Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sound Tourist Outing to Blake Island

This was the first ever outing of the Sound Tourists. Hurray for us!

I took my son Max with me to the Don Armeni Boat Launch in West Seattle early Saturday morning for the scheduled 9 AM departure. There we met Vadim and Donald in the parking lot. They were double checking the water conditions, trying to decide if the moderately strong northerly winds and waves were within their abilities for safe travel via kayak.
Max and Escapade
Having chosen the Escapade for this trip I was very confident about Max and I being able to safely make the trip. Vadim and Donald said that the current conditions were acceptable, but if it got worse then they would probably have a tough time.

Terrie arrived shortly afterwards with her kayak. She was of like mind with Vadim and Donald.

Everyone prepared for departure. Max helped me launch the Escapade, holding onto the bow line as I backed the trailer into the water. The boat ramp was fairly shallow so I ended up having to pull the Escapade off the trailer and into the water. After tying it to a cleat on the dock I went to help Vadim get his kayak ready.
Vadim getting ready
Meanwhile, Max had finished his breakfast and was collecting shells and shell fragments from along the shoreline.

Vadim and I took his kayak down to the southernmost ramp. It had collected quite a bit of sand over winter and the upper part was blocked by a log. Combined with the breakwater effects of the other floating docks this made it a perfect place to launch a kayak.

After a few minutes everyone was ready to depart. Max and I climbed into the Escapade and pedaled away from the ramp into open water.
Vadim getting some air
Vadim was there and we cruised around slowly waiting for Donald and Terrie. The waves were in the 1 foot range, and I managed to get a couple of shots of Vadim's hull catching a little air.
All together!
With the arrival of Donald and Terrie and a VHF radio check we set off to Blake Island!
Splashing on windshield
Max was wearing a child's PFD under his down ski jacket. He also had on a warm hat. He was sitting on the rear seat bundled up under a comforter, and was generally keeping nice and warm. Once in a while, however, he was surprised by a bit of spray from a wave splashing the side of the boat.

"Dad! I just got hit by water!"

"I'll try to keep that from happening, Max" I said, "but there is no guarantee that it won't happen again!".

Meanwhile, I was getting a bit warm pedaling. I was wearing some long nylon pants over bike shorts, a long sleeved t-shirt, long sleeved nylon shirt, sweater, nylon jacket and a "foreign legion" style of baseball cap to keep the sun off. Opening up the jacket and sweater was enough to let the cool breeze cool me off.
At NE point
We reached the NE point and headed west towards Alki Beach.

The water was a bit rougher here. With the high tide the area was perhaps 7 to 10 feet deep, so the wind driven waves were building up a bit on the bottom.
Olympics in distance
So far we were moving along at about 4 to 5 mph, keeping relatively close together. Donald and Terrie were in front with Vadim and me keeping more or less together behind.
Vadim getting wet
Like the parking lot at Don Armeni the waters of Elliott Bay were pretty empty. I guess it was a bit rough for the general boating public, with winds from 10 to 15 knots and waves 2 or more feet.

When I asked everyone about the conditions and their sense of the conditions they all replied that it was OK for now, but if it got worse then they would want to turn around. Onward!

Ahead we saw a crescent shaped kite moving high over the water. Below it we could barely make out the sight of someone on a sort of surfboard traveling rapidly over the water. A kite surfer!

He was out there speeding over the water in big circles, going this way and that as we made our way past Alki Beach. It must be pretty cold!
Bainbridge/Manchester ahead
We reached the Alki Beach House where the annual Sound Rowers Great Cross Sound Race starts and ends. I mentioned to Vadim that it was too bad we don't normally have conditions like this in August. It would be much more fun!

Max was starting to get uncomfortable with the rocking of the boat. I suggested he try looking at the horizon rather than the inside of the boat, but that did not seem to help. He was starting to get seasick.
Sailboats nearby
To the north we saw a great fleet of sailboats. They all had their colorful spinnakers deployed, filled with wind and heading our way. It was a beautiful sight!

