Kicking off the West Sound Sailing Association series, the Jim Depue Memorial Race offered varied conditions, and an abundance of camaraderie and good spirits.

In remembrance of long time Port Madison Yacht Club member, Jim Depue, and his beautiful S&S sloop Gitano, the Jim Depue Memorial kicks off one of the most unique (and possibly the most unknown) series of races on Puget Sound — the West Sound Sailing Association (WSSA) series. This series includes five races in some diverse and challenging west side waters. To top off the incentives for participation and performance in the first of the WSSA races each year, Jim’s widow leaves a bottle of rum at the clubhouse. 

Thirty-four boats made it out for the 2021 Covid version of the Jim Depue Memorial. The yacht club made it easy for everyone to sail within their comfort zone by adding shorthanded classes to the regular group of three classes that are used for each of the WSSA series races. Only one sailor did the ultimate social distancing approach by sailing singlehanded — that was Peter Shorett, who wound up taking 3rd overall and 2nd in division 2 on the Farr 395, Ace.

After a weekend of snow, the warm temps, sunshine, and great breeze were welcome sights to the racers as they waited for the southerly to fill in through a short postponement. It just wouldn’t come all the way in to the start area near Point Monroe, so the race committee moved the start line south a bit. In the process of relaunching it they broke the start pin pole in half and MacGyvered it back together with bailing wire and twine before rolling everyone off the starting area with only mild confusion about which class was actually starting. In true PMYC fashion, everyone got off the line near when they were supposed to, in this case into a solidly building southwesterly breeze.

Starboard tackers make their way south off the start, led by the Goussev’s Lyman Morse, Gray Wolf. Photo by Jan Anderson

The non-flying sails boats headed off the line first and beat out away from the island on starboard tack while the second start set up. Crewed boats and shorthanded boats came off the line together in mid #1 genoa conditions, and one boat — your author’s UN30 — thought that they had ‘em all on port tack from the pin. Well, the UN30 misjudged the angles or current and ended up tacking below most of the fleet’s bows before finding a lane to get back in towards shore and out of the building ebb current.

Farr 395, Time Warp, powered up and looking for current relief. Photo by Jan Anderson.

That ended up being the ticket: push the Bainbridge shore until you were worried about running aground, tack out to 50 feet of depth and head back in, hoping those inside didn’t gain too much on you.  The fleet leapfrogged their way south along the east side of the island. Shorthanded boats pleaded with the crewed boats to let them cross instead of being forced to tack by the starboard boat. A yelled hail of “PLEASE!” could be heard while sailing across Rolling Bay — it was the singlehander on Ace and, yes, they let Ace cross on port. It’s truly something often seen in the West Sound Series — a spirit of camaraderie where sailors understand what each other needs and wants while also competing.

The author’s UN30 setting up a starboard pole set off of Eagle Harbor. Photo by Jan Anderson.

As the leaders approached the windward mark, the Red Nun at Eagle Harbor, the wind did what it often does to sailors who just drug their boats to weather by short tacking the beach for current relief — it dropped down 5 or 8 knots, while the front half of the fleet reached off on starboard pole towards West Point. It left a good sized gap between the front and back half of the fleet. First around was the Henderson 30 in Division 1, the Farr 395 Ace in Division 2, the Davidson 34 Karma in Division 3, the J/80 Rush in Division 4. They all rounded in that first group of 10 within minutes of each other. It was a typically active beat down Bainbridge that kept everyone together and in the hunt.

The Shorthanded Division had a good turnout and happy sailors, including three doublehanded J/105 teams like Peer Gynt. Photo by Jan Anderson.

The weather models showed the wind beginning with the southerly we had, then going easterly about 2 p.m., northerly at 4 p.m. By 6 p.m., we were supposed to be getting the start of the storm front barreling in from the south. And well, the model wasn’t entirely wrong, it was just 2 hours behind the actual weather!  

The first 10 boats got around West Point and well west again as the winds slowly turned to the predicted light easterly. The further behind boats were left struggling to get west in the light dead downwind conditions. Unfortunately, these conditions even left a few others struggling to get back south to West Point after being swept past the buoy in the strong current. Always a challenge.

The leaders could now be seen reaching across the west side of the Sound toward Jefferson Head on a nice easterly, while those on the east side worked to keep kites full and their boats headed somewhat in the right direction toward the leeward mark. The first group of boats got around and reached back to the finish at Point Monroe on the easterly, but as the mid-fleeters rounded the the Jeff Head mark, the wind spun again and came out of the north!  Spinnakers back up, and off to the finish for the mid fleet boats, who crossed the line around 3pm, well ahead of the 5pm time limit. For those bringing up the rear, you guessed it, the wind switched once again and they rolled across the finish under genoa on the soon-to-be-stormy southerly.  

All in all, it was an amazingly beautiful and bright winter’s day to enjoy the incredible waters of the PNW. It was a chance to escape that dire feeling of Covid times, if just for an afternoon, and do what sailors do — race against each other while sailing with each other. We all enjoyed more than a few laughs, heckled other boats, and lifted up a few frosty ones to all those with us, and to those with us no more.

It’s truly an amazing thing we have here in the PNW — wind, water, current, sailboats and friends — we can’t ask for much more. I hope to see you at the next race in the series, the 45th Annual Spring Shakedown March 27th out of the Port Orchard Yacht Club.

At the end of the day, 27 of the 34 boats were able to finish the Jim Depue Memorial Race — pretty good considering the conditions! 

Overall winners, the Henderson 30 Sabrina’s Sabrosa skippered by Alex Simanis. Photo by Jan Anderson.

Division 5 (Non-Flying Sail) was won by the Catalina 38, Emelia, skippered by Josh Smith, second to the Choate 27 Flaming Redhead, 3rd DNF.  

Division 4 (Shorthanded) was won by the J/80 Rush skippered by Peter Dorsey, 2nd to the Aphrodite 101 Elixir, 3rd DNF.  

Division 3 (Crewed) was won by the Davidson 34 Karma skippered by Ken Orlob, 2nd to the UN30 6 Feet More, 3rd to the Thunderbird 26 Swan.  

Division 2 (Shorthanded) was won by the J/105 Creative skippered by Al Huges, 2nd to the Farr 395 Ace, 3rd to the J/105 More Jubilee.  

Division 1 (crewed) was won by the Henderson 30 Sabrina’s Sabrosa skippered by Alex Simanis, 2nd to the J/35 the Boss, 3rd to the Farr 395 Time Warp.  

Full Results here –

Full Series Information here –