Sailors attending Seattle Yacht Club’s Grand Prix Regatta enjoyed three days of diverse and exciting racing in varied conditions.

Sails got worked. Foulies got tested. New names were etched into Seattle Yacht Club’s shiny Grand Prix trophies. And good times were enjoyed by all, as the season’s final multi-day buoy racing regatta for keelboats on Puget Sound went into the books in late October. New for 2021 was the removal of a requirement for qualification, so any boat that wished to register was welcome. A total of 40 boats across eight classes — two ORC, four PHRF, as well as J/105s and J/80s racing one-design — came out for three days of fun wind-powered competition. 

As we rigged up on Friday morning, the chatter was all about Sunday. The rest of the weekend looked pretty good too, but Sunday… holy moly. The tenor of the conversation was excitement and wonder, with just a dash of apprehension for good measure. Better keep the old main nearby, just in case it nukes. 

Soon enough, sailors’ focus shifted from the future to the present, as always happens on the water. Friday gave us an on-time start for some long buoy courses and a really enjoyable moderate southerly with flat water. Two races were scored for each class. 

Saturday gave the most gentle conditions of the weekend. Breezes from 6-14 knots were complemented by less rain than forecast and some sun in the afternoon — even a rainbow during the final race! The race committee ran three races for each class, with the breeze being lightest in the mid-afternoon. 

Sunday was as forecast. The monster wind predictions associated with an historic low pressure system in the north Pacific were unwavering in the afternoon, but the race committee accurately deemed it safe to bring the fleet out for one quick medium-distance race, which started in 14-16 knots and built to 20-25 before the race was finished. Crossing the finish line, racers were shown the flag combination “AP over A” and the boats returned to the marina with a good 90 minutes to get settled before the breeze came in with force. The West Point Buoy clocking 35-46 knots of wind for an hour in the afternoon. Good call, race committee. 

Amongst the fun J/80 class, the regatta kicked off with close competition among High Five, Jolly Green, and Underdog, whose cumulative scores were within a two-point spread after the first day of racing. During the distance race on Saturday, most of the fleet continued along the eastern shore after rounding the windward mark at Meadow Point, whereas Reckless and Underdog jibed early to cross Puget Sound. A favorable shift near the leeward mark at Point Jefferson put the latter well ahead of the other boats, with Reckless crossing the finish line in first place just ahead of Underdog. Underdog won the rest of the races on Saturday, despite rounding the first mark behind several boats.

J/80 High Five powered up. They battled into a second in class. Photo by Jan Anderson.

“We kept working it low downwind while maintaining good speed to maximize VMG,” said Lek Dimarucot, Underdog’s skipper. The flying mascot on Underdog’s chute helped the team measure how much rotation they were getting from the spinnaker. “We like seeing as much of the dog on the windward side as possible, at least one ear and ideally his nose, too,” Lek continued. “On the beats, we worked to stay in phase with the shifts while covering boats behind,” he added.

With a four-point lead in the standings, Underdog was firmly in first place at the start of the final race on Sunday, which became a duel for second place with High Five and Jolly Green only one point apart. High Five won the heavily favored end of the start line, managed to fly their spinnaker on the close reach to Meadow Point, and thus clinched the duel, finishing the regatta in second with Jolly Green in third. Lek and his crew’s victory on Underdog is great to see — Lek has been showing top form ever since he attended the World Championships in Denmark earlier this summer.

The racing in the J/105 class was as tight as ever, with five boats scoring a first place in six races. Class winner aboard Creative, Al Hughes, shared the following report: 

There were seven J/105s on the line for Friday, which starts in the afternoon with a couple of buoy races. Winds were 8-18 knots from the south. The first race went to Creative who fended off a stiff challenge from Moose Unknown all around the course and then Insubordination who passed Moose in the last bit of the beat to the finish. The second race had a little more wind, which was more shifty as well. Creative made a nice move to the west on the run to close up with the early leaders More Jubilee, Insubordination and Moose. On the beat to the finish Creative played the shifts well to finish first again followed by Moose and then a tie between Insubordination and Jubilee.

