Preps are in full swing. Crew members arrive this week and next. Our departure is planned for July 6th at 10am – just a bit over one week. We are watching the weather closely and hoping the North Pacific High will cooperate. Right now, it’s the blue circle in the image to the left. We want it to stay where it is, or a bit higher so we can sail nearly straight for Hawaii.
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.
To 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.
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 the 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.
This 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.
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!
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!
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.
We were promised snow. Instead all we got was fine day for the Duwamish Head Race 2017 out on the Puget Sound filled with teamwork, friends, exciting maneuvers, near collisions, plenty of insight and a thimble or two of Gig Harbor’s best Batch No 12 Bourbon (Heritage Distilling Company). But snow would have been nice.
Team Stay Gold met at the Des Moines Marina on a cold, January 7 morning for the Duwamish Head Race 2017.
For several team members it was their first time meeting each other, and indeed for one, his first time sailing. This is part of the fun of sailing with Captain Brian on Stay Gold, however; sailors bound by their interest and passion for the sport, rather than experience and reputation alone.
The team was able to get some hands-on experience pretty soon though, as we raised sail for a few practice tacks and to position ourselves for a timely start. The early morning wind was good and gave us hope for a speedy passage at race-time, but alas, this was not to be. Although we passed the 10am starting markers almost ideally, soon the wind died down to a few knots and plagued all but a few of the entire race fleet. Jibs came down, spinnakers went up (some upside-down, some twisted…) and every puff of air was exploited whilst trying to observe right-of-way within the clusters of sailboats. As the wind began to shift more frequently, spinnakers were exchanged for lighter and larger jibs and Genoa’s. Stay Gold opted for a light-air #1 Genoa (130%), which stayed aloft the remainder of the northward journey.
Slowly, but steadily, with an average of 3-4kts (SOG) Stay Gold team made its way up the Sound, past Three-Tree Point and Fauntleroy towards the Alki Point Light. We managed to hold a fine course throughout, not veering too far out into the western Sound or coming too close to shore. This was only made possible by constant vigilance and attention to point of sail…the whole team was up to the challenge of making every small correction possible. While we had sailed at the tail-end of the pack up to now, suddenly we caught up to middle of the fleet, who had to lay in long tacks from the west to get back over to the next marker. As exciting as this was, the wind practically came to a stand-still and we had to inch our way towards the marker. Luckily we had nice (and lengthy) views of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle as a backdrop to the many deeply philosophical discussions that ensue on a windless passage (“Put the chips away before I end up eating them all”).
Finally the turn around the Duwamish Head Light was made and the wind fell into our good graces again, driving us WSW on a fun 7kts spinnaker run towards the next mark, Blakely Rock. After reaching our top speed of the day of 7.7kts on the reach across the Sound, plans were made for dousing the spinnaker and exchanging foresails for the turn around the marker towards the south. Although the course was held tightly, we had difficulties getting the foresail up smoothly and ultimately we had to come to the quick conclusion that we had opted for the wrong sail, the aforementioned Genoa instead of the #3 jib. In the somewhat stronger SSE winds, our maneuverability suffered as we got onto a starboard close haul tack.
To add to our self-caused stress, Wind Wizard, a fellow competitor, was approaching our port side head on from the East at a dangerous pace! Efforts were made to steer away from a pending collision.
As the Wind Wizard swooped past Stay Gold a crew member from the vessel loudly announced the root cause of their unpredictable course…”We’ve lost our steering!”. Tight on a close haul and still fighting to reconfigure our headsail, the out-of-control sailboat remained a very real threat to our vessel. Once again Wind Wizard appeared, this time in front of us. Almost driving right up onto their stern Stay Gold was able to fall off at the last minute and get on a decent powered tack to get some distance from the other boat. Support was offered per radio to the sailors, but fortunately their team managed to find some interim solution and avoid further mishap.
In the meantime, Stay Gold had lost some valuable speed and therefore time. We had to watch any lead we had on fellow racers dwindle and disappear, but spirits remained high as we found a steady course and sped south towards our goal, the Des Moines marina. As night started to fall (around 17:30-18:00) we all worked to stay warm and kept a firm lookout for other vessels in the Sound. Headlamps were a luxury on board (only one, to be exact)…hence, mental and verbal notes were made to be better prepared for future night sails. After all, not a day goes by we don’t all learn how to further optimize our infinite path.