By this time I was getting pretty warm so I stopped and took off the nylon pants. Ahh - much better!

Just as we passed the Alki Point Lighthouse Max couldn't hold it any longer. After losing his breakfast over the side - "Sorry Dad. I got some on the side of the boat" - I stopped and held conference with Vadim. I told Vadim that with Max being seasick there would be no way Max would be able to put up with going over to Blake Island and back. If Vadim wanted to continue on with Donald and Terrie that would be OK.

Vadim said that he would rather return to the start.
Donald & Terrie ahead
As Donald and Terrie were several hundred yards ahead and partly into the channel between the mainland and Blake Island I called them on the VHF. After a few tries we made contact and I told them the situation. The both of them decided it would be better to stay together and return to the start with us.
Heading back
Vadim getting down
The nearly noontime sun was feeling pretty strong, so I put on some sunscreen. I hoped it was soon enough!
Downtown ahead!
Donald 'a head'
Max holding on
Heading back was quite a bit slower than heading out. We were going no faster than about 3 mph with beam seas. It was fun to see the waves obscure the kayaks so that only the heads and upper torsos of their occupants could be seen above the water, though this somehow didn't impress Max. He decided he would rather lay in the bottom of the boat curled up under the blanket. Poor guy!
Donald & downtown Seattle
As we finally neared the NE point again we saw a number of small Coast Guard patrol boats leaving the boat launch. Apparently one of the sailboats had capsized and these guys were heading out to rescue them. I guess we missed the excitement!
Kayaks on beach
Coast Guard at dock
The kayaks beached and I tied up the boat at the dock. Max felt better almost immediately upon reaching dry land - yay!

After loading up the kayaks and putting the boat back on the trailer we carpooled over to Alki Beach for lunch. So, instead of salmon at Tillicum Village we had halibut and prawns at Alki.

Everyone agreed that it was a challenging but fun day!

More photos can be found here.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pi-r2 Statistics

Being the Race Director for the event I am privy to all the data behind it. So, for those folks interested in some random statistics, here they are!

Random Statistics
Percentage of racers being SR members 59.72%
SR members in Long Course 58.82%
SR members in Short Course 60.53%
SRA-only members in Short Course 21.05%
Men in Long Course 70.59%
Boats in Long vs. Short 47.92%
Men in Short Course 68.42%
Ratio of Juniors to others 1.39%
DNF's 1 boat
DNS (did not start) 1 boat
People per pizza consumed 4.00
People per vehicle 1.67
People per boat (overall) 1.50
People per boat (long) 1.48
People per boat (short) 1.52
Person-miles traveled in race 680.20
Avg. speed of fastest Long finisher 8.27 mph
Avg. speed of fastest Short finisher 8.25 mph
Avg. speed of last Long finisher 4.48 mph
Avg. speed of last Short finisher 5.29 mph
Average cost per racer (including parking) $11.44
Average cost per racer (excluding parking) $9.05
Safety Boats on course 4
Rolls of duct tape depleted 1
Boat numbers found 1
Total racers 72

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Pi-r2 Race (Lake Sammamish)

The morning of the Pi-r2 (pi r squared, or Pizza & Issaquah to Redmond Row) race dawned with a mostly blue sky, temperatures in the upper 30's and only a whisper of a breeze on the lake. This was a welcome change from the previous afternoon when Mohsen and I were out on the lake placing buoys. The sky had turned nearly black with thick, billowy clouds, bouts of sleet and hail were falling on us, lightning bolts were striking the hills around us and the wind was constantly pushing off the positions where we were trying to anchor the turn buoys.

There was but one other car in the parking lot of Lake Sammamish State Park when we arrived with all the stuff for the race. With the help of my wife we began carting things over to the beach, hauling chairs, tables, food, drink, stoves, coats, awards and paperwork. Paul arrived shortly with more stuff, including thermoses of hot water, tables and other stuff, and hurried off to place the signs pointing to the event.

