Some “all-in” racing conditions made this year’s East Sound Spring Regatta (ESSR) an adventure to remember.
Sailing in the spring can be a gamble, but odds are you’ll have a great weekend sailing on Orcas Island in any season. After last year (and historically many prior) in West Sound, the ESSR returned to the East Sound waters in front of beautiful Rosario Resort in 2023. A record 11 J/70s registered for the event, along with five Martin 242s and a handful of PHRF boats. There is always something special about hosting an event at a small private marina, and it was a sweet home for the weekend, despite challenging weather conditions.
The regatta’s Over/Under/High/Low were as follows:
Under-staffed! On my Santa Cruz 27, Wild Rumpus, we had a crew of four in conditions that favored six. My poor son Dylan was thrown to the wolves, braving the bow shenanigans of symmetrical kites and a mom who insisted on sail changes galore — putting up the #1 genoa multiple times in big breeze, even the dreaded-but-loved chicken kite got a turn. And we weren’t alone. Several other boats were light on crew — it can be hard to get crew excited about this weather, camping on boats or couches, and committed for the long haul to the islands. In truth, the camping made for a lot of fun!
Over-achieving wind conditions. How windy? I never know. But the wind was chunky and full of moisture. I’m pretty sure that each of the J/70s spent at least a little time on Saturday skidding sideways waist-deep in water, and a lot of time wahoo-ing and high-fiving.
Low-road downwind angles for the Martin 242s and PHRF boats, and thus some less dramatic kite runs. On Wild Rumpus, our biggest challenge was planing toward the leeward mark on race three — we didn’t want the ride to end but also didn’t know if there was any way to actually slow the boat down enough to turn around and head back upwind in the few boat lengths that remained. There was, and we did, and it was ugly. If I loved sailing just a tiny bit more than I already do, I would have just kept going and bagged that race! As is often true of the best entertainment, the only documentation was the less-exciting aftermath.
Higher angles for the J/70s, who spent some time in the wicked down-drafts along the beach before jibing back to the leeward mark and finish line. One kite was a casualty, but most boats came out unscathed. No broken boats, no injuries, and no swimming. Still, it was hard to be on your A-game. As coach Ron Rosenberg wisely put it, “We are coloring with the big crayons this weekend.”
After four great buoy races, the PRO decided getting off the water was a can’t-miss bet. The anchors were not holding and the people were getting tired. At a quick glance, the marina was a ghost town — sideways rain and not a sailor to be seen. Upon further inspection of steamy windows, any boats that were big enough to stand up inside were packed full of salty wet sailors having fun and drying out. Dinner was served under tarps on the deck of Betsy Wareham’s tugboat Nootka Rose and the adjacent dock. Weather remained damp, but spirits were high, the tacos were delish, and Robin Roser’s Clean Regatta Ecology Jeopardy was spirited and educational. There were sea stories a-plenty before most called it an early night on behalf of wind-weary bodies.
On Sunday morning, a dock postponement allowed for breakfast in town. After some eggs benedict, we were back to a skippers meeting with a roll-call for bravery while waves broke over the breakwater. The J/70 FOMO went out to test the waters and deemed it sailable but not entirely raceable conditions. When the Race Committee started giving away volunteer lunches, we knew that we weren’t going racing.
We did, however know that we were going out to get home, it was just a matter of finding a drama-free weather window. The J/70 run back to Bellingham by Chancla and Deviant was exciting, with boat speeds ranging from 0 to 16 and back, dramatically and with flourish. It was definitely a zesty weekend for all!
Congratulations go out to Frederic Lafitte and crew on FOMO, winning the competitive J/70 division, followed in second by Krystal Luchterhand on Zeal just one point ahead of her dad Boris Luchterhand on RIFF.
In the Martin 242 fleet, it was the dynamic trio of Ken Machtley, Chris White, and Jeff Rodenberger on Treachery in the 1 spot, followed by new owner Eric Bonetti sailing Boomer with former owner Mike Merrick and Canadian rock star Michael Clements.
In the lovingly renamed “PHRF Are People Too” division, it was Wild Rumpus on top, breaking a tie with Gabe Hill and Chad Saxton’s newly refurbished Juan Solo in second place. It was a friendly battle of the winter project boats!
Thank you to the volunteers who made it happen. Those mark boat drivers were absolute angels. It was a great weekend with friends old and new. Next up in the North Sound Party Circuit: Windermere. See you in Anacortes on May 19-21!
Full results available here.
Title background image by Carl Davis.
School teacher by day, rad racer by night and weekend, and 48° North’s lead racing reporter in between—Stephanie Campbell of Anacortes, WA, is one of the Salish Sea’s most respected sailors. Her trophy wall is jam-packed and includes a Santa Cruz 27 National Championship. She’s the proud owner of SC27, Wild Rumpus, and Martin 24, Area 51.