Up north, we learned some valuable lessons this year during our first running of the North Sound Party Circuit, and we are happy to share them. The biggest takeaway: working together between yacht clubs works better and is a lot more fun than working alone at your own club.

With so many great events on the SARC calendar, it’s no wonder that participation at many individual events has dropped off in recent years. With this in mind, sailors from Anacortes, Orcas Island, and Bellingham sat down over beer and pizza to solve the world’s problems (at least those related to sailboat racing). We all thought of our very favorite events, and the common themes were the dock party, the land party, and solid race organization—not necessarily in that order. Brilliant!

There are already some great examples of clubs working together: the Southern Sound Series, West Sound Series, Vancouver Island Race Series, among others. To me, the North Sound Party Circuit reflected these other cooperative series. The result—better events, and fewer of them.

Social distancing threw a big wrench in a race series that was devoted to social gatherings, but it didn’t spoil the party, so to speak. Races were limited to singlehanded, doublehanded, or households; and eventually to crews of five. No tequila party, no Gertrude’s Hearse, no raft up in the marina. None of our greatest ideas came to fruition, however with a spirit of help and camaraderie, we managed. We worked together on race committee duties, and we adopted a pursuit start to promote distancing. The true test will come next season, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise…

Waycross Investment Management took a leap of faith and stayed on as series sponsor. Having a sponsor was essential to creating consistency across the event calendar.

Ultimately, we had terrific participation, in part because we were pretty much the only game in town. When Covid-19 restrictions canceled the first event, everyone wondered if anything was going to happen at all. By May, a handful of brave boats came out for the Point Roberts Race in pouring rain with lightning in the hills. When we hosted Round Orcas in June, we were at capacity participation. Windermere Regatta capped out as well with a fun medium-distance-race regatta. Northern Century had 43 boats for the toughest race you’ll ever love.

All-up, 74 boats participated in the party circuit this year. The majority of the sailors were doublehanded, and found out that they love it! Most everyone learned to do things with fewer people. The most surprising thing about the circuit this year? All of the top four finishers sailed doublehanded throughout the series.

In a very tight race, the overall winners for the first annual North Sound Party Circuit are:

First place: Raku, a new-to-them J/111 sailed by Christina and Justin Wolfe of Orcas Island. They won Windermere Regatta sailing doublehanded against fully-crewed boats.

Second place: Sir Isaac, a 49-foot schooner sailed by Ann and John Bailey of Port Townsend. They received extra points for great sportsmanship and seamanship, although they didn’t need it.

Third place (tie): Keet, J/33 sailed by Mike Powell and Jeff Vernon of Bellingham, and Kinetic, a J/105 sailed shorthanded by Vince Townrow of Bellingham, who sailed the Windermere regatta singlehanded and hoisted the kite without autohelm in PLENTY of breeze.

Congratulations to the top four boats, and thank you for your faithful participation. See you again next year. Whether we’re dancing to live music or just waving hello across the water, this year showed us that—even under the toughest circumstances—the Party Circuit works.