Martine and Vadim, directors-in-training for their own event - the Manchester race - appeared soon afterwards. With their help the shelter was erected near the restrooms, the Sound Rowers banner was lashed to the legs of the shelter, the tables set up - and we were in business!


Martine and Terrie took over the registration tasks, collecting money for the race and parking, and handing out boat numbers in exchange for completed registration forms. I made sure that they knew to give the smaller numbers to the short course racers and the large numbers to the long course racers. This would make race timing much simpler later on.

Cadence almost ready

Boats ready
I went off, completed organizing the food and equipment, and getting my Cadence and the club's digital camera set up for use by Jeff. He was trying out the Cadence for the first time and volunteered to take the on-the-water action photos, too.

Kayak Academy booth

Safety boat beaching

The final arrangements were made with the safety boats, including sending one off to place the final marker on the course prior to the start of the race. The lack of a temporary dock crimped our plans for easing the task of transferring people and equipment to the safety boats, but with the assistance of the folks dressed in dry suits from the Kayak Academy no one got their feet wet. I might just have to get me one of those suits!

Last year we tried a combination of FRS walkie talkies, VHF's and cell phones. That did not work very well. This year I made certain to have enough VHF radios for all of the safety boats as well as myself. The marine VHF radios worked quite well. We could almost reach the 6+ mile length of the lake. However, the occasional announcements by the Coast Guard about accidents way over on Puget Sound near Tacoma or Whidbey Island were something of a distraction!

Pre-race meeting

Michael running pre-race meeting

Things were running late. The pre-race meeting, which was supposed to be held at 9:15 AM instead started at 9:40. That pushed the official start to 10:15, though by the time 10:15 rolled around I decided to delay it until 10:20 so a few tardy rowers and kayakers could make it to the starting line. Ok, so the final 1 minute warning was really a 4 minute warning. At least everyone had made it to the starting line!

Ready to go

Still ready to go

Finally, at 10:20 AM with two watches synchronized, the starting signal was given! They were off!

Race starts

Race starts #2

Almost immediately the folks there for the short race came up to see if that race would be delayed 20 minutes, too. I apologized and told them that yes, it had to be since otherwise they would be done relatively early and eat all the pizza.

Some of them said that would be a good thing and were all for it.

I demurred.

The pre-race meeting for the short course was held about 10:30. I went through the same spiel about the course, the buoys, avoiding the sunken forest and the locations of the start and finish lines. As with the long group I made sure that people knew they should provide assistance to other racers if they were in trouble, and that time spent helping would be credited to them. People were reminded to make their choices for pizza known so that we would order enough of the proper varieties.

After the pre-race meeting the order for pizza was placed. This year Costco requested an hour or more notice for an order of 18 pizzas. Last year they claimed they would have as many as we wanted within 20 minutes of ordering. I guess they really do have limits as to the capacity of their ovens.

I was somewhat surprised to see Jeff return with the Cadence. Apparently he had fallen behind the boats in the long race and decided it would be better to return to the start and take shots of the short race. That was fine with me.

Short race ready to go

Finally, at exactly 11:20 AM the signal was given for the short course to start. They were off!

Short race starts!

They're off!

Shortly after the start an overturned double kayak was noticed in the water. I radioed the nearby safety boat with Mohsen and Bob and they went over to assist.

Mohsen's safety boat

It took a while for them to return to shore with the former occupants of the kayak. The two women at first thought about continuing on with the race, then decided they were too far behind.

I handed them a stack of towels and suggested that they might use the changing rooms to get into dry clothing.

At 11:45 I asked Kathy, who was helping at the registration area, and Terrie to pick up the pizzas and a lunch for me (I can't eat pizza) and off they went, dragging a lightweight cart with them. After they returned they told me about the difficulties created by sending two vegetarians off to select and procure meat-bearing food for the race director. Sorry about that!

