Leg 6 was scheduled for 10:30 am right outside of telegraph cove. The late start meant a nice relaxed morning with a scheduled 9:45 push off. Mike, still on East cost time of sorts, got an early start getting up at 6:30. I had my mind on getting up a little later…. and was woke up at the crack of 8:40 when Kim came back to our cabin with Wayne Gorrie looking for Shane or Jason.
Wayne was having trouble with the posting results to the VanIsle website and was looking for the kind of geeky assistance that could be found among the Cheekee Monkee crew. After much geek talk over breakfast Jason and I went up to Wayne and Jeannine’s cabin with Jeannine and her laptop to see if we could assist. We managed to get Jeannine on track for posting the results for the next leg and were talking about some of the other issues she was having with the website when we noticed that it was only 30 minutes until the start and we needed to get down to the boat.
On our way up to the cabin I had noticed that out that just off the start line in Broughton Straight the breeze had filled in with white caps, maybe 10-15 knots. The wind was coming right down the straight from the south east, so it would be a down wind run from the start. I hurried down the dock to the boat to get my dry suit on, thinking this was going to be a wet day. Shane needs to cut the seals down on his dry suit, but the rest of us don our dry suits and manage to push off the dock with 15 minutes until the start.
We hoist the main and Kim hands the helm over to me so he can mark the starting line in the Computer’s GPS chart. I turn the boat toward the Race Committee’s RV and throttle up the engine. Most of the boats are assembling themselves down by the west end of the line. Since we are going North West, the west end of the line is heavily favored. The West end of the line is marked by a navigation light and the East end of the line is marked by a flag on land by the Race Committee. I run the boat by the flag and Mike calls out the line for Kim. After the confirmation from Kim I loop the boat back to the correct side of the line and start motoring toward the other end of the line. There is less than 5 minutes to the start and we need to cut the motor. Kim takes the helm, and Shane cuts the engine. We hoist the Jib and get ready for a jib and spinnaker run after the start.
There was only one problem with our post start plan. The white caps sat just on the other side of start line and we were in a hole, actually the entire fleet was in a hole, with amazing wind just a stone through away. We sit bobbing in the waves, sails hanging like a wet towel, wrapping with each wave. One minute left to the start, Kim calls for the screacher. Nothing, 30 seconds left. It fills ever so slightly on our starboard side, with a westerly breeze, the complete opposite direction of the wind 50 yards in front of us. The westerly starts to fill the screacher, the boat begins to move toward the line. The horn goes, then again, several boats are over early. Kim asks if we are over early, I check the GPS plot and confirm that we are not. The screacher backwinds into the rig, we furl it over to the other side of the boat and we begin to accelerate. 20 seconds after the start we hit 1.6 knots, 40 seconds we hit 3 knots. Kim calls for the spinnaker. The boat crosses the start line. Flash is just below us; we begin to get more pressure in the sails passing Flash as we finish the hoist and furl the screacher.
A little after a minute after the start the boat hits 7.5 knots, we are really starting to get into the wind. Bang, the Cheekee Monkee starts to take off like a bullet out of a riffle. Two minutes out we 12 knots and Kim starts to turn down. Another minute later we hit 17 knots and it doesn’t appear that anyone else has even crossed the start line. We are humming along at 18-19 knots for the next several minutes, Flash appears to be the only boat that has managed to get into the wind, but they are more than a mile back. Boats that chose the West end of the line were in a bigger hole than we were with current carrying them away from the line. After another couple of minutes the boats on the west end of the start line begin to crawl out to the wind line and head our way.
No that's not a powerboat wake, that is actually from the Monkee and the entire fleet behind.
The wind lightens and our boat speed drops down to only 12 knots. Ahead of us it is beginning to become apparent we are running out of the breeze and there are big light spots ahead. The fleet is barreling down on us led by Flash with Dragonfly close behind screaming down in the wind we had just run out of. We are approaching Cormorant Island, there doesn’t appear to be too much wind on the right, so we go deep and hug the left shore of the island for better current. The wind continues to drop, Flash and Dragonfly go right of Cormaorant Island and head for the North shore. At the west end of the island our boat speed had dropped down to 7 knots with the fleet still coming on from behind. We clear the island and it is apparent that Dragonfly has passed Flash and both have made out big by going right along the shore and are only barely behind us. We have the option of staying left or going right around Haddington reef. The wind looks flat, but there with some possible shore breeze on the left. We continue, our speed keeps dropping, 4.3, 2.5, the boats on the right keep moving.
We decide to go right and jibe over. The fleet is closing in on us from behind at hull speed, they are getting very close. Our speed keeps dropping and finally we come to a complete stop. Boats see us dead in the water and jibe over to the right earlier as the breeze fills with them, the breeze doesn’t seem to be making it to us though. We were more than a mile ahead of every boat in the fleet and now the middle of the Monohull pack is passing us. Luckily Bad Kitty who had been charging down on us from behind went even more left than us and parked with several other monohulls. Kim calls for the screacher several windless tacks later we just start to inch forward. Many boats have passed us, but the breeze is still light ahead and Dragonfly and Flash are only crawling ahead. A few more monohulls pass us before we get into the same breeze they are in. Out comes the spinnaker. We are making 3-5 knots with some occasional surges and begin to pass the slower monohulls that passed us.
Ahead the wind looks light everywhere and Dragonfly is hugging the shore on the right. Dragonfly hugs the shore a little too much and drives right into a huge hole. Flash drives around the hole Dragonfly has found for them and goes toward the middle. 3-4 monohulls also pass Dragonfly while it attempts to get out of the hole. Everyone seems to be going down right the, we pull up our dagger board and rudder and go down the shallow left. Dragonfly finally gets out of their hole, still ahead of us, but within striking distance. Flash is in a different wind and goes to a jib and noticeable start to heel as they pass Puttney Pt out into the Queen Charlotte Strait. Out comes the screacher and down goes the spinnaker as we drive into the new wind, going upwind into light North Westerly. Boats seem to be going down the middle of the course, North West toward Port Hardy. Dragonfly is ahead of us, to our right, further out into the strait. We are tacking up wind, staying close to shore. Jason looks at the dotted line of our track on the computer and notices our tacking angles over ground are much larger than they should be. He pulls the laptop on deck to show Kim. Our chart shows that we were in a backeddie of the overall favorable current, so we were being pushed back, flattening our rungs on our ladder up wind. We tack out to go out into the strait.
While we along shore Bad Kitty and Blue Lightening had made significant ground, with Bad Kitty just on our heals, maybe a ¼ mile back. As we went right into the strait Dragonfly kept tacking down the middle and we began to close the distance. The Dragon was getting bigger. As we went out further we pulled away from Bad Kitty and Blue Lightening fell out of sight. We were passing the remaining monohulls, there was only Flash, Dragonfly and 2 other monohulls left in front of us. We were beginning to trade tacks with Dragonfly, closing in on turning the corner at Dillon Pt toward the finish in Hardy Bay. Each tack brought us closer; they were within 50 yards now, one tack maybe 2. We are almost to the lay line of the point when we see on of the monohulls in front us take down their sails. Kim asks for the cut off time of the race 4:30, and it was 4:40. If Flash had been able to finish they would have extended the finish until 6:00, then half the boats would have to finish to count the race, but Flash didn’t make it. We had the distance to correct out over all the multihulls for first place, but we were out of time, the leg would count….so close.