Please select your home edition
Edition
37th AC Store 2024 - 728x90 TOP

Warm and sunny Puget Sound sailing, The Ocean Race news, and passing of Buddy Melges Jr

by David Schmidt 23 May 2023 08:00 PDT May 23, 2023
Hamachi struts her stuff in light airs and sunshine on the waters of Puget Sound © Hamachi/Jan Anderson

A curious thing happened on Saturday, May 13, on the waters of Puget Sound: It was warm and there was wind for the Seattle Yacht Club's annual Vashon Island Race, which is the second event in the SYC's great Tri-Island Series. While this kind of weather report likely doesn't generate much editorial ink in most places, Puget Sound offers its own kind of magic, with most racing unfurling during the breeze-on winter months, while the warmer and dryer months are usually reserved for cruising (read: little wind).

But Saturday was special. Despite forcing my poor friend Fritz to meet me for an (as it turned out unnecessarily) early alpine start in Bellingham (0515 hours... I owe him one!) for the slog south down I-5 to Seattle's Shilshole Marina, the day dawned sans a single cloud in the sky. Better still, there was plenty of action in the forest canopy as I drove, and PredictWind's HRRR forecast model was saying all sorts of pretty things about the day's adventure and our prospects for good northerly flow.

It wasn't wrong.

While the SYC offered several different courses for the different assembled boats, our crew aboard Dark Star, Jonathan and Libby McKee's Riptide 44, were sailing the long course. This began just off the breakwater at Shilshole, and it took the fleet south, past Point Robinson Lighthouse (on Vashon Island's east-southeast flank), then counterclockwise around Vashon Island, passing north through Colvos Passage, then past Blake Island, and then up and across Puget Sound to the finishing line, which was in the same location as the start.

Fritz and Jonathan nailed our start as helm and tactician (respectively), and our trimmers made darn sure that we had good VMG for the downhill push to Point Robinson. The boat's new kite helped this effort, as did the perfect luff curl that our kite trimmer, Fritz (there were two aboard), brought to the game.

We enjoyed some fast sailing as the waves just flirted with the idea of exposing some white caps (the breeze was 12-20 knots), coupled with huge amounts of sunshine and warmth. I found myself tractoring the kite on our gybes wearing a pair of shorts, a thin jacket, and floatation — not the 47 layers of fleece, Gore-Tex, and puffy jackets that almost 15 years of sailing on these waters trained me to bring.

In fact, my biggest packing faux pas involved forgetting a UV-blocking shirt and some high-SPF lip protection... the sort of gear that most sailors pack first, but that we in the Pacific Northwest can almost always safely skip.

Our great breeze held almost all the way to the entrance of Quarter Master Harbor, on Vashon's southern aspect. Then, it became a short game of wind whispering and of being quick with sail handling and changes, plus a pinch of luck.

While the latter was largely elusive, we soon picked our way to a shaggy-carpet section of water, hoisted our J 1.5 (we soon peeled to a J 2.5), and filled the water-ballast tanks for the uphill push home.

Our race was roughly 60 nautical miles, but it all blew by way too fast. I sat on the rail, watching as the finishing line slowly hove into view, realizing that I'd be more than happy to simply keep sailing. Normal enough, of course, but I somehow drew the finishing line a few miles further north than it actually was... so, sadly, our perfect day of racing ended a handful of tacks sooner than I was expecting.

I'm not sure I've ever been so sad to finish a fantastic race. Call it the ghosts of my former self (I grew up sailing in New England), but there was something downright fine about being able to feel all ten fingers and ten toes, not to mention both legs and arms, all day long, while also enjoying solid breeze and a fantastic day of racing on Puget Sound with great people.

While I can only guess at the karmic bill that will come due soon (perhaps during June 3's Blake Island Race, which is the SYC's final Tri-Island Series race of the year), I promise it will be worth it, given that my smile still hasn't faded some ten days ex post facto.

Meanwhile, this past weekend in Newport, Rhode Island, was all about The Ocean Race, with a modified version of inshore racing and the start of Leg 5 both unfurling on Sunday. (N.B. the inshore racing had been slated for Saturday, but was postponed due to weather.)

Rather than a bifurcated inshore course, followed by a separate offshore start, teams instead sailed the inshore portion of the course and then crossed a "leaving gate" (life is full of new terms) that saw the RC record positions, before the fleet headed out into the open Atlantic Ocean.

Team Malizia was the first through this leaving gate, followed by hometown favorites 11th Hour Racing, and Team Holcim-PRB.

