Un-Shaw Island Sailboat Race

  • Fri Aug 14th, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

Submitted by the San Juan Island Yacht Club Race Committee.

It turns out that fresh air sailing was just the thing to escape COVID-19 craziness, as 49 sailboats showed up for the San Juan Island Yacht Club’s special and unique 49 ½ Un-Shaw Island Sailboat Race on Saturday, Aug. 8. The weather was just as crazy as everything else this year, and the currents, once again, never looked at Washburn’s tables.

As in the past, racers could circumnavigate Shaw Island in either direction factoring in shifting winds, variable currents, narrow rocky channels, and ferry traffic. This was a pursuit race with each boat assigned a start time based on their Performance Handicap Racing Fleet — a yacht racing handicapping system used that allows different classes of sailboats to race against each other — or committee-assigned rating. Physical distancing requirements meant no committee boats and no pins, so the start-finish line was determined via GPS and visual locators and timing was on the honor system.

Winds were light and shifty at the start with just enough breeze to allow for a semi-orderly start. Two-thirds of the fleet headed north up San Juan Channel against the ebb for a clockwise rounding, while the rest of the fleet rode the ebb with light but steady following winds. Once in Upright Channel, the wind eased and adverse current pushed boats back towards Cattle Pass. Wind conditions were fluky with boats, spinnakers flying, passing in the opposite direction and other boats on the same course and bearing, but opposite tacks.

Narrow Wasp Passage presented its usual challenge of avoiding collision with other boats and rocks while bobbing along with the light current with equally little wind. Additional battlegrounds for clockwise racers were rounding Hankin Point and punching through the floodwaters rushing between Canoe Island and Flat Point in Upright Channel. A rising southerly wind in San Juan Channel aided racers in both directions toward the end of the race.

“We charged down San Juan Channel to the finish in just enough wind to cross the line a couple of boat lengths behind Madrona and a couple [of] minutes ahead of Secret Squirrel,” said Chris Wolfe, skipper of Raku.

These three boats placed first, second and third in Division 4 and fourth, fifth and sixth overall.

There were many challenges on this crazy race day and only 13 boats crossed the finish line during the last hour and a half before the 6 p.m. cutoff. A fun day on the water was had by all, though.

“We were under power heading for the slip when time expired. Still, a great day on the water,” said Jack Mckenna, skipper of Sleeper. “What a great break to spend six hours thinking about nothing but boat speed.”

First to finish and winner of Division 2 at 4:26 p.m. was Betsey Whareham’s Purple Martin, one of six Martin 242s entered for the race. Second overall and for Division 2 was Rozz, another Martin 242 skippered by Jeff Johnson, followed by Mark Bunker’s Interface, a Dash-34 and first in Division 3. Rounding out the division winners were Ekono Mart, third place in Division 2 and French Curve, second place followed by Gone With the Wind, third in Division 3. In keeping with tradition, the highest-rated boats are Division 1, and unfortunately, there were no finishers for that division.

Complete results and photos can be found at the club’s website at http://sjiyc.com, click on “Race Info.”

A special shout-out goes to Wally Lum, who sailed with Kat and Michael Durland on the 6-meter, Challenge, who finished with 30 minutes to spare. This was Wally’s 50th, having competed in every Shaw (and Un-Shaw) race! Well done, and we look forward to celebrating properly next year.

There was no dinner served by the First Mates at the clubhouse followed by no awards presentation. Winners will receive a hand-sewn nautical face mask that may be worn for personal protection or flown as a brag flag.