The 2022 Duwamish Head race delivered with sunny skies and more than enough wind to get around the course.

What a day to be alive! Winter sailing is just like summer, if you put on an extra layer and a good hat. Any way you slice it, it was just a great day to be on the water. Duwamish Head 2022 had sunshine, solid breeze from a favorable direction, and the much loved yearly jaunt past the Seattle cityfront in Elliott Bay. After two solid weeks of snow and rain, the Three Tree Point Duwamish Head Race delivered the best sailing day of the still-new year; and the coming days now must clear a high bar to compete. Seemingly gone are the crazy years of the zero- or- gale conditions that Duwamish Head had become so famous for.

The reachy start made for a busy line off of Three Tree Point. Photo by Jan Anderson.

On Mark Harang’s Evelyn 26, Nimbus, we started in the first group with a 5 knot geographical westerly breeze, sailing on a close reach off the line heading north toward Seattle. Most boats elected to start with their biggest headsail, pointing up into the building ebb out of Des Moines. At some point, it made more sense to hoist the kite and burn down toward the rhumbline with the wind clocking back as we headed north. Cherokee was the exception, hoisting right away at the start and working hard to keep the bow pointed up over Three Tree Point. We weren’t sold on that tactic, but we were wrong. They rocked it and made tracks on our fleet. 

Cal 33, Cherokee, gambled with an early kite hoist and it paid off. Photo by Jan Anderson.

It was a pretty quick trip up the Sound to Alki, with big boats catching up along the way. Heading up the course, it was counterintuitive but undeniable that the West Seattle shore was the side to take. Port jibe had the favored angle up the Sound, but every time you jibe to starboard you made gains. I can’t explain it. But it was true, believe me.

Port was the favored jibe, but gains were found on starboard. Photo by Jan Anderson.

With a lot of westerly in the breeze, it was an easy run into Elliott Bay. We didn’t cut the Alki corner close, but we could have. Rounding the Duwamish Head light, it got a little sketchy on the turn. Boats were sailing deep angles and then got blanketed by the fleet behind them. On Nimbus we saw a big clump of boats just ahead at the mark and not making much way. We had to make a split-second decision as we developed an overlap with boats that had already established or not earned overlap in the herd for the rounding. We could have ducked a transom early on and taken the long way around, but we held our breath and hoped that nobody would round too close. Fortunately, nothing horrible happened and nobody touched anyone, but we did turns for good measure. That’s one BIG and very solid mark! Sometimes it’s good to be on a wiley little boat… maybe always. 

It was an easy run into Elliott Bay. Photo by Jan Anderson.

After rounding Duwamish, we had a nice close reach across Puget Sound to Blakely Rock in a building breeze. The mountains were out, the ferries were out, and it was a real treat. We turned the rock in short order, and then it was mostly a fetch back to the finish in Des Moines. It seemed like the higher you stayed, the more lifts you got. Pointing hard for Three Tree Point felt like the right approach, and many boats made it with only one or two tacks. On Nimbus, we kept a low road to duck out of the ebb and that paid as well. It was an early finish with plenty of time to hang out in the sunshine at the dock, a much needed respite for all of us.

We kept our heads in the game throughout the day, but there must have been something more working in our favor. Nimbus got the overall, and the top three overall were from the little boat fleet with Cherokee and Chinook in second and third. Sometimes it’s just a little boat day. 

J/133 Constellation topped some faster boats to take first place among the big boats. Photo by Jan Anderson.

Standout performances went to Ron Holbrook’s J/133, Constellation, scratching out a victory over Absolutely and Dark Star in PHRF2. Hooligan and Lodos took J/111s to the top of the leaderboard in PHRF3, followed by the South Sound rockstars on Kahuna. In PHRF4 it was the Three Tree Point locals on the Jeanneau 53, EQUUS, taking down the small herd of J-35s in their division. Short Circuit had the top spot in PHRF5, and Nimbus in PHRF7 followed by Cherokee and Chinook

South Sound Series maintains healthy fleets In Cruising and Commodores divisions. Koosah and White Squall won each of those divisions respectively.

What a day to be alive — Duwamish Head 2022 was fantastic. Photo of Farr 395, Time Warp, by Jan Anderson.

Duwamish Head 2022 was a fantastic day. Thank you to the organizers and volunteers who made it possible. Duwamish Head (and the preceding South Sound race: Winter Vashon) are Pacific Northwest institutions. If you’ve never gone, give it a go next year! Next up in the series is the Toliva Shoal Race out of Olympia in February.