Dec 6, 2018
The Orcas Island Yacht Club and the Friday Harbor Sailing Club hosted the 31st annual “ROUND the COUNTY” sailboat race. This event was held on November 10th and 11th, 2018 in the beautiful and challenging waters of San Juan County Washington. The race is approximately 76 miles with an overnight stop in Roche Harbor, San Juan Island. Due to the great venue, the better winds of November, and the overnight stop in Roche Harbor, the race has become one of the more popular sailing events in the Pacific Northwest.
The OnBoard team wanted to know firsthand what it was like to participate in the Round the County Race. We approached Stuart Dahlgren of UK Sails to give us his perspective.
“Round the County (RTC) continues to attract one of the biggest fleets in the Pacific North West year to year. It is tough to imagine why any event that is far from all the major sailing clubs in the region at the onset of winter is so popular. But this year it was clear yet again what this race is all about competitive sailing with a stunning backdrop. Sunrise and sunsets that are truly spectacular set against the snow capped mountains of Washington with wildlife galore.”
“This year I joined the team on Jack Rabbit a CM1200 sailed out of CFSA in Esquimalt. A stubborn high-pressure ridge had taken up station over the region so no big epic SE’ers this year, but going clockwise that was probably a blessing. A nice outflow breeze from the interior of BC meant a sunny, chilly, mostly light air affair was to be the name of the game this year.
Saturday started with an exciting downwind start at Lydia shoals. We choose the boat end of the line, along with most of the fleet and we started low on Starboard to maintain our rights as long as possible, button hooked the committee boat and gybe set. It was a great run all the way to Davison rock. We were using a new setup on the boat using the Asymmetrical spinnakers with a std pole. The little bit of up and back this gave us vs flying off the short sprit gave the boat new legs downwind in the moderate conditions. The mostly light air sometimes not beat from Davison to the finish was cruel with big shifts and big losers and big winners. In the end the name of the game (which is not uncommon in a round and island type race) was sail the shortest distance, which Recon, Kevin Welch’s J-111, executed perfectly, to win the day on Saturday by a healthy margin.
Sunday started a little closer to shore than most would have hoped with an apparent shortage of anchor rode on the committee boat. Quarters were tight and it was a stb reaching start. Starting at the boat meant clean air and a high line to keep you out of the ebb coming around turn point but also a high risk of getting pinched out by a boat below. We were a little less aggressive than the day before on the start line but luckily the diminutive Melges 32 managed to take out a couple of the big boats that were trying to approach from up high and we found a beautiful hole below them to sneak through a couple seconds late but at full speed with clean air. From there the trick was stay high but not too close to Stuart Island. We watched the Farr 30 Red Roses who had NAILED the start before ours, sit wallowing in nothing from getting JUST to close to the island. So the middle road became the name of the game not just on the first leg but pretty much the whole race. It was an interesting perspective as we watched boats on either side of us look like, at times they were either parked or ripping away in better pressure. In essence we were on the fulcrum of a teeter-totter, knowing one side would eventually win out on our way out Boundary Pass. In the end smart sailing made either side pay as long as you did not go too far either way. There was a pleasant run from Patos to Lawrence Pt on Orcas Island and then it was snakes and ladders to the finish. We sailed the long way round sailing south and wide down wind till the finish was almost abeam then. Connecting the dots to a light Westerly filling out from the San Juan’s. Smart sailing and good timing (AKA luck) put us in first overall for the Sunday, which bought our cumulative result up enough to put us in a solid 3rd overall. Considering we had not sailed as a team and half the crew had never sailed the boat, we were pretty happy. Another great RTC in the books.”