Gig Harbor Yacht Club Islands Race 2017

Team Stay Gold competed in the Gig Harbor Yacht Club Islands Race this past weekend. I’ll save the suspense: we didn’t win. In fact, we placed last in our class. This won’t be a harrowing story of how we whipped our competitors or even a proper recap of the race.

Rather, I think what is important, is how the team handled what the race threw our way.

Photo by Jan's Marine PixTo kick off the day, I mixed up our start time. It was a simple mistake of misreading the Sailing Instructions that cost us precious time. A few minutes behind our class across the starting line, we worked to make up for lost time by keeping the #1 headsail up along with the 1.5 oz spinnaker –  we were flying three sails vice everyone else’s two. Our best speed over ground (SOG) as recorded by GPS was 9.2 knots which was helped by the always persistent Northerly current in Colvos Passage. That, along with a LIGHTENING quick bowline made to the genoa clew, as performed by our own Dean Lee, were the highlights of the first few hours of the day. The run north to Blake Island was fast, fun and furious.

The beat back…our track upwind South through Colvos Passage

Conversely, the beat back was brutal with gusts up around 30 knots and the wind directly on the nose. The image to the left shows our track south – we had to tack around 20 times over 15 miles. We kept the boat on her feet by reefing and using a smaller headsail. Stay Gold loves to go to weather and handled the wind and waves with grace. She’s easy to balance and takes waves on the bow in stride. The boat was charging along, riding the fine line between a close haul and pinching, under a reefed main and 110% dacron headsail just fine until BOOOM! the headsail popped out of the luff track and started flying like a massive pennant from the masthead. Quite embarrassing, even non-sailors know that’s not right.

As I sat there for a second, not really believing what happened, I said outloud “How the $#@k are we going to get that down?. Very calmly, Thomas answered back – “Let’s winch it down…” With a plan in place we executed. I winched, Thomas and Dean pulled and after what felt like an hour (in reality about five minutes), we had the beast stuffed down the companionway. Quickly, we pulled up another jib and got it set – we were back in the race! Never say die…

After inspecting the tack of the jib, it turns out the pennant, which connects to the tack of thePhoto by Jan's Marine Pix sail and the boat parted due to chafing from the higher winds. When it parted, the sail pulled, just like a zipper, out of the luff track.

I was a proud Skipper – no one panicked, we just took a second to breathe, think and then act deliberately. Everyone displayed outstanding teamwork, cool heads under pressure and some solid problem solving skills. For that, I say we won the day and you can have the race.

Photo by Jan's Marine PixThis wasn’t the only issue we experienced throughout the day, but it illustrates the point: teamwork is only made successful by a strong leader and a strong leader is only made successful by solid teamwork.

One of the crew tried to give me credit for solving a different problem but the hard truth of the matter is any leader, no matter what organization they are in, is only as good as their team. All successes are a credit to the team and failures to the leader. It is easy to tell a poor Skipper by those that scream at their crews. If that’s you, take a look in the mirror; if someone isn’t doing something the way you want – it’s your fault as the Skipper for not training them. Stop yelling, start teaching.

After a long day fighting the ship, running up and then beating back south through Colvos Passage we finished dead last in class and dead tired but, nevertheless victorious in our own right. Sometimes victories aren’t marked by where you place in a race.

With the ultimate goal being the Oregon Offshore Race, Swiftsure and then a Trans-Pacific crossing in July, we decided to take the weekend to prep by doing an overnight trip right after the race.

Saturday evening, directly following the race, we headed back out by moonlight to continue the test until Sunday.

Keeping watch and sailing through the night we dodged tugs towing, massive merchant ships outbound to the open Pacific and picked constellations out of the inky night-time sky. Again, we learned valuable lessons and gained more confidence in not only ourselves, as sailors, but the boat and, more importantly, each other.

We even learned, during our practice for the Oregon Offshore, that we can steer a rudderless sailboat with a drogue. Who knew.

Help us get to Hawaii by checking out this sweet postcard deal we are running. All photos by Jan’s Marine Photography.

CYCT Harbor Series #3 – Zenith Harbor Race Report

This time it was going to be different.

This time we had a strategy in place that would guarantee an optimal start and secure our place amongst the top of the fleet! But as we crept ever so slowly toward the (wrong side of) the starting mark only to hear the horn blow from the race committee boat…well, we knew than that our hunt for the perfect start strategy would continue.

Once skipper Brian brought us around the mark for a proper start, however, we were in our element. Up the spinnaker, down the no.1 Genoa. The mild 4-6kts breeze from the SSE was just enough to keep us running up the Sound.

