It is meant to be hard… And Fun!

Northern Century (N100) might be the toughest race you’ll ever love. Hosted by the Anacortes Yacht Club on August 14-16, 2020, the N100 course starts in Fidalgo Bay on Friday evening and heads north to Point Roberts, then south any way you choose to Hein Bank, with a return to Anacortes and a finish off Washington Park.

It’s possibly the hardest race of the year, but the beauty of sailing around and through the San Juan Islands is truly staggering. The Perseid meteor shower, the Milky Way, the crescent moon, the sunrises and sunsets—all incredible. Whether you saw the whales or just heard them at night, it was unreal. We all could have lived without the flies that invaded us near Point Roberts, though. Overall, nature plays a big role in what makes the Northern Century race.

Tides also define this event. There are huge tide rivers that flow through the islands. During the daylight hours, it’s hard to navigate the currents. In the dark, tide lines are a zen experience; and small mistakes and decisions have big consequences because it takes awhile to realize that the red running light you were watching is now white. Now what? You’re half asleep and need a plan to fix it. As shared by Kim St, who came up from California to race on the San Juan 24 Miss Mayhem, “…after all, there’s nothing like spending 24 hours on a 24 foot boat in every imaginable condition—beautiful breeze and no current, no breeze and lots of current, lots of breeze and lots of ebb chop with the kite up—you name it, we had it all. Some of it in spades … we laughed, we cursed, we cursed other people…” Forty-three boats competed in this year’s edition of the Northern Century. It was certainly an uptick from recent years, likely due to a limited amount of racing events this year. We’ll take it, and what a fleet! TP52s, classic schooners, multihulls, a live aboard, several would-be Pac Cup entries, more than one San Juan 24, and everything in between. Spending two nights on a Melges 24, sleeping squished on the cold plastic bunks of Millennial Falcon sounds rather extreme until you remember that the boat did that all the way to Ketchikan last year in the R2AK. Contrast that with a queen size bed and a down comforter and fan on the Beneteau 48, Odin, and that is what makes the race interesting. On the Catalina 42, Eleven, they even anchored to enjoy a meal together. It was tactical camping at it’s best, or its worst—it’s all how you embrace the challenge. There were three starts, beginning with the Double Handed 100 class. With about 5 knots of breeze and a slack tide, it was a great start with most boats electing to turn and burn downwind around the outside of Guemes Island. The Fully Crewed 100 boats started next, and enjoyed the initial run to the corner of Guemes chasing the double handed racers. The Northern 50 fleet started last.

After the first corner, the breeze started to recede and it really paid to chase it before you got left in the dust with your drifter. Some clever tacticians caught an amazing shore breeze and rocketed up the Guemes beach. The goal for most was to favor Lummi Island, for bonus wind and tide relief.

A colorful downwind start out of Anacortes on Friday evening. Photo by Jeff Rodenburger.
A colorful downwind start out of Anacortes on Friday evening. Photo by Jeff Rodenburger.


J/111 Valkyrie enjoying the breeze while it lasted. Photo by Ken Machtley.
J/111 Valkyrie enjoying the breeze while it lasted. Photo by Ken Machtley.

Friday night was kind to most of us, including for our crew aboard the J/109 Lodos. It was a relatively painless trip to Point Roberts, right up until the last two miles before the mark. Some boats were able to just round it and ramble on, but others made many attempts.

Everything after the first turn was a gamble of wind, tide, and minimizing extra distance. Some will tell stories of the tide rip at Patos Island, others will groan as they remember Turn Point or Hein Bank, or even Cattle Pass. Day two of the race was, and always is, supremely tactical. You literally can take any path you choose from Point Roberts to Hein Bank. On Lodos, we went through the middle of the San Juans, as did the majority of the fleet this year. We enjoyed some great zooms and even kept a hand on the vang for a while. It was not epically fast, but all indicators pointed toward a Saturday night finish. With 7 miles left to go and 14 hours to make it happen, surely we were solid. As the sun set around Davidson Rocks, we were just drifting, but the stars were amazing and there was nothing to rush home for. As we nearly drifted right into Millennial Falcon, we talked about the merits of sticking with it. “Hope is sometimes all you’ve got left!” Well, they said something like that, and it was brilliant. Just what we needed.

Beautiful sunsets are a Northern Century tradition. Photo by Jason Vannice.
Beautiful sunsets are a Northern Century tradition. Photo by Jason Vannice.

However, as the sun came up and we had drifted out to Smith Island, the party was over. Northern Century—you’ll laugh, you’ll curse, you’ll marvel, and maybe you’ll make it all the way!

Congratulations to the TP 52 Sonic, who was first to finish and recipient of the barn door trophy. Also, congratulations to Ev and Jeanne Goussev on Gray Wolf, finishing the race double handed.

Night mode on Sonic. Instruments were only some help in the crazy currents.
Night mode on Sonic. Instruments were only some help in the crazy currents. Photo by Lizzy Grim.

Sonic crew member, Lizzy Grim, shared this report from the Line Honors winner:

“Our strategy was to sail a clean race, and do the best we could to pick through the wind holes, finding current lines that would be kind to us and hope we hit the tide/ current gates at the right times. In spite of the goal to sail clean and a result we’re please with, the race was definitely not a perfect one for us. We have some new ultralight tack lines on board, and one managed to slip off the winch and through the clutch, resulting in a spinnaker making a bid for freedom shortly after the start. The crew did an excellent job of recovering it, but we wound up being down an A1 for the rest of the race.

