect the course, especially given that the West Point Lighted Buoy is a mark on all four courses?

This is a tricky question. How the north-south convergence affects the course depends on your lucky dice. There are too many variables to make a generalization.

What about Puget Sound's Vessel Traffic Separation lanes? Can sailors expect to contend with heavy metal (read: ships), in addition to boat-on-boat tactics, wind convergences, and tides?

Yes, of course. All boats should closely watch for traffic, and I strongly suggest that everyone monitor VHF throughout the day. If you are hailed and you ignore pleas to clear the shipping lane, you can be disqualified.

Weather-wise, what kind of conditions can sailors typically expect for this race? Are we getting close enough to summer to be into the fabled high-pressure systems that park over the Pacific Northwest, or is early June still a breezy time on Puget Sound?

Yes, to the first part; we are close to the summer and there's always a chance for the high-pressure system. I try not to look at forecasts until right before the event. Even three days out, it's hard to say. Last year, we had mixed bag. Baking hot at some points and windy/chilly at other times.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made over the last year or two to green-up the regatta and generally lower its environmental wake?

SYC has worked with Sailors for the Sea to become more green.

We recently received platinum-level certification for our sustainability efforts during the [2022] Tasar Worlds. We are trying our best to reduce the number of printed copies of race documents we produce; we encourage the use of reusable plastic bottles, and we are working with the party suppliers and caterers to maximize the compostable materials. It all adds up!

Is there anything else about the Blake Island Race, or the Tri-Islands Series, that you'd like to add, for the record?

We have been blessed with incredible weather for the first two races. Protection Island had the dream-like condition of being mostly downwind throughout the whole day. The Vashon Island race was fortunate to have mostly steady breeze and abundant sunshine. I couldn't believe that our race committee duties were finished shortly after sunset! With one race to go, I'm feeling hopeful that mother nature will once again spoil us. Fingers crossed! I'll see you all at the party on Saturday, June 3rd.

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