Convergence zones, varied conditions, and numerous lead changes in this Southern Sound Series finale.

If you missed out on the 2021 Islands Race, you missed a doozy! Tom Davis, who was out racing on the J-35 Flicka, put it this way: “Everyone was first once!” 

Jeanneau 53, Equus, zipping off the start under spinnaker.

This final stop for the Southern Sound Series brings sailors from Gig Harbor around Blake Island and back via Colvos Passage. We had great wind at different points, and multiple occurrences of huge windless portions of the course caused by converging notherlies and southerlies. The fleet would spread out, and then completely converge.

The race started out in a great southerly. The PHRF 5 fleet all started spot-on, and several boats were planing right from the get-go.The Melges 24 Distraction was able to get ahead of us on Goes to 11 — an Antrim 27. Our experience in heavy air is still fairly minimal on this boat, so we went a little conservative with a flat-cut spinnaker. As we watched the Melges take advantage of the puffs, that was a choice we came to regret. 

The author’s Antrim 27 readies their spinnaker.

We ended up rounding the northern mark just behind the Melges, and were ahead of the rest of our class. We took a westerly line from the island to near the Southworth ferry dock, making gains on the Melges that sailed further east. Then we sailed into the first hole of the day. When we finally passed Point Southworth, the Melges had caught back up. Looking down Colvos, most of the big boats ahead were sitting in the same hole. John Leitzinger summed up the experience on Kahuna:

“We managed to break away from our fleet and round the top mark with a three-quarter mile lead only to sit in a windless hole between the northerly and southerly while the whole fleet crept up on the new wind.” 

Express 37, Rock Paper Scissors, heads up Colvos Passage.

The entire fleet consolidated near the top of Colvos, searching for air anywhere we could. We ended up launching the spinnaker again, and started working our way towards the east side of the passage. Most of the fleet worked their way towards the west side of Colvos. Behind us, one last boat flying south from Blake Island was nearly broaching in the northerly. The wind filled across the passage from east to west, and we launched forward and gained almost a mile lead.  

We made it about halfway down Colvos and through a few squalls with that lead, until the next big hole of the day appeared. As we sat watching the fleet creeping up towards our position, we finally started to see very dark water making its way from the south. Once again, boats on the Vashon side of the passage — Tigger and Distraction — were hit first, and began the charge through the incoming southerly. We tacked for that side of the course, and began the mad dash for the finish. 

I’m not sure what the wind speeds were due to a freshly-seized anemometer, but I can definitively say those were the largest puffs I’ve seen on Goes to 11. After a bit of beating through the middle of the channel, we sailed to the west side for a little relief. We were able to manage until Point Richmond, when we finally reefed. During the reef, Sidewinder caught up, and sailed an impressive final leg to earn (by my calculations) the win for the entire Southern Sound Series. 

Congrats to Sidewinder, and thank you to all of the clubs that hosted the Southern Sound Series this year. 

All photos courtesy of Jan Anderson.

Check out the full race results.