It meant the world to get out and race together again. We are hopeful to get to do it again soon— keep wearing your masks and keeping your distance so we can all have more fun together!”

Everyone fought hard to make the finish, and several boats were so close. Certainly, the Northern 93 would have been finished by many more than the full century. It was never meant to be easy in the first place. But it was meant to be fun, and it still was for most of us! There were many winners and spectacular performances to be celebrated, and many stories of mayhem and misadventure. Northern Century is always held on the third Friday of August. Put it on the calendar for next year, you’ll be glad you did.

Results below were based on shortened course half-way times, but WELL DONE to the two full course finishers (and therefore overall race winners): 

Fully Crewed 100 First to Finish and First Overall: Sonic, TP 52, Marek Omillian

Double-Handed 100 First to Finish and First Overall: Gray Wolf, Lyman Morse Custom 40, Jeanne Goussev

Fully Crewed 100 (18 boats) (top)
1. 50005, Hinzite, James Hinz[1], SYC, 1- ; 1
2. USA 2, Freja, Jonathan Cruse[1], STYC, 2- ; 2
3. 13696, Hamachi, Dougherty / Andrews[1], CYC / STYC, 3- ; 3
4. 52725, Sonic, Marek Omilian[Sled], STYC, 4- ; 4
5. USA27, Kahuna, John Leitzinger[1], CYCT, 5- ; 5
6. 8455, Mist, Stevan Johnson[Sled], SYC, 6- ; 6
7. USA60511, Valkyrie, Cathy VanAntwerp[1], CYC, 7- ; 7
8. 1005, Rush, Phillip Dean[2], Sloop Tavern Yacht Club, 8- ; 8
9. 50, Time Bandit, Bob Brunius[1], OIYC and BYC, 9- ; 9
10. 87652, Altair, Jason Vannice[1], South sound sailing society, 10- ; 10
11. 171, Lodos, Tolga Cezik[1], CYC Seattle, 11- ; 11
12. 79171, DuFrie, Tim Divine[2], Sloop Tavern Yacht Club, 12- ; 12
13. 18324, Rock Paper Scissors, Hans Seegers[1], South Sound Sailing Society, 13- ; 13
14. none, Odin, Tim Garchow[2], Corinthian Yacht Club Tacoma, 14- ; 14
15. 1004, Eleven, Bill Jenks[2], CYCT/TYC, 15- ; 15
16. 59369, Tantivy, David Garman[1], Singlehanded Sailing Society, 19/DNC- ; 19T
16. 226, MARTHA, Robert d’Arcy[2], Port Townsend Sailing Association, 19/DNC- ; 19T
16. 348, Windsong, Andrew Stewart[2], Anacortes Yacht club, 19/DNC- ; 19T

Double Handed 100 (18 boats) (top)
Series Standing – 1 race scored

1. 440, Kinetic, Vincent Townrow[2], AYC, 1- ; 1
2. 401, Gray Wolf, Jeanne Goussev[1], PMYC, 2- ; 2
3. 69360, Chinook, JJ Hoag[2], Seattle Yacht Club, 3- ; 3
4. USA 94, Raku, Christina & Justin Wolfe[1], OIYC, 4- ; 4
5. USA 296, Reckless, Emre Sezer[2], CYC, STYC, 5- ; 5
6. 18944, Sir Isaac, John and Ann Bailey[2], PTSA, 6- ; 6
7. 243, Millennial Falcon, Molly Howe[2], CYC Seattle, 7- ; 7
8. 8939, Back Bay, Peter Schoenburg[2], Berkeley YC, 8- ; 8
9. 97600, Keet, Mike Powell[2], Bellingham Yacht Club, 9- ; 9
10. 40248, Shearwater, Karl Haflinger[1], CYCT, 10- ; 10
11. 79145, Kyrie, Mark and David Odendahl[2], CYCE, 11- ; 11
12. 69919, Son of Raven, Chris Sherman[M], Anacortes Yacht Club, 19/DNC- ; 19T
12. 9700, Dark Star, Jonathan McKee[1], SYC/CYC, 19/DNC- ; 19T
12. 049, Aliikai, Dougie Barlow[M], NWMA, 19/DNC- ; 19T
12. 41729, Perplexity, John Wilkerson[1], STYC, 19/DNC- ; 19T
12. 253, Big Broderna, Lars Strandberg[M], AYC, 19/DNC- ; 19T
12. 37, Makika, Nigel Oswald[M], NWMA, 19/DNC- ; 19T
12. 52854, Zen No Zen II, Ross Bernard[1], International Yacht Club, 19/DNC- ; 19T

Fully Crewed 50 (4 boats) (top)
1. 18363, Espresso, Brad Abels, Milltown Sailing, 1- ; 1
2. 422, Miss Mayhem!, Melissa Davies, CYC-Tacoma, 2- ; 2
3. 69523, Sunshine Girl, Walt Meagher, AYC, 3- ; 3
4. 59924, Echo, Stephen Miller, Olympia Yacht Club/SSSS, 5/DNF- ; 5   

Double Handed 50 (3 boats) (top)
1. 284, Capricho, Eric Beemer, AYC, 1- ; 1
2. 163, Juan Solo, Gabe Hill, OHYC, 2- ; 2
3. 25359, Quantum leap, Theo Singelis, CYC Bellingham, 4/DNF- ;

Title background photo by Lizzy Grim.