Back at the beach I joined Paul and Martine. They were prepared to record the boat numbers and their times on clip boards. I set up to transcribe the results to the foam core "race results" boards, one for the long course and the other for the short course.

Paul asked whether we were going to use the brass bell or the air horn. Reluctantly I chose the air horn, as the finish line was somewhat distant from the shore and it was unlikely that the racers would be able to reliably hear the bell. Next year I think I'll try to remember to take along some hearing protection!

One by one the racers crossed the finish line. Well, most of them crossed the official finish line, anyway. Quite a few people forgot where the finish was and stopped their efforts somewhat short of that point. If this was the case then we gave them credit when they got in the general vicinity of that point. It really didn't matter in most situations as there was a gap of at least several seconds between most racers. When there was a photo finish the one ahead was given a time slightly shorter than the following racer.

At times the stream of racers was heavy enough that the last few digits of their times were all that could be recorded in sequence, and we had to go back and record the boat numbers to go along with them. With Paul doing the spotting and Martine doing the recording the situation was well under control. They did a great job!

In the middle of this I did my best to transcribe the data to the boards, subtracting an hour for the short course finishers, transferring the names, boat class and time on the finishing side of the board. I also placed a sticker on the registration side of the board for each finisher to indicate that boat was now off the course. This helped to keep track of how many boats were still racing and who they were.

Terrie came over and handed me a box containing a tasty looking hot lunch. She said that the racers were wondering if they could eat now that the pizza had arrived. Somewhat taken aback I told her "Sure - go ahead!". I was surprised that they had not already dived in!

Unfortunately for me I had to put my lunch away in order to complete transcribing the results.

When we were down to three boats remaining on the course I went back to the registration area to complete filling out the results boards and marking the first three finishes for each class.

People were rapidly consuming pizza, juice and water. The M&M's were mostly depleted as were the Aussie and brownie bites. The hot water dispensers were empty, so Kathy and I started heating up more hot water on a little gas stove (an Optimus 8R) I took along just for that purpose. At this time it didn't make sense to set up the triple burner Coleman stove!

Finally the last boats crossed the finish line.

Short Course Race results
I started the awards ceremony, handing out the short course awards first. Don Kiesling and Peter Turcan won first place overall in their K2 kayak with a time of 43 minutes, 38 seconds - a new course record! In second place and a second later were Guy Lawrence and Juraj Osusky in their K2. Way to go!

Third place overall was a mixed 8 rowing shell from the Sammamish Rowing Association with a time of 46:56.5. A split second later was the single rowing shell piloted by Tony Andrews.

Olympic canoe

The last two boats overall in the 6 mile short course were the Cadence pedaled by Jeff Wond and the Olympic style canoe paddled by Yevgeniy Mikhaylov, a junior racer with the Cascade Canoe & Kayak Center. Their times were 1:06:58 and 1:08:00, respectively. This was an excellent achievement for both. Jeff had never been in a Cadence before and he was taking photos with a camera with which he was completely unfamiliar. In Yevgeniy's case it is hard enough to keep one's balance in that style of boat in calm water, let alone the situation on the lake where the wind had grown into a fairly strong breeze and created a bit of chop!

Long Course Race results
The overall winner of the long course was Robert Meenk in his lightweight rowing shell. His time was 1:36:30 and a new course record! Second overall was a women's triple rowed by Sue Dandridge, Susan Kinne and Joan Linse with a time of 1:37:20. Following were a number of double rowing shells, a mixed 4 man shell and the high performance kayaks, a.k.a. surf skis.

Vadim returns
The final boats in the long course were a rowing shell piloted by Zeke Hoskin and a sea kayak piloted by Vadim Kin. Their times were 2:37:55 and 2:58:10, respectively. This was Vadim's second time on this course and he improved over last year's time by nearly 24 minutes! Way to go, Vadim!

With a chilly wind blowing through the park off the lake people didn't want to stay around for the planned 100 meter sprints, the 2 kilometer criterium or the Le Mans start races. In fact, some folks left shortly after receiving their ribbons. I can't say that I blame them, either!