All five teams are now tearing across the Atlantic towards Aarhus, Denmark, and the end of Leg 5, which offers a prize plum of double points. This matters greatly for all teams that are competing. A glance at the scoreboard reveals that Team Holcim-PRB is in first place with 19 points, while second-place 11th Hour Racing and third-place Team Malizia are both sitting on 18 points.

Provided that one of these three teams wins Leg 5, they could well amass an unsurmountable lead as this edition of this storied race nears its conclusion.

As of this writing (Monday morning, West Coast time), 11th Hour Racing was leading the charge, followed some 10 nautical miles astern by Team Holcim-PRB and Team Malizia, but, with more than 3,000 nautical miles of racetrack remaining, there's plenty of action ahead before those double points are assigned.

Finally, sad news reached the sailing world last week when word broke that Harry Clemons 'Buddy' Melges Jr. passed away on May 18 at the age of 93. Melges came from a great sailing and boatbuilding family, and he built on his father's strong work at Melges Boat Works, while also winning many, many races.

Melges' highwater victories include winning a gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in the Soling class, a bronze in the Flying Dutchman in the 1964 Summer Olympics, and helming America3 to win the 1992 America's Cup, in addition to being named US Sailing's Yachtsman of the Year three times (1961, 1972, and 1983, the latter of which also included a Rolex timepiece) and earning his place in the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

Melges will be remembered as one of the true titans of our sport, in addition to being a gentleman and a great competitor.

May the four winds blow you safely home,
David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

Related Articles

Things Do Change…
It's quite some time ago now: three decades for sure, and into its fourth, quite possibly It's quite some time ago now. Three decades for sure, and into its fourth, quite possibly. It was one of those unwritten laws. An adage, if you will. Posted on 21 May
Introducing Paris 2024 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team
Celebrating and introducing the sailors off to Marseille shortly For fans of U.S. Olympic sailing, the past several quadrennials have been a nosebleed, at best. Despite this history, however, the USA has fielded a young-but-hopefully-competitive team for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Posted on 21 May
The most famous boat in the world
Goes by a lot of nicknames, but you'd think Comanche fits the bill wherever she goes Goes by a lot of nicknames, but you'd have to think Comanche fits the bill wherever she goes. Right oh. Well, for just another eight months or so, she's not going anywhere. The most famous boat in the world has another, albeit short, charter with one aim. Posted on 20 May
Loads of amenity - Goes like a cut cat
As the first Cure 55 steps closer to being splashed it looked more like a Purosangue to me As the first Cure 55 steps ever closer to being splashed, I could not help thinking that it was a lot like the Ferrari Purosangue. More space than your typical two-seat hypercar, yet with the punch to dispatch distances and pretenders with complete ease. Posted on 16 May
James Clarkson on the 2024 I14 Nationals
A Q&A with James Clarkson on the 2024 International 14 U.S. Nationals Sail-World checked in with James Clarkson, president of the International 14 class, via email, to learn more about this high-level skiff regatta. Posted on 14 May
This isn't what I expected
I'm very surprised just how different the new AC75s are A month ago, when I wrote 'AC75 launching season', just three of the AC75s set to contest the 37th America's Cup in Barcelona had been revealed. Now it's five, with just the French Orient Express Racing Team left to show their hand. Posted on 13 May
Celebrating throughlines in sailing leadership
And the sailing world's newest hero Back in mid-March, Sail-World celebrated singlehanded American skipper Cole Brauer as the sailing world's newest hero. Now, I'm now happy to report that we have another sailing hero, albeit one who carries a British passport. Posted on 7 May
The Lewin-LaFrance sisters on their Olympic dreams
A Q&A with Antonia and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance on their 49erFX campaign for Paris 2024 Sail-World checked in with sisters Antonia and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance, who are representing Canada in the 49erFX event at the 2024 Paris Olympics, via email, to learn more about their campaign. Posted on 7 May
Pre-eminence
Not too hard to work out that I am unabashedly Australian Not too hard to work out that I am unabashedly Australian. Hope everyone is as proud of their country, as I am. Most folk I know seem to be. Posted on 6 May
Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton on the 70th annual Mug
A Q&A with Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton on the 70th annual Mug Race Sail-World checked in with Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton, who serve as race organizers, via email, to learn more about this 38-nautical-mile river race. Posted on 1 May
Selden 2020 - FOOTERDoyle_SailWorld_728X90px-05 BOTTOMLloyd Stevenson - Equilibrium 728x90px BOTTOM