On August 31-September 1, 2019 the Port Townsend Sailing Association hosted the 2019 Thunderbird West Coast Championships. It was a well-run affair with a variety of windward-leeward courses set over seven races. At the skippers’ meeting Saturday morning there was grumbling of “can we postpone sailing until this afternoon, when some wind is expected?” The race committee knew better.
Sixteen boats made their way out to the anticipated starting area at the center of Port Townsend Bay by 10:30 a.m., drifting about as the race committee searched the horizon for wind. Some promising ripples soon appeared near Rat Island guarding the entrance to Kilisut Harbor. By the time the fleet reassembled a perfect sailing breeze was blowing from the SE.
Race 1. To my eye the pin end seemed favored, and indeed the bulk of the fleet set up to start on starboard well down the line. Falcon started mid-line, off the front line, but with room to tack for clear air within a few boat-lengths off the line. It was the right way to go. Jaunty (a Steve Scharf owned boat skippered by Matt Pistay, with Eric Dorman, Brent Campbell, and Burgess Malarkey) nailed the start at the committee boat, tacked over to port, found better pressure on the right side of the course, and walked away with the race. Owl (skippered by Dale Dunning, with Kyle Marlantes, Lynn Watson, and sailmaker Eric Taylor) followed suit and finished second. Raven finished third. Kuma San (skippered by John Lynes and Jim Heumann) also followed the leaders to the right side and they had their best result of the regatta, finishing 5th.
Race 2. Conditions remained largely unchanged from the first race. Magic Bus (skippered by Piper Dunlap, with Dan Ginther, Robert Ambrose, and Lucas Hurt) started ahead, near the committee boat, and managed to out-distance everyone to the first tack. They lead all the way to the finish. Invader (Mike Dotson, with Olga Dotson and Cliff Wright) had their best showing of the regatta, finishing in second place. Predator (Craig Burnell, Kemp Jones, Katherine Hovell, and Steve Garth) recovered from a poor first race and began to make their move in the regatta, finishing in third place, followed by Raven (Steve Scharf, Jon Piskula, Simon Miles, and Jeff Brantley).
Race 3. The wind continued to blow from the southeast, weakening slightly, and the race committee wasted no time in starting the third race. It was Raven’s turn to start well. They launched and outflanked everyone, leading start to finish. Again on the right side of the course upwind. Predator kept pace and finished second. Magic Bus held their own and finished third. Owl staked their claim for recognition in the regatta with another strong finish at fourth.
As the wind died after the third race, the Port Townsend threesome of Raven (8 pts), Magic Bus (11 pts), and Owl (11 pts) had reason to look around proudly, leading Raptor (15 pts) and Predator (16 pts).
Race 4. After dwindling to very light and shifty, the wind soon settled in from the West at perhaps ten knots. “The middle right was favored,” said Stig Osterberg observing the regatta from his power boat, “you had to go to the right and flop over.” Raptor (Grant Chyz, Paul Chyz, Helen Chyz, and Chris Thompson) figured out the magic formula. They had a good start and were battling with Raven on the first weather leg. “Raven tacked towards the middle of the course while Raptor carried out farther towards the right lay-line,” observed Osterberg. Raptor’s patience and faith in the right side paid off and they won the race. Predator collected another second-place finish. Kolus (another Steve Scharf owned boat skippered by the Portland crew of Drew Wiener and Kerry Poe and friends) crossed the finish line third. Jaunty showed renewed signs of life in fourth place after two disappointing races. Raven dropped to sixth place in the race.
Race 5. The last race on Saturday was dominated by Predator. They got a good start, stayed right, and it paid off. Raptor traded places with them from the previous race. Invader took the third spot. These top Seattle boats were beginning to assert themselves. Owl was the first Port Townsend boat across the line in fourth, followed by Raven in fifth.
Saturday was a dramatic day of sailing. On a day where it did not seem destined, the race committee somehow delivered strong sailing breezes from two directions to maximize our views over five races. The Port Townsend backdrop provided allure and history, and the magnificent Olympic mountains looked on. The battle between the top Port Townsend boats and their Seattle challengers was joined. At the end of the first day, with no races to discard yet, the leaderboard was as follows:
Predator 18 pts.
Raptor 19 pts.
Raven 19 pts.
Owl 23 pts.
Magic Bus 24 pts.
Race 6. Sunday morning brought the light winds some had feared for Saturday. After nearly three hours of drifting about on a glassy sea, and one abandoned race chasing an ephemeral NE breeze, the wind finally filled from the southeast. It was lighter than on Saturday, and the wind lasted just long enough to complete the race with a weather mark once again near Rat Island. “In light air,” says Osterberg, “the key is to keep moving at the start, and to find pressure out on the course. “Magic Bus nailed it and won this race by a mile” marveled Stig Osterberg, who looked on from his boat parked on the edge of the course. Kolus had their best showing of the regatta, finishing second. Invader garnered a back-to-back third places, all of a sudden making them a real factor with the throw-out. “Raven had a terrible start,” observed Osterberg, “but they picked up perhaps 11 boats after the start on the upwind and downwind legs, salvaging a fourth place.”
The wind promptly died again, setting up a dramatic final light air race. The positions going into the final race (with the discard of all worst scores through six races) were as follows:
Predator 13 pts.
Raven 17 pts.
Magic Bus 18 pts.
Raptor 19 pts.
Owl 23 pts.
Race 7. After a substantial delay, the wind filled in sufficiently from the North for one last dramatic race. Magic Bus took themselves out of the game early. They were stuck to leeward and couldn’t get off the starting line, ultimately finishing ninth. Kolus and Dorado (skippered by Molly Jackson, with Daubenberger (fils), Emily Bishop, and Michael Karas) won the first beat, but went towards the City Front after the weather mark and ran out of wind. Raptor seized the moment by hanging back at the start, coming in late with speed at the committee boat, gybing left after the weather mark where they found more wind, and finishing first. Owl finished strong with a second place. Raven finished third and Predator consolidated their overall regatta win with a fourth-place finish in the final race.
1. Predator 17 pts.
2. Raptor 20 pts.
3. Raven 20 pts.
4. Magic Bus 25 pts.
5. Owl 25 pts.
6. Invader 27 pts.
Raptor won the tie-break with Raven by virtue of their two first place finishes, versus one for Raven. Magic Bus won the tie-break with Owl by virtue of their two first place finishes.
Congratulations for a well-run regatta to the organizers, the race committee, and the crews of all 16 boats who showed up to compete. The Cotton Building was an ideal location for the Saturday dinner and the Sunday awards party. Point Hudson marina has lots of room. Spread the word. Let’s shoot for 20+ boats on the line next year.
[Thank you to Stig Osterberg who shared his notes of the racing, and without whose help this recap would not have been possible]
Predator heading off to right side of course
More photos on the Thunderbird Fleet 2 Facebook page.