Round Mercer Island Race turns into huge fiasco, er, success!

Hobie Fleet 95 sponsored a Round Mercer Island Race on Saturday, April 16th.  The idea was to meet at Stan Sayre’s Pits on Lake WA and circumnavigate the big rock in the middle of the lake.IMG_0154

Plans were quickly changed when the forecast called for a building breeze — to 3k!  Instead the I-90 Bridge Fiasco was born.  Participants had to go through both the
East and West Portals of the I90 bridge in any direction they wanted.  The air was so thick with competitive fire you could cut it with a knife.  Stare downs.  Trash talking.  It was intense.

This event was so large that there were four — count ’em 4 — starts!  The pursuit start had the slower boats, er, boat starting first.  Laura Sullivan, sailing a Hobie 14 was able to make that critical tack before the start so she wasn’t throw in irons, and off she went, rarin’ in a 2k breeze.  Five minutes later the huge 16 fleet — made up of the likes of Tim Webb and Martin Hollinsworth — took off in the best start of the day.  Martin actually covered the start pin but was not over early. Tim was 6″ behind the line!  It was cool to watch.  Another five minutes saw the 17 fleet off — that would be Dave Wilder, followed by the other big fleet of the day — the 18s with Jerry Valeske & James Hollinsworth along with Paul & Vanessa VonStubbe.

Laura got off to a quick start on port tack in the light northerly, but slowed as she approached the East Portal of the bridge.  That gave the opportunity to the 16s to close in on her.   Meanwhile Dave on the 17 was pointing higher and faster than everyone and he actually had to crack off to make the portal.  Jerry led Paul under the bridge.

Once on the north side of the bridge it was hoped there would be more wind.  Nope!  More of the same.  Martin tried to make a break for it and do the long course by sailing around the island.  He apparently did not get the memo!  But Mike Hensel on chase support quickly reeled him in on his brand new Alumaweld and got Martin, sailing with son Daniel, pointed in the right direction.

Meanwhile Laura managed to get into some hand-to-hand combat with the bridge before Mike bailed her out, and towed her up to a wind line where she quickly started closing in on the rest of the fleet.  The 16s and 18s had already rolled Wilder.  But then Dave decided to head up (north) and look for breeze.  It worked as he passed Jerry, Paul, and Tim once again.

On the return leg it was Martin, Dave, and Paul through the bridge in that order.  It was a relatively quick scurry back to the finish line for those three.  Dave and Martin finished within 38 seconds of each other after 1-1/2 hours of racing!  VonStubbe was close behind.

But then the wind completely died and Jerry, Laura, and Tim fell into the wind hole from hell!  It took them another 45 min. to an hour to sail the distance the other three did in about 15!  It was painful to watch.  But they all persevered, and all returned shore smiling.Winner Dave Wilder with the coveted perpetual trophy

Ultimately Dave was declared the winner, a mere 2-1/2 min. ahead of Martin.  Dave had brought the perpetual trophy with him, and so he took it back home with him along with the $10,000 cash prize.  He will be returning the coveted trophy in Oct.-Nov. for the real Round Mercer Island Race.

It was really a lot of fun to have a “club” race.  There were very few rules and the emphasis was on having a ton of fun.  Mission accomplished.  The fleet agreed to participate in Duck Dodge and maybe a distance sail over to Blake Island on Puget Sound this summer.

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