On Saturday, June 25, 2022, due to promotion by San Juan 24 skippers Jeff Kendal and Sean Busby, the SJ 24 fleet “hosted” a Lake Washington long-distance race, restoring a CYC tradition of Lake long distance races often to its northern reaches. This year’s 13 nautical mile version ran from Leschi to past Sand Point and back, with all boats going through the east end of the 520 Bridge in both directions.
Eight boats participated in the no-fee no-awards (other than a hearty “well done”) event: 4 SJ 24s from the Lake Fleet and 2 SJ 24s from Lake Union were joined by a J-24 and a Thunderbird.
A sunny day, 10-15 knot warm northerly winds with gusts approaching 20 knots, all the mountains out - nothing could be finer. Just after 11 am, Kendall’s SJ 24 “Fancy” led a well-received rabbit start. Staff Commodore Denny Vaughan’s J-24 “Habanero” led the fleet north, with the rest of us jockeying back and forth clearing the Bridge in a group led by Ellie Ungar’s SJ 24 “Green Fleet. On the North side, the winds increased with the strong gusts rewarding the SJ 24’s with the smaller No. 2 headsails up. Almost all boats followed “Habanero” to the west side of the Lake near Laurelhurst, north around San Point and then west to a turning mark (a “speed” buoy) just off the Sail Sand Point Boating Center, and return. A reach along the north side of San Point, one jibe and then up with a spinnaker for a fast if bumpy starboard run all the way to the bridge and back to Leschi – no more jibes.
The gusty winds continued and coupled with waves from the many power boats made for exciting travel. On “Grauer Geist,” we recorded several stretches above 7 knots, with a high of 7.5, well beyond a SJ 24s hull speed! Nearing the 520 Bridge meant more power boats and wakes, and Kyle Roethle on the SJ 24 “Cake or Death” reported:
“Had a unique whoopsie near the bridge entry when two large power boats just pushing water at 10-15 knots converged big wakes on us that really weren’t manageable - positioning the port stern quarter on the first wave was met with an opposing wave on the starboard bow and we literally were twisted into a crash gybe. The wave momentum was strong enough to leeward collapse everything and once the water calmed for a few seconds we still had enough water moving across the rudder for a large turn hard over and popped the rig back onto the wind. Pinned not by wind but by wake, don’t know I’ll ever experience that one again.”
The entire run took most of the fleet about an hour or less, compared to the 90-100 minutes upwind half of the race, with all boats finishing between 1:35 and 2 pm. Vaughan’s “Habanero” crossed the finish line first, with Staff Commodore Ken Johnson’s SJ 24 “Grauer Geist” second and Brendan Gilbane’s Thunderbird “Rowdy” finishing just ahead of a gaggle of SJ 24s. Using a very rough informal handicap, the adjusted finishing order was: (1) Grauer Geist, (2) Habanero, (3) Sweet Jesus, (4) Fancy, (5) Great Escape, (6) Rowdy, (7) Cake or Death and (8) Green Fleet.
Irrespective of where they finished all enjoyed a wonderful day on the water. As one crew commented: “Thanks for putting on such a fun event…. it was a nice change from the standard buoy racing, and the rabbit start just added to it.”