My buddy Robert comes down from Canada every year to volunteer at the Footloose Disabled Sailing Blake Island trip. Along the way, Robert participates in the famous Seattle Duck Dodge sailboat race in my 9 foot Minto sailing dinghy. This year I was able to get out with him.
The theme of the race was pajamas. Robert dressed up, brought a Teddy Bear, and decorated the boat. We headed out from the northern side of Lake Union and hopped into the mix. There were well over a hundred boat- they all dwarfed us. Imagine a Pack of Saint Bernards running around your backyard and two Yorkies desperately trying not to get run over. We were the Yorkies.
The course was fairly long for the Mintos, and the wind lighter than I would have liked, but they made it around the course handily.
Before the course started we were milling around the start line and it was a bit dicey with the big boats trying to start. I took of up north and thought Robert had followed me. He had not. The boat Absolutely nearly crushed him while he was looking back at me and talking. After that he hung near the pin end of the starting line. I cruised up north in pursuit of the big boats. They headed there to make a long straight shot at the start. I figured I would do the same behind them, but on the downwind I found that the Minto kept up with several of them and I reached the start 8 minutes early. I started tacking east and west across the lake.
Our start came and I was ready to nail it, till a Catalina barged through. They had missed their start by 5 minutes and I guess figured running me down was ok. Missed the start horn by 30 seconds. Screamed down to the leeward pin and did pretty well. I waited near the pin for Robert and then we headed up to the windward mark near I-5. I passed a Catalina 22 and a Macgregor 26! Lost sight of Robert in the back of the fleet.
Rounding the windward mark, We beamed over to the Aurora bridge mark. This was the biggest battle for me. Having such tiny sail area compared to everyone else, I really had to be on my games. Tactics were of high importance. I had to have clear air because every other boat out there could steal it and kill my momentum. I got a lot of praise for how well I sailed on this leg. Most of the big boats around me were on their second lap. Passed a Catalina 25.
Rounding that mark, I could not see Robert behind me anymore. He was struggling with the same stealing of air that I had and even more of the big boat fleet was around him! On this downwind run to the finish I had a couple beers thrown to me and passed a 30 footer, to finish second to last in my class, but only 5th from last overall. Not too bad for a light rowing dinghy with a sail.
I was very impressed at the performance of the Minto. She sailed well. 3 knots more wind would have helped a lot, but overall I was satisfied. The mental game was the most fun. When you have a lot of sail area it is easier to sail sloppy, when literally every boat can park you the game becomes much more strategic. I did well because I was trained and mentored well by Joe, and exceptional racer. Robert did ok for being in a little dinghy not meant for speed. He would have done better had he deployed the same tactics as myself. He did win a black duck though!
Overall it was a very fun night and I enjoyed it far more than I anticipated. I kinda want to do it again even!