Orcas sailors place second

By DAVE PARISH Special to the Sounder

Through snow, rain, sun and variable winds the Orcas High School Sailing Team battled ten other schools on San Juan Island this weekend, April 19-20, for the Northwest Interscholastic Sailing Association District Doublehanded Championship. After nine hours of sailing over two days and 24 races, Orcas finished only 5 points behind the winners, North Kitsap.

Sailing for Orcas were Sam Parish, Barrett North, Jake White, Forrest Gropp, Analies Schuh, Leah Bossler, Annika Thomas, and Alex Waldron.

After launching the Vanguard 15 dinghies while the wind swirled the snowflakes overhead, Orcas jumped out in front winning the first two races and continued to stay at the top of the fleet through the first ten races. By race 11, their most serious threat, the North Kitsap Sailing Team, had become accustomed to the Vanguards (they usually sail Flying Juniors) and wrested the top rung from Orcas. It became clear that Orcas and North Kitsap would be battling for first and second, and the rest of the fleet for third.

The weather was challenging during the weekend. The snow let up after the boats were launched, but the cold persisted, occasionally accompanied by rain. The wind though, was the primary challenge. “I’ve hardly ever seen the wind from this direction, right here,” said Primary Race Officer Scott Boye referring to the north wind in Jackson Beach on San Juan Island, which shifted almost 30 degrees to the east about 200 feet before the windward mark. Race officials were kept busy changing the placement of the marks as the wind capriciously blew from different directions.

After five hours of racing on Saturday, 16 races had been run and only a handful of boats had capsized. Most competitors were looking forward to dinner and sleep. Only nine points separated Orcas and first place North Kitsap.

Sunday was much warmer, but the winds were even more playful; at one point in the space of 20 minutes the direction of the course had to be shifted almost 90 degrees. Parish and Thomas began the day very strongly for Orcas, winning the first three races and coming within two points of North Kitsap.

North Kitsap proved to be a wily competitor. To win the championship, they had to finish close to Orcas in the remaining races. A first was not mandatory, but beating Orcas or following closely behind the Orcas team was. North Kitsap cagily began to cover every Orcas move. In the last two races of the championship, North and White foiled North Kitsap’s game plan by speeding past the rest of the fleet and winning the races. But the final flurry was not enough. North Kitsap was able to cling to the top spot by finishing second and third in the final races and claim the championship.

“This is the third year in a row that we’ve been so close,” said coach Burke Thomas. “I am really proud of our kids. The conditions were tough and they sailed great.”

In another part of the bay, Chris White was running races for the Junior Varsity fleet. “Orcas completely dominated the racing,” said White. “The Orcas J.V. competitors won many races, sailed consistently and beat the second place team by 30 points.”

Orcas is now focusing on the team racing championships to be held on Bainbridge Island May 3-4. A win there would propel the team to the National Championship Baker Trophy regatta at Lake Minnetonka, Minn. over Memorial Day Weekend.