Report from Kurt Hoehne

It seems the Round the County race always serves up one marginal race day and one great race day. This past weekend, Saturday was truly marginal and Sunday could be called “OK,” especially if you were playing the shore along San Juan Island.

Saturday’s start verged on silly. Some boats were barely able cross the start before the time limit for starting expired. A lot of boats were stuck not far from the start line for hours. The race turned into a nice run in a southerly past Sucia Island, but at the turn at Patos things turned ugly.

A handful of the fastest boats were able to break through
and sail for the finish at Roche, but ended up not making it in the time limit.
For the most part the rest of the fleet crossed the halfway finish line and
pretty much stopped there. It was quite the parade of running lights as boats
headed for Roche Harbor to tie up for the night.

On Sunday the light-air downwind starts were entertaining, and it became evident early on the fleet was split on playing the shore or not. Boats holding out looked good early, but the boats along the shore had the last laugh as the northerly was found near the shore, but didn’t extend to the fleet outside.

all images © Jan's Marine Pix

At one point, the ORC speedsters Crossfire, Glory, Blue and Dark Star were parked up together. John Buchan and the Glory gang decided enough was enough and quit, only to see the northerly show up as they were headed home.

Nearly everybody had their moment while patches of wind anointed a few boats at a time to be the heroes of the moment. But only a few could be in front at the end.

Steve Johnson’s TP 52 Mist won the cumulative ORC class results over the two days, followed closely by Jonathan McKee’s Dark Star. The J/111 Recon won Division 0 on the strength of an excellent second day. Freda Mae built enough of a cushion on Saturday to hold on for the multihull win over Big Broderna. It’s worth noting that that the Cal 33 Cherokee won her class by nearly two hours. Who says moderate displacement older designs can’t win in light air

My RTC – Chocolate Chip Cookies Rule the Day
Why is Round the County one of the best races, not just in the Northwest – but anywhere?

Scenery. ‘Nuff said.

Anybody can win. Capricious San Juan Islands winds and currents serve up surprise winners often enough that everybody should feel they have a chance. Because they do.

By the same token, if you’re one of those afflicted with that Highly Competitive Itch, it’s a race where you can leave it at home. If you go out when in pays, it’s easy to write it off as bad luck.

Weird course. This big circle course really demands a lot of sailing skill. Playing currents, guessing the geographical effects of the wind, navigation crew work on the sail changes and plain old boatspeed. It's a wonderful challenge, especially after a season of round-the-buoys.

Roche Harbor. What a great stopover place. All those huge powerboats make it seem like Fort Lauderdale. Maybe not.

But for me it’s about the socializing. I’m not talking about
the beer tent and all the renewed friendships that bubble up in Roche, although
that’s all pretty special.

For me it’s getting to know new folks on a crew, or getting to connect with those onboard better. In a buoy series or short point-to-point race, there really isn’t much time for socializing. It’s about the race. On RTC, there’s usually time (and sometimes a LOT of time) for connecting with shipmates.

I was the new guy on Oxomoxo, and only knew the owner Doug Frazer. By the time we locked up the boat on Sunday night in Anacortes, I had several new friendships. Sailors are generally very interesting people, and their lives outsides of sailing are fascinating. A drifty RTC is a great chance to get to know them.

Our RTC had its moments, like when we nearly crossed the fleet on port. That is, crossed the start behind us. Unfortunately we couldn't cross and had to tack, which I’m sure wasn’t too popular with those starters at the boat end of the line.

But here’s the good news – chocolate chip cookies are a good remedy for the Highly Competitive Itch. One thing about a real cruiser racer is that it usually has an oven. And what comes out of an oven? Chocolate chip cookies. No matter how you’re doing, or have done, they taste good. They did both days.