Wednesday nights on the Sound

A sailing journal by Katherine MacLean

Every Wednesday night around 6 p.m. most people are stuck in traffic. The lucky ones have already made it home to their families, pets, and/or televisions in an attempt to unwind from the typical mid-week workday.

At Shilshole Bay the atmosphere is quite the opposite around this time.

Tonight there are dozens of sailboats anxiously crossing the start line marked by the Corinthian Yacht Club boat. Aboard the J-109 known as the Illusionist, energy is high and voices are loud in hopes of getting a good start. A good start is key in a sailboat race, granted no one cuts in front of us to steal our wind or forces us to change course.

After the horn sounds we head toward the beach. We manage to avoid the kayakers and swimmers near the northwestern point of Golden Gardens and make our way around the first marker heading toward Discovery Park. Since the wind is blowing strong off the land tonight we sail close to the breakwater in an attempt to gain distance on our competition that went the opposite direction.

Heading downwind we raise the massive spinnaker which fills the sky with bright reds and blues. Most of the crew sits closer to the bow of the boat to build speed as we near the second marker. This part of the race is where my job comes in. As designated "squirrel" I am responsible for going below deck and pulling the spinnaker inside the cabin quickly as we round the second marker to head upwind. The foredeck crew assists me by making sure the giant sail doesn't go in the water because we definitely do not want to "go shrimping," as they call it.

As the race continues on so does the high energy and escalating competitiveness. Our speed reaches up to 8 knots, carrying us swiftly across the Puget Sound. The ride gets even more exciting as the boat gets high off the water, a near 75 degree angle from the horizon, and we stretch our toes out toward the top of Bainbridge Island. 

While the "rail-meat" crew soak up the beauty and sounds of racing, the Skipper and crew trimming the sails at the stern are speaking tactics. David MacLean, the Skipper and a Magnolia native, has 20 plus years of racing under his belt with a crew that has been going together for nearly seven years. It is no surprise that the choice to stray from the rest of the crowd has proved to be a great one. We are 10 boat lengths ahead of the competition in our class.

With two more markers before we reach the finish the Illusionist still manages to maintain the lead. The horn blows as we cross the empty finish line and we all let out a big cheer.

The race is then followed by a celebratory barbecue on the boat with great food and wine. After a long work day and exciting race the crew of the Illusionist finally unwinds--laughing, drinking and enjoying the rainbow sherbert-colored sunset.

Katherine MacLean has been a regular contributor to the News. She recently moved to San Francisco, where she will continue to write and maybe do some sailing.[[In-content Ad]]