Eventual winners of PHRF 2, the Fennell family on their Moore 24, Paramour.

Just like the man it honors, the Girts Rekevics Memorial Foulweather Race brought together clubs, sailboats, and friends for a weekend of good fun. On Friday night February 17, racers made up for lost time and gathered until the AYC bartenders were lovingly good and tired of us. Guests were regaled with stories of the accordion-playing, rubber-chicken loving Latvian hijinx-er who founded the local rigging shop and ruled the seas for years on his little Catalina 27 Handyman. “Follow me and come in second!” Besides the Girts stories, the theme of the night was friends making and sharing plans for the season, with invitations to join neighboring yacht club events. North End sailors unite!

Saturday morning, there was slightly more breeze than expected at the start. On my Santa Cruz 27, Wild Rumpus, I even went for the small jib for the pre-start and cued up the not-brand-spanking-new kite. I mean, it was supposed to be a cranking southeasterly on the way to Friday Harbor, and a cranking southwesterly on the way back. Perfection! In reality, a little northwesterly snuck into the forecast between the two.

The Foulweather Race start is among my favorites because it’s almost always windy and nearly always a port pole kite hoist with maximum excitement. This year lived up to the hype. We started conservatively on starboard with the jib up, all cued for a port hoist. We probably should have stuck with a starboard hoist. We had to flop back twice for boats catching up from behind and, as it turned out, going right was right. Better luck next time, future me…

There was decent breeze to the corner of Guemes Channel, and some smooth looking water ahead of us. Positive me was thinking, “It’s just positive current,” and that was partially true. The question was which side to eventually favor, and at what point it was not only positive current smoothing down the surface water, but also dwindling pressure. There was some benefit to boats arriving late to the scene, because sometimes you can avoid a parking lot when you can see it. Eventually, most of us found a hole to park in Rosario Strait. For the record, F25C Makika and Riptide 30 Baby Blue seemed to avoid the whole situation. They were launched!

Boats that favored the north fared well. We all tried to get there, and eventually it filled in enough for all of the boats to get moving again. Could it be that the northwesterly filled in early? It was certainly a joyful moment when you got your nose into the new breeze and started moving. We milked it for as long as we could. Up with the kite! Swap back to the drifter. Jibe. Repeat!

Things were not looking good, but it was only 11 a.m. so on we went. A few hours later, we made it to the venerable Thatcher Pass. It is sort of the nemesis of this race, with typically less breeze and more current, and somehow it’s usually in the wrong direction. Many tacks, lots of shallow water, and some boats pushing it more than others are willing.

The highlight was a reenactment of prior drink holder thievery. On board the J/105 Kinetic, Shawn Huston cleverly pulled off a water bottle heist, snatching my Girts bottle from my drink holder while short tacking the beach next to us!

The weekend afforded a range of conditions, and a boatload of fun.

Eventually we all broke free of Thatcher Pass. Boats split in opposite directions, with enough breeze to carry us in the proper direction toward Upright Head. In the Islands, you never know if it’s going to pay to hug the corner for the shortest path or if the wind shadow will catch you in its clutches. Either way, it’s beautiful and eventually we all got there. The fleet stayed close on the reach up Upright Channel between Lopez and Shaw Islands, and as we neared the last corner of the race we had to swap out to headsails and pray for enough wind to fight the tide in San Juan Channel. Luckily, we discovered a decent breeze and a fair amount of anti-water. So close and yet so far, with the cut off time approaching. Don’t tack…

The happy Wild Rumpus Crew.

Congratulations go out to Nigel Oswald and Gavin Brackett on Makika. They were the only boat to scratch the 5-hour mark on corrected time, and took first overall. In second overall and first in PHRF1 Sportboat was the super cool new boat on the local scene, the Riptide 30 Baby Blue with Evan Walker in the driver seat. Leading the little wiley boat fleet of PHRF2 and 3rd overall were first time Foulweather racers Rowan and Vikki Fennell on their Moore 24 Paramour. First in PHRF1 Displacement was long-time Foulweather racer Jim Bottles and crew on the J/30 Celebration. First in PHRF3 was Brian Pernick’s San Juan 24 Obi Juan. Ryan Sagan’s Sonrisa was awarded with last boat on course honors. And Oak Harbor sailor Aaron Hale sailed his San Juan 28 Argosia and received the venerable “we think you’re special” award. Many sailors were nominated, but Aaron was selected because Oak Harbor has really gone out of their way to be a part of the north end community — yay! There were lots of kids present at the party, and every club in the North Sound was represented.

Thank you to the team of volunteers at San Juan Island Yacht Club for hosting us after a two year break! Let’s come together in 2023, we are already off to a great start.

Every North Sound club was represented at this year’s Foulweather Race.

Photos by Stephanie Campbell, Lizzy Grim, Karen Rose, and Vikki Fennell.