The Sloop Tavern Yacht Club’s two-day Down the Sound race was back as a destination event for 2022, this time with a course to Tacoma’s Foss Harbor Marina instead of Gig Harbor.

This single and doublehanded pursuit-style race has been a fixture in the Puget Sound racing scene for a couple of decades. Seventeen boats raced in this year’s edition on Aug. 6 and 7, with 15 of those spread across three classes in the doublehanded flying sails division. 

This year’s edition had the early-start boats disadvantaged with next to no wind in Saturday’s start area off Seattle’s Shilshole Bay Marina. By the time a light northerly built for the later-starting boats, most of the early fleet hadn’t made it past West Point in Discovery Park. Once the northerly filled in, though, it was a beautiful sunny day for sailing.

The Saturday course had the fleet sailing to Tacoma down the east side of Vashon Island with a race mark at Three Tree Point. The fleet compressed and reshuffled there, with expansive wind holes between there and Point Robinson separating the fleet into clear haves and have-nots. The J/105s Double Trouble and More Jubilee and the J/100 Selah in Class 5 made particularly great moves in this reshuffle. The J/80 Rush and the Pyramid 30 Scheme were also among the frontrunners. 

After Point Robertson, a close reach under spinnaker provided a great deal of excitement, with a number of boats rounding up as nobody wanted to give up the speed their spinnakers were providing in an attempt to catch the leaders.

The lead boats, sans Rush and Scheme, made the decision to sail beyond Browns Point towards Ruston, ultimately parking themselves in the mother of all wind holes. Anyone who went much beyond the western edge of the Port of Tacoma turning circle saw their hopes of a strong finish disappear. The trailing boats formerly stuck in the Three Tree Point wind hole saw the carnage and cut close to Browns Point to avoid the hole, even though it made for pretty dead downwind sailing in a dying breeze. 

As racing Saturday came to a close, it was Rush, the J/109 Mountain, and Scheme on the podium for the overall lead amongst doublehanded boats with the formerly front-running J/105s and the J/100 all 30 to 40 minutes back. This would be important on Sunday. Rush and Mountain took top honors in Class 4 and 5, respectively, with the Westsail 32 Hula taking Class 3.

Sunday dawned with a wind forecast of a single-digit northerly building to the mid-teens and a course to Seattle via Colvos Passage. The early boats on this day had wind, generally heading for Browns Point off the start line to catch a strong outflow current. Many of these boats were able to get into the mouth of Colvos, at least, before the remainder of the fleet was treated to a wholly unforecasted north-to-south convergence causing spinnakers to sprout amongst the back half of the fleet.

The leading boats were able to punch through into a building northerly coming down Colvos Passage, but the tail end of the fleet got caught in a nasty wind hole right at the entrance, including Saturday’s second boat overall, Mountain, and the fourth-place overall boat on Saturday, the J/99 One Life

The northerly continued to build throughout the day, ending up with steady winds in the upper teens to low 20s off Magnolia and the last stretch into the finish line. Speeds were fast and mainsails were flogging as boats with sail plans reflecting single-digit speeds early in the day had to deal with being overpowered in the heavy breeze. This made an already tiring day for these doublehanded crews even more tiring.

Despite that, Double Trouble, More Jubilee, and Selah ended up 1-2-3 for Sunday line honors, and Saturday’s wind hole off Ruston put them too far behind — but only barely. Rush and Scheme retained their overall spots atop the podium, but One Life ended up taking third overall, despite finishing more than 20 minutes behind the first boats across the line — just 90 seconds ahead of Mountain after nearly 10 hours of racing across two days.

Class winners for the weekend were the Hanse 455 Bella in the singlehanded flying sails Class 1 and Q-Class Grayling in the doublehanded non-flying sails Class 2. In the doublehanded flying sails classes, the Wauquiez 35 Seeker took Class 3, Rush was tops in Class 4, and One Life led the fast boats in the very competitive Class 5, in which all the boats finishing both days ended up correcting to within about 16 minutes of each other after 54 miles of racing.

Overall, it was another fun and memorable Down the Sound race. 

Photos courtesy of David Miller and Mike Cain.