We could even make out some of the other racers in our class…a good 2NM ahead. Conference was held and strategies were discussed (between some stowaway Nutter Butters and cheese crackers).

The majority of the fleet was sailing closer the shore, moving relatively direct towards the “I” buoy as the next mark. Team Stay Gold opted to exploit the stiffer winds in the middle of the Sound. The move presented the risk to extend total distance and overshoot the mark,  but after making a few calculations for current and course we made the final turn towards the east (the winds by now coming from WSW) and lo!

What’s this? The fleet!

Byron & Brent Owning the Foredeck

Somehow (although less modest sailors would attribute it to skill and fortitude) we managed to catch up with a good part of the racers…Team Stay Gold was back in the game. Our navigation piloting was dead on and we landed right at the mark, just in time to raise the Genoa and douse the spinnaker for the beat down south. At this point the teamwork of our foredeck crew (Byron and Brent) was not only well-tuned, but a fine source of one-liner entertainment for the rest of us in the cockpit (unfortunately not entirely family-friendly and thus unprintable).

Despite Chris’s initial observation that “that damn lighthouse is not moving anywhere”, progress was made towards the south.

We passed a competitor or two and caught up with a few more, enjoying some of Joe Scott’s tasty smoked meat selection on the way…but alas, as the wind died down to a few subtle knots the SV Stay Gold (a heavy lass) struggled once again. The wind now briefly from the north, we hoisted the spinnaker once again and trudged towards the final marker at Brown’s Point before rounding into the home stretch.

Once again we opted for the middle of the Sound to provide some power, but like perhaps some others out there that day more tacks were needed than planned to make it into Dumas Bay. The wind now back from the SSW (why would consistency ever grace our sails?), we put up the spinnaker in a broad reach. As we neared the final hundred meters, we were surprised by some sudden gusts. Although the gusts mildly overpowered the spinnaker, the boat handled the extra speed nicely and heeling was tolerable. In the cockpit there was excitement to finish the race so swiftly, when suddenly we heard a shout from the foredeck:

“Let the spinnaker fly…it’s not worth losing your boat, Brian!!”

Byron was apparently experiencing the newfound acceleration differently up front. And perhaps the battle cry would have had more effect if we wouldn’t have slowed down to 2-3kts just a few seconds later. The gusts were gone and we struggled to get the Genoa up to carry us the last meters over the finish line. Blue Jay, who we had so proudly passed earlier on, flew on by us at the line…well done Team Blue Jay! In slow motion (seemingly) we crossed the mark ourselves…finishing almost as “quickly” as we had started. But we were happy and proud. What a fine race.

And even though you won’t believe me if you weren’t there, we saw the sun that day!

CYCT Harbor Series #1 – Quartermaster Harbor 2017

2017 Team Stay Gold Crew Photo

As is standard, Team Stay Gold left Gig Harbor very early in order to make the warning at 0955 for CYCT Tacoma’s Harbor Series #1 – Quartermaster Harbor race.

We left with four bottles of whisky, fifteen sandwiches, three cases of beer and thirteen souls on board. No one can say we don’t know how to have fun.

After grabbing a team photo at the public dock in Gig Harbor we charged towards the start line; near Dumas Point.

Luckily, or maybe not, the race was postponed for a few minutes “to let the wind build”. We might as well have postponed all day. I’m fairly sure the highest gust recorded was 4 knots.

No matter, we still know how to have fun on Team Stay Gold. With the wind nearly non-existent and the way sound carries over water, it was easy to hear other teams yelling and getting worked up over silly things like sails and lines and whatnot. We had plenty of time to contemplate these and other life conundrums while stuck in what were surely the Puget Sound doldrums – vast expanses of water smooth as a liquid ice skating rink.
One highlight of the day; we got ourselves a good, long look at Manzanita Point on Vashon Island. At least two hours worth, we even were able to see the same spots twice as the current went from slack to ebb and started pushing us back towards the start line. No matter; time for more whisky.

At the end of the day, with the rest of the fleet retiring, because I think the excuse was “there’s got to be something better on TV than this” we press on. Crossing the finish line in Quartermaster Harbor 30 minutes prior to the time limit is still finishing and by damn, Team Stay Gold doesn’t give up…no, no; we stay gold.

For our wherewithal, we were rewarded with a whale sighting off of Point Defiance on our way back to home port. Some things are just better seen in real life.


[easy-media-album med=”374″ size=”300,300″ style=”dark” filter=”1″]