Sailing southwards on a close haul in the dead of night, we were able to maintain a fairly steady SOG (speed over ground) between 4-5kts, sometimes holding at 6kts for lengthy periods. The crew had become much more proficient at laying in a quick tack after a good 7hrs of hands-on practice. Snacks and thimbles ensured enduring high spirits and warmth as we approached the final stretch.
To our wonder, there were other racers still underway and (behold!) behind us…good job team.
Tactical plans were made to lay in a final tack or two to get Stay Gold across the Sound and into the finish zone without losing precious wind or sailing past the actual finish line. We picked up some speed and changed to a starboard tack. Ben, standing at the pulpit with binoculars, searching the night for the markers caught sight of the unlit floating buoy and we had our confirmation…we’re right on target for a final maneuver. “Helms-a-lee!” and we’re there! We did it! Crossing the finish line to a horn-blast from the committee team at 20:06:37 we had been underway for 34.62NM and over 10 hours. But there were no complaints…on the contrary, we agreed it had been a mighty fine day of sailing and camaraderie.
Stay Gold came in last in our class for the race, but you’d never have known it from the smiles plastered on the team’s faces…then again, the cold wind may have frozen them in place earlier.
During a routine sail with friends and regular crew of Team Stay Gold, we had just put away the spinnaker and were making our beat back south towards Gig Harbor in Colvos Passage. Wind was 10-15 knots, wind waves 1-2 feet; normal winter sailing weather here in the Puget Sound.
Without warning, the outhaul on the mainsail sheared. We got it under control quickly, took the sails down and returned home under motor. Had we been racing, we would have sorted out a solution to repair the outhaul on the main and carried on.
My main concern (might have intended the pun) was keeping the crew safe and minimizing damage to the sail and boat.
I think the lesson here is that wind and waves know no mercy; man made materials fail at any moment and usually without warning. Acting swiftly, deliberately and safely to get the situation under control is the best course of action. And always, Stay Gold!
Distance Traveled by GPS: 33 nautical miles Max Speed by GPS: 9.44 knots Avg Speed by GPS: 5.7 knots Time by GPS: 5:50:15 Corrected Time: 4:22:09 Placed: 6th in class, 36th overall.
Stay Gold took part in her first long distance race; the Winter Vashon 2016. Tacoma Yacht
Club put the race on as part of the South Sound Sailing Series. We had a great time, learned a lot and put the crew and the boat to the test. The weather was perfect; wind was out of the SSW at 15-20 knots and by the end of the day was gusting to 30 knots. Cloudy, no rain. Couldn’t have been better.
Our seamanship skills were flexed in boat handling, reefing, recovering from casualties and safety. I think we were not unique in this; looking across Colvos Passage as we were making the northbound downwind run it was easy to tell when a puff was making its way along – all the lighter boats would behave a bit uncontrollably.
Getting into and leaving the Tacoma Yacht Club guest moorage was challenging. We were tucked into a tight slip on the E dock the night before the race. Getting out, we had to slide past a few large boats rafted up at the fairway we had backed down the night before. The morning of the race, we were not left with a lot of room to get out to the start line. Luckily, crew of the boats we had to drive past were there to fend us off and we were able to avoid contact.
The race started out with all the boats on a port tack, crossing the starting line then quickly turning north and raising their flying sails. Our highlight of the day happened about fifteen minutes into the start of the race. We were just off the southern end of Vashon Island making our way north under spinnaker and main when our mainsail trimmer, Dean, called out the spinnaker had parted. We quickly pulled in the lower half of the chute and raised the genoa trimming the sails for a deep run. We were unable to get the remainder of the spinnaker down from the mast as it had wrapped itself around the standing rigging.
Every boat on the course knew who we were thanks to our
massive pennant we turned our spinnaker into.
We ended up finishing the race 36th out of 39 boats, 6th of out 7 in our class. It’s a great place to start and we’ll take it.
Ship to Shore Marine in Gig Harbor WA is now S/V Stay Gold’s official sponsor! We are beyond excited for this news. Ship to Shore Marine has been our go-to, favorite marine supply store well before this relationship took hold. Now to be officially working with them to further the sport of sailing and racing in the Puget Sound is just amazing.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out their new location, take a few minutes to stop by next time you’re in the Harbor. If you’re looking for Helly Hansen gear, local kayaking knowledge or a great place to get marine supplies, they’re it. Check them out at 3403 Harborview Dr. in Gig Harbor. Tell ’em Team Stay Gold sent you!
Make sure to like their Facebook and Instagram pages too! Stand by for more updates as they develop…