Blakely Rocks Race Report from Freda Mae

posted Mar 9, 2018, 11:45 AM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc   [ updated Mar 9, 2018, 11:51 AM ]

We have sailed to Blakely Rock a bunch of times.  Racing and not.  Thing about Blakely Rock is, there are a bunch of boulders and ridges and ledges waiting just under the surface, eager to disjoint your daggerboard.  We hit it once in Little Freda, our F28, on a pleasure sail with a bunch of kids aboard.  Terrible sound of ripping fiber glass, and the main hull began to fill with water.  We limped into Eagle Harbor, the rescue guys put pumps on the boat and towed us to CSR the next day. 

Just by way of saying that we always pay close attention when sailing to Blakely Rock, especially Johnny, because he was steering that day.  Thank god for insurance.

I had been pushing pretty hard with boat projects since Round the County, and just got the boat in sailing condition the week before the race.  Rebedding/replacing a bunch of leaking deck hardware, removing a bunch of moldy rabbit fur, painting.  Generally making the boat a little rougher looking and stronger.  I’ll never work as hard or as fast as Jeff Oaklief, but I was down at the boat late at night, using up the AAAs in my headlamp.  Happy as a clam really, completely absorbed in the physical and mental challenge of boat work. 

Headed to the marina early on Saturday, all jacked up on coffee and the prospect racing, and swung by the loading ramp to check on Jeff and Ruff Duck.  He is in the water, and glad to see us.  He can’t find the pin that attaches the yoke to the mast base.  Jumped in car, hot tailed it back to house, grab pin, and back to dock, thereby having spared the life of a screw driver for sure. 

We rig our boat, get the spin on the correct side, rig the solent in case the wind builds, and head out into a glorious day...(rest of story below Janpix picture, click on picture to see it better, then back button your browser to get back to story)

It’s choppy and windy, and I am on edge.  It’s always like this after a while away from sailing –  the noise and the motion more than I remember, the intricacy of the rigging just a bit surprising.  But  in just a few minutes we are settled, main up, and here’s jeff, also main only reaching around below the start box.  Kristin is in the companion way watching the starts, and getting the timer synced.  Jon on jib, Johnny on main.  Focused.

Where is the line.

Where to start.  Boat end on starboard.

Where are we in the sequence.  Kris calls it out.

40 seconds.

Big S turns to kill time, Ruff Duck behind us, Green Flash on the line. 

30  seconds.  20 seconds, accelerate past committee boat,  I think they were whooping.   

First mistake, too close to Green Flash, can’t go above them without being over early, .  Go below at the last minute.  Damn.  Slow. Finally cross the line.  Decide to tack behind Green flash to clear our air. 

Second mistake.  Tack too close to Jeff coming up on starboard,  we cross, but foul him. 

We get in position for a fairly long port tack, headed for the top mark.  Feeling sheepish about the foul, but ok.  Boat handling has been smooth, we are trimmed and rigged right, everybody knows where to go sit.  Paying attention to tell tales, locked in.  We cross Ruff Duck and Green Flash on the way up to the top mark.  It is a glorious day for a sailboat race.  Sun, wind, and snow-capped peaks.

I have not told anybody, but I have decided I am going to stay on the tiller for much of the race, just to reward myself for the late nights and aching hands.  It is kind of strange, but have always acted as if it is my prerogative as skipper to say who steers when.  When I have it together, I have a plan that I communicate to Johnny and Jon in advance.  Other times it is a bit intuitive, maybe arbitrary.  So grateful that they have never been resentful about this, except maybe that one time at Cow Bay, when I took the tiller back with no notice, near the finish.  Still feel bad about that one.

So any ways, we leave the top mark wide, have a clean raise and are off on an epic run.  Wind is 15-18, maybe some higher puffs?  Lots of traffic, as we were 8th start.  Sailing pretty deep, and the spin does its “project” the luff to windward thing.  Johnny and Jon trade of trimming and log watching.  Kristin calling out traffic. 

Speed builds quickly, as we get away from the scrum.  I’m steering from the net at first, but not fully comfortable with the short tiller extension and my gloves—I move into the cockpit.  Kristin and the Jon on the float, aft of the shroud.  Boat sailing flat and fast, leeward float knifing through the chop, never pressed.  There is still enough traffic that I don’t concentrate fully on boatspeed— going deep to avoid boats, or to squeeze between lanes. 

We pass the Melges 32 Ballistic, which is when I start to realize how well we are doing.  Their enormous mast head spinnaker is perfectly trimmed, they have a crowd of people hiking on the back corner, they are in full planning mode.  We pass them like they were a 4 knot SB. 

Soon enough, there are no boats ahead of us.

The leading TP 52, Crossfire, is almost even with us.  We cross them on starboard.  Feeling GOOD.

As we pass the entrance to Eagle Harbor, my paranoia starts to reassert control.  Got a shoal here, a lee shore there, the rock ahead.  Where and when to drop?  We discuss, and take it very wide.  The wind abates a bit in toward the Rock, and we have a smooth drop and jib raise.  The TPs pass us and we get trimmed for up wind, heading for the Space Needle.  After a bit, I hand the tiller to Johnny, and go below to pee and have a sandwich.  Feels good to be out of the wind and sun for a moment, but as always, the noise of the boat up wind is disconcerting.  I resolve to chase down every creak and rattle, every shimmy and shake that I can, until the boat can slam quietly into a head sea.

We are in clear air all the way up the course and the wind is steady and we never feel pressed.  No thought of a reef.   Johnny and John trade off on the tiller.  I watch the trim and fantasize about t-foils and canting rigs.  We keep the TP 52s in sight, but waterline tells, and there is not quite enough wind for us to stay with them. 

I take back the tiller on the last long tack to the finish.  We are 4th over the line, and in elapsed time.  We are elated.  Just after we cross, the committee boat hails us—their whaler has come unmoored and is drifting south, motor still running, no one aboard.  They ask us to go get it.

This is where James Bond comes in.  We make a couple of awkward approaches under sail, and t-bone the damn thing at least once.  Eventually Jon “leaps”  (poetic license)  into the whaler.  He puts it in gear and of course, immediately floors it in the direction of the committee boat.  He is soon back, a hero, a true Bond in our eyes, bearing beers from the grateful race committee.  He transfers back into Super Freda, and we roll it up, and head for home.

In retrospect, we did a terrible job with the whaler—no planning, poor communication, crappy boat handling.  But we got it done, and it was a great reminder that we need to practice close quarters boat handling under sail. 

And we had a really perfect day on the water. 

We will miss Scatchet Head, but are looking forward to Three Tree Point!