The full gamut of Seattle conditions were on offer for the large fleet of keelboats enjoying one of the season’s biggest regattas.

Corinthian Yacht Club’s Puget Sound Sailing Championship is an autumn institution. The first and biggest buoy racing regatta of the fall season draws a lot of boats, great competition, and often some big breeze. The 2021 edition was no exception, offering literally a bit of everything. Sunshine and rain? Yup. Breeze ranging from 0 – 25 knots? Check. Wind directions from not only south and north, but also the ever-confounding easterly origin? You betcha. Terrific racing among friends? Always!

Fifty-seven boats across eight classes took to the waters in front of Shilshole Bay Marina on the second weekend of October for some fall fun. Weather models for Saturday were somewhat conflicting, but generally called for building breeze through the day and little-to-no precipitation. Boats hoisted sail to get the weekend started under gray skies in 10-12 knots of southerly wind. 

Photo courtesy of Jan Anderson.

In the first race, the larger, faster boats were sent on a long course upwind to Duwamish Head and back, while the smaller boats ran more local buoy races. The three TP52s racing under ORC handicap started first. Getting to the breakwater and out of the ebbing current was the first move of the race. Lifting puffs on port tack as the boats approached West Point forced these boats with 10-foot drafts to ease sails and bear away to avoid the shoal, before returning to close-hauled to make progress against the sideways push of the ebb. Tacking toward Elliott Bay, a right shift allowed a long starboard tack fetch to Duwamish two out of three. 

While that shift paid VMG dividends on the upwind, it complicated the run, as boats were not able to set kites immediately around the mark. A westward jib reach was required until a bear away to West Point was feasible. John Buchan’s Glory built a lead on the upwind leg, and led around the mark. They set a #1.5 spinnaker with better reaching capabilities, while Smoke and Mist followed with #2 running kites set. The reaching sail was the right sail for the first portion of the run, but soon the breeze built and shifted south. As this happened, Smoke and Mist started planing at deeper angles, reeling Glory in. 

Photo courtesy of Jan Anderson.

After the jibe around West Point, it was a drag race to the finish. Mist continued to make gains, but it was Smoke who was best positioned and lit-up in the still-building breeze. Glory was able to fend them off for line honors, but Smoke easily corrected on top. 

Between the first and second races, the breeze arrived in force. Gusts to 26 resulted in a number of individual retirements around the fleet and drove the TP52s back to the dock, while other classes stayed out to enjoy the ride. A handful of distractingly epic wipeouts made things exciting, but the boats keeping their keels down were fully ripping! 

Photo courtesy of Jan Anderson.

Most classes ended with three scored races on Saturday. The competition remained close though, as is often the case, the big breeze revealed which boats and crews were best suited to heavy air racing. Crews returned to the dock with big grins from rosy windburned cheek to rosy windburned cheek.

Sunday promised lighter conditions and some forecast rain. The fleets were greeted to the unsettling sight of a commonly-unstable easterly breeze. The first course had windward marks right along the Shilshole breakwater near the Ballard Locks. For the earlier-to-start fleets, the easterly held surprisingly steady, blasting intermittent gusts over the hill. However, for the fleets of boats that weren’t quite as quick and started later in the sequence, the breeze eventually faded to nothing as the breeze set in, and several fleets were unable to finish. 

Photo courtesy of Jan Anderson.

A rainy postponement ensued. Teams hunkered down for what many thought was the end of the weekend’s racing. But the system passed quickly, the sun came out, and wouldn’t you know it… a little northerly carpet started to lay down on the water. 

The race committee started a race for the ORC boats in what turned out to be a few minutes too early in the northerly. Not long after the start, the breeze had evaporated and that race was blown off. 

Soon, though, 4-7 knots showed up consistently and all classes got a final race. It was a fun light-air complement to the prior day’s breeze fest. Those who read the wind, shifted gears, and kept the boat moving were rewarded. The breeze stayed sailable until the very end of the race, which left the last boats to finish quietly pleading with their boats to get them just that last bit farther to cross the line, but everyone did. 

Photo courtesy of Jan Anderson.

One sign of good racing is that nobody runs away with every race, and at PSSC, each class had at least two, and as many as four race winners in only five races. That’s fun stuff! Thanks to CYC for putting on a great event and reacting quickly to the changing conditions. And thanks to all the racers who came out and made it another great PSSC weekend of fall racing!

All photos, including title background image, courtesy of Jan Anderson.

Race results available at