The Rewards of Racing

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(Published August 2016)

Red buoy #2 bobbed dead ahead in the swell as we passed astern of the committee boat on the tumultuous Columbia River Bar. The starting gun was a minute and a half out and we were right on the line on port tack. With boats entering the zone on starboard, we chose our spot and tacked with 30 seconds to the start. As the sails were trimmed and we got up to speed, we heard the blast and were off on the 40th Oregon Offshore International Yacht Race northward towards Victoria, British Columbia.

Aboard Yahtzee for the 200-mile race up the Washington Coast was the usual crew, Jill and our sons Porter and Magnus, and we’d also invited aboard our friends Cliff and Mark, and my father, Russ. As we beat our way out of the river’s ferocious ebb that morning and into the North Pacific Ocean, the crew began to mesh. Between us, moments of seriousness and frustration were easily broken throughout the race by jokes and bouts of laughter —which was a great reminder not to take ourselves too seriously.

For the next two nights and better part of three days, we tacked north from the “Graveyard of Ships” toward and around the infamous Cape Flattery on Washington’s northwest corner. Just before turning east down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we were able to finally hoist the spinnaker and from there on it was a run to the finish in Victoria’s iconic inner harbor.

While the race was full of ups and downs, swings in emotion and changes in wind, current and position, the most memorable moments were the highlights. Our crew’s teamwork and attitude was far better than any skipper could’ve hoped while in the planning stages. Sailing at night under the moonlight and to a full sky of stars as phosphorescence trailed in the inky ocean behind us was awe inspiring. Watching whales leap out of the water and crash down with a thunderous splash was breathtaking. Spending days sailing under beautiful sunshine and fine breeze was everything we’d wanted when we turned in our race entry. And sharing it as a family made it an event that we won’t soon forget.

When we crossed the finish line and took a slip among congratulatory greetings from other competitors, it was with a great sense of accomplishment. So much time, planning and preparation had gone into making our experience racing northward up the coast safe and successful, and to see it all come to an end was truly exciting.

Because whether it’s an offshore race or passage of any length, there’s nothing quite like making landfall, stepping on the dock and hoisting a congratulatory cold one with your crew. It’s what sailing with friends and family is all about.

Andrew, along with wife Jill and sons Porter and Magnus, are currently cruising the Pacific Northwest aboard their Grand Soleil 39 Yahtzee. Follow their adventures at threesheetsnw.com/yahtzee.