Still, many of those that did helped to tear things down and carry them back to the parking lot. Thank you!

I wish to personally thank Martine, Vadim, Paul, Kathy, Terrie, Jeff, Mohsen, Joe, George, Paul, Tammi, Bob, the Sammamish Rowing Association and everyone else who helped out to make this year's Pi-r2 event a success!

Jeff's photos can be found at the Sound Rowers web site.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Long Lake Race

I've been rather busy with other things lately, so my recap of this race will be short.

This was the last of the Winter Series of races organized by Shane Baker and Terrie Ragins. It takes place on Long Lake, which is located not far from the Southworth ferry terminal on the Kitsap Peninsula on the west side of Puget Sound.

The day was generally sunny, with a moderate breeze blowing from the south. The temperatures were in the low 40's, so it was rather chilly out in the open.

I had just installed a new type of thrust bearing in my Cadence, and also had a weed cutting blade installed. Looking out at the lake I was glad for the cutting blade as I could see pieces of milfoil floating here and there.

Anyway, I chose to wear loose nylon pants over bike shorts and woolen leg warmers, bike shoes, several layers of shirts, a nylon windbreaker, an insulating headband over a sweatband and a baseball cap. Even after the warmup I didn't feel over dressed.
Competitor boats
Competitors and boats
The field consisted mostly of teenage boys and girls from the Gig Harbor paddle racing club. They were using various sorts of flatwater K1 kayaks, with a double or two in the mix. In addition there were some Sound Rowers folks. It made an interesting contrast as the SR folks were mostly in their late 40's or older and paddled craft that would be at home in rough water.

Ready to go
We lined up for the start and awaited the signal. With the blare of an air horn we were off!

Nearby leaders
This was a strange race for me. For the first several hundred yards I was keeping up with the race leaders, two teenage boys in a pair of K1 kayaks. The rest of the field was trailing behind, slowly stretching backward. Ok, I was pedaling close to my limits, but my legs seemed to have a lot of strength upon which to draw. Perhaps the new thrust bearing was helping out, too, by reducing the friction at high thrust.

Slowly the leaders pulled ahead, increasing the gap by 40 or 50 feet. I was starting to get pretty warm when suddenly the cuff of my pants got caught in the chain. Rats! The chain tore off part of the material, too.

I extricated the pants and continued pedaling while some of the closer racers passed by. I decided I had better take off the pants before I overheated and/or they got caught again.
Falling behind
New position in pack
Unfortunately they did not fit over my bike shoes very well. I spent a couple of minutes pulling them over my shoes before finally they came off. This put me behind the middle of the pack before I got back up to speed. Oh, well. Perhaps I could catch up a bit as the race progressed.
Near first buoy
The first turn buoy came up and I stayed behind a paddler, remembering how their coach said that if a competitor's bow was behind their cockpit at the turn that they should cut them off. These racers were fierce!

At the second buoy, however, I made sure to be slightly ahead of the paddler so there would be no question!
Double kayak ahead
Tailing double kayak
I managed to catch up to a double kayak and a single which were more or less traveling together down the last leg to the finish. My strength was ebbing, however, as we were now traveling with the wind and I was getting quite toasty. Try as I might I was unable to pass and stay ahead.
Near the finish
The distance for the race was listed as about 3.5 miles. Somehow I forgot this and thought it was going to be closer to 6 miles. So, when the finish approached I was both happy and disappointed. I was happy to be done with the race and disappointed that I didn't plan my efforts better.

So, in order to feel better about it I decided to show off and do some post-race sprints while the remainder of the field finished. According the GPS I managed to get to around 10 mph for a distance of about 100 meters or so. A couple of those were enough for me!
Food table
Dessert table
After the race the parents of the kids had a nice spread laid out with the makings of sandwiches, fruit, etc., which nicely complemented the hot cider and homemade cookies that Steve Bennett and Terrie brought.

Thanks for a great race!

Photos can be found here.