Page 6 - 48º North - The Sailing Magazine - December 2017
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Distractingly Fun Winter Sailing
At the time of this writing, there are roughly 1,000 sets of foulies that probably aren’t quite done leaving puddles below where they’re hung to dry after another epic and memorable Round the County (RTC) race. The famously fun race around the San Juans was again full to capacity, and even more full of great stories and enthusiasm. I say “probably” because I missed RTC for the first time in a number of years; and as much as any missed race of 2017, that absence stings. As you may recall, I suffer from severe FOMO (fear of missing out).
Something struck me, though, in enjoying the reports (ours is on page 40), photos, and videos of this year’s Round the County: I feel like RTC exists in a seasonal no-man’s-land. SYC’s Grand Prix closes the autumn racing season and Tacoma Yacht Club’s Winter Vashon opens winter racing, and RTC lies somewhere in the middle. Except that’s not really true. Round the County is totally winter racing. That said, my recollection of Round the County always seems too fun to be tooth-chattering winter. I have been frozen stiff on some of the other winter races, but I can’t draw up that frigid memory from circumnavigating the islands in November. So, in an issue in which we have an article about “Curing the Winter Blues” inside the boat (page 21), perhaps this is the cure when you’re topside: the best winter sailing experience comes from
having a distracting amount of fun.
For years, I had a job in which I was charged with enhancing a year-round
sailing membership experience; including, and especially, through the winter months when sailing might not seem as appealing. I loved it. What a joyful challenge! While some of the programs we tried and ran fell breathtakingly flat, many of them produced great sailing opportunities and even better memories. Fun always won. One winter event that I am particularly proud of was an annual “Chili Cook-off Race,” an event I’m thrilled to report is still being held, drawing sailors out of their winter dens and making them happy. It’s a simple out-and-back from Shilshole to Blakely Rock, with the kicker being that each boat must make their own chili recipe underway. In an effort to return to the dock with as many fingers as we started with, teams were allowed to pre-chop their ingredients, but nothing could be cooked before the race began. People cook with the propane systems, but also bring generators and crock-pots and some devised hand-strung gimbaling devices on boats of all sorts and sizes. Once back at the dock, there was a community taste test, the results of which were tallied and weighted double- points to the race. The boat with the best combined score wins. Like Round the County, I also can’t remember being cold during the Chili Cook-off Race. I do remember having a great time. (Side note, good ideas recur... our Race Your House writer was also cooking chili underway during that race, page 42).
There are a handful of other best practices for winter sailing; ideas I fully endorse and take no credit for. Plan short trips on the water (between warm-up opportunities), be loaded with a variety of hot drinks, have good foulies and be fiercely committed to staying dry, and have extra warm gear and blankets or a sleeping bag. Even with these efforts, I used to gently remind members that winter sailing is a winter sport - that most people wouldn’t expect to go skiing for many consecutive hours and stay comfortably warm, and that the same is true on the water. Indeed, having a plan for when you’ll be returning to warmth, as well as a plan to avoid becoming severely chilled under sail, is essential.
Winter sailing is worth the effort, but it doesn’t always seem enjoyable. “Have so much fun you’ll be unaware of the conditions!” is not a way I’ve encouraged winter sailors in the past; however, with Round the County and the Chili Cook- off as inspiration, perhaps it should be in the future.
I’ll see you on the water! Joe Cline
Editor, 48° North
Volume XXXVII, Number 5 December 2017
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Joe Cline
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December 2017

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