Wednesday, June 1, 2016

J/Teams Top Oregon Offshore

sunset- Oregon Offshore race
(Astoria, Oregon)- Corinthian YC of Portland celebrated their 40th Anniversary of their famous race offshore race- the Oregon Offshore- that took place from May 12th to 15th.  It was yet another test of wills, perseverance, and clever sailing as the fleet took off in sloppy seas and light winds.  There was a huge tidal ebb flow out of the Columbia River "mushroom" for much of the start of the race.  This allowed the boats on the northern edge of the fleet to benefit early with a lee bow push upwind, northwesterly, and out to sea.

J/122 sailing Oregon OffshoreAs one skipper described it, “we were caught in the grip of the Columbia River as she emptied out into the Pacific.  I was struck by just how confused the sea can be with very little wind.  We were aware of what was happening, but powerless with the little wind we had, and there was nothing we could do about it.  With no wind we were swept west.  The smart play was to be on port tack and fight like the dickens to the north edge of the channel and stay near the shore to escape the clutches of Columbia’s current before she fully fanned out over a wide area.  We were more fortunate than some who started and then were flushed south— in the opposite direction of the intended target of the race, Victoria, British Columbia.

This description just doesn't do it justice, but it was an odd sea state.  There was a fresh water/ salt-water interface that had small wavelets on top of larger waves that were in turn on top of large ocean swells.  The sight and sound were quite unique — and perhaps it was something that Moses saw when the Red Sea was parted!  Ok, maybe not that dramatic, but pretty cool nonetheless.

J/105 Free Bowl of Soup- sailing Oregon Offshore RaceThis interface was constantly moving and when the wind briefly rose, we’d punch through it and escape, only to be over-run when the wind failed.  And as the current was fanning out north, we’d be over-run by this river within the ocean and owing to our slow speed (sometimes only a knot or less) the current would steal all water flow over the rudder and we’d lose steerage way!”

Later in the race, when the fleet was making it way down the Straits of Juan de Fuca towards the finish line on the north shore of the channel, the fleet often has to negotiate the infamous Race Rocks.  As one skipper described it, “last night, we saw the brutal effects of the tide and current change at Race Rocks. And, how devastating the effects of combined light winds and strong currents can be, even on the biggest, toughest competitors."

Oregon Offshore- Race RocksRace Rocks is a pivotal point in this race's final miles. Previous Oregon Offshore’s have been won, and lost, at this crucial point on the course, where the fleet turns north towards the race finish outside of Victoria Harbour. There is plenty of depth to take a shorter, inside route through Race Passage. However, at night, in the dark, with an ebb tide, it's not always as easy as it may seem or look on a navigation chart.  In a race like the one we have now, there is little doubt the lead boats will try to shave as much distance as possible, and may likely take the shorter route through Race Rocks Passage.”

In fact, as night time set in, and the tide slowly changes from flood to ebb, the J/105 FREE BOWL OF SOUP made a calculated move north of the leaders in the fleet as they approached Race Rocks. Despite some considerable distance to make up, SOUP was gambling on playing the coastline of Canada on a northerly track as a hedge against the imminent ebb tide running until about 4:30 am, relative to their colleagues on the J/122 ANAM CARA and the J/120 TIME BANDIT. Sometimes this strategy pays off like the HOV lane on the freeway; but sometimes it can be a parking lot. As it turned out, it was a good tactical play in the final analysis.

J/120 Time Bandit- sailing Oregon Offshore RaceFirst to finish was the 70 footer called RAGE around 0427 am on the third morning of the race.  They were closely followed by the J/120 TIME BANDIT and, shortly thereafter, the J/122 ANAM CARA and hot on their heels at dawn the amazing J/105 bandits on SOUP!

Dominating Class A2 were the fast offshore J/Teams.  Winning was Eric Hopper/ Doug Schenk’s J/105 FREE BOWL OF SOUP and taking 3rd overall in PHRF.  They were followed by Bob Brunius’ J/120 TIME BANDIT in second place and 5th overall.  And, in 4th place was Tom Kelley’s J/122 ANAM CARA.

According to skipper Doug Schenk on the J/105 SOUP, “here’s our sailing video of the race, with an over the top soundtrack (best to watch with sound up!), gratuitous use of slow-motion and time-lapse video, and, as usual, not enough footage from when the race was actually interesting (dark segment was trying to show the 30 knots+ of breeze when rolling through Race Rocks, where we hit 15.6 knots). Still, it was fun and J/105 Oregon Offshore sailing videolooking forward to Swiftsure!”

If you want to follow their antics, be sure to check out FREE BOWL OF SOUP’s Facebook page and here is their latest 2016 Oregon Offshore sailing Vimeo.

Please also check out the collection of Maria Swearingen's photographs of the start of the 2016 CYC Oregon Offshore International Yacht Race, you can tell it was light!   For more Oregon Offshore Race sailing information