Saturday brought continued southerlies but a little more east in them and a wider range of speeds with a few showers. These new conditions brought some different players to the front. Jubilee took the first race from the crew of Liftoff who crossed second ahead of Moose. The second race had Puff leading early before being overtaken by Moose and the Insubordination. The last race of the day saw Liftoff lead most of the race until being nipped at the leeward mark by the downwind train of Peer Gynt. It seemed like the whole fleet was rounding the leeward mark at once. On the beat back to the finish, Insubordination played the shifts very well to pass all four boats who rounded ahead of them to cross the line first, followed by Liftoff and Peer Gynt. But the dreaded protest room later that evening took down Insubordination for a room-at-the-mark violation.

In six races, the J/105s saw five different boats win a race. That’s close competition! Photo by Jan Anderson.

Starting the final day, things were very tight with Moose and Creative tied at 9 points each after counting throwouts, and More Jubilee and Insubordination within reach. The final day saw a delay in starting over concerns about a very low barometer and high wind forecast. The RC did what they could with an ESE breeze but it was a bit of a parade with a huge premium on a port-tack-only start; continuing with very close reaching to the turning mark, beam reach to the leeward mark which was in a bit of a wind hole, and then tight reach back to the windward mark and repeat. Passing lanes were hard to come by. Puff got the best start but they were passed on the tight reach by Insubordination and then Peer Gynt. Creative got by Peer Gynt at the leeward mark hole and were followed by Moose. Another lap followed with no changes, but Jubilee took the low road on the last leg to sneak by Moose for third.

Final tally was Creative first, Moose Unknown second, and the Insubordination crew third. Without the DSQ, Insubordination had the best record over the three days. But it was good stuff for the local fleet that every boat had a turn at the front, the competition was always stiff, and I think everyone had a good time. 

The fastest boats on the course were a pair of TP52s, who wound up match racing in ORC Class 1. Smoke and Glory had some great battles. The longer buoy courses allowed for racing to test both boat speed and tactics. It’s fair to say that Glory had the speed advantage aided by a couple of shiny new sails, but Smoke sailed savvy and absolutely earned the top spot for the weekend. 

Glory had a one point lead going into the final race on the breezy Sunday, but with the tie break rules in such a small class, it was one race for all the marbles. The race committee sent the 52s upwind to West Point and then on a reachy downwinder to a mark a bit beyond Spring Beach and back. With just two boats on the start, you’d think there’d be plenty of room and clean air to spare. Well, with a seriously pin-favored starting line, there was only one place to be, and Smoke positioned themselves brilliantly, gassing Glory off the line. Glory was able to reel them in on the beat, and attempted to hold Smoke out at West Point but Smoke got a nose in and earned mark room, retaining the lead around the mark.

TP52s Smoke and Glory match raced in ORC Class 1. Photo by Jan Anderson.

Both boats put kites up in the southeasterly, and quickly were making way west of the ideal course. Simultaneous douses left the two boats jib reaching for the mark, where Smoke once again rounded just ahead again. Back on the breeze in winds now topping 20 knots, Glory clawed back, stretching their legs and climbing on top to cross the finish line a few boat lengths ahead of Smoke, but after the handicaps were applied, Smoke won with a margin of almost 30 seconds. It is pretty amazing how much fun competition two well sailed sleds like this can have in a class all by themselves. 

Around the fleet, great battles abounded. Both ORC Class 2 and PHRF Class 3 had to employ tiebreakers to determine the winners: Jonathan McKee’s Riptide 44, Dark Star, just edged Dougherty and Andrews’ J/125 Hamachi who made a late charge in Sunday’s big breeze; and Charlie Macaulay’s Farr 39 Absolutely pipped Iain Christenson’s Farr 36, Annapurna, in the final race to top the class of the fastest PHRF boats. 

Madame Pele sailed to a convincing class win. Photo by Jan Anderson.

Tolga Cezik’s J/111 Lodos, Bill Buchan’s Peterson 44 Sachem, and Nick Andrewes’ Davidson 29 Madame Pele rounded out the class winning honors. Full results here.

Thanks to SYC for another terrific Grand Prix Regatta. It was fun to know it was open to all this year. And, as always, those that attended were treated to the region’s swankiest regatta dinner at the Seattle Yacht Club for the awards ceremony on Sunday Night. What a great weekend! 

All images are courtesy of Jan Anderson Photography. Special thanks to Lek Dimarucot and Al Hughes for their assistance with this story.