2010 English Bay Scramble: Sun, Smiles, and Second Place

Saturday Aug 14, 2010 - Ian Johnson and Kia Russell joined Krikkit regulars Simon, Jen, Marek and Chris W. for the 2010 English Bay Scramble. The wind was predicted to be light but steady, so we put up the 150 genoa, and the tide was predicted to be ebbing for most of the race. Um, yeah, sure.

The Krikkit brain trust had developed three possible plans of attack based on what was supposed to be happening, and with the tide change sitting very near the race start time, the crew was not surprised to find that the flood was still running at the start. Figuring it would take another 45 to 60 minutes for the ebb to get going, we decided we'd get the North Shore mark out of the way so that we didn't have to tackle it later when current river really got running out there -- especially since the wind tends to die out there later in the day. From the fleet of 50 boats, only two other boats came out with us -- the M242 No Worries and the J/29 Godzilla -- and as we eked our way along in easing winds we began to seriously wonder whether we'd made the right move. At the mark, Godzilla peeled off to run for the Kits Barge buoy mark, while Krikkit and No Worries both spinnaker-reached back to the start/finish line, pushing our chutes to the limits of their windward ability. A good dozen boats, including several of the fast boats from our division, passed us halfway back to the line, having already completed their barge buoy rounding. We weren't looking so smart after all! (Photo: Kia and Simon in light air behind Passage Island) But we stuck with the plan, which saw us get through the start/finish line and then catch the now-building ebb out to Point Atkinson. We were still within 50 yards of No Worries, but the very light winds meant we were glad to have the English Bay ebb pushing us around Point Atkinson. Looking back, we were astounded to see that both Godzilla and all the boats that had passed us going in to the North Shore mark were still there, stuck in an enormous wind hole that had developed around the mark. As we rounded Point Atkinson the wind backed so we raised the chute, at which point the breeze came on hard for five minutes, and then swung sharply forward. Suddenly we were trying to spinnaker-reach in 14 knots of breeze, and forced to do a hasty takedown before reaching under genoa, in light winds once again, past the northern tip of Passage Island and into a massive wind hole.

What followed was a sort of slow-motion Tokyo Drift, as we caught the big 1.5 knot ebb current flowing out of Howe Sound and rounded Passage Island sideways, with no apparent wind and no steerage way but making 1.2 knots good over ground towards a big band of wind -- I love it when plans work out! We watched several other boats from our division reach the other way (towards Passage from the Bell Buoy) but then get stopped dead by the light-to-no-existent wind and opposing currents. Approaching the wind line we moved all the crew to the "leeward" side and got the boat pointed in the right direction, then in the space of three boat lengths got everyone up on the high side as we suddenly took off on a beam reach at 7.5 knots in 20 knots of breeze.

The second half of the race was "The Fast and the Furious" -- as fast as the first half had been slow: We rounded the Point Grey Race marker and popped the chute, screaming directly towards the Kits Barge Buoy at 7.75 knots over ground, then rounded it shortly after No Worries and beat back towards the start/finish line somewhat overpowered, but calling the layline perfectly to cross the line after only one tack.

(Photo: Chris and Marek during the Tokyo Drift around Passage Island)

Motoring back it was all smiles as it had truly been a fantastic race, with all sorts of challenging conditions, excellent crew work and good friendship. Marek did sterling work on the foredeck through five spinnaker sets and takedowns, and Kia was a rock star flying the chute. Ian acted as mast man and helped out with foredeck duties, while Jen and Chris handled the pit work, mainsheet and genoa trim. Brigadoon (from our division) pulled up beside us and said that they'd only managed three marks (and they are a fast boat!) and then reports started filtering in that they'd done better than most. Turns out our strategy, despite looking shaky at the start, had paid off big time: In the end, No Worries, who sailed the same course, won their division and we came in second in our division behind only the faster-rated CS40 Jeunesse III. We're guessing they probably did Passage Island first, since the only other boats we know that managed four marks did Passage first.

( Left: Jen, self portrait) (Right: Ian Johnson)