Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rat Island 2007

The weather forecast was a little iffy for this race. En route to the ferry across Puget Sound I encountered a couple of minor sprinkles. The sky was more or less filled with puffy clouds, and many were rather dark in appearance.

Still, it seemed that there were fewer such clouds to the northwest in the direction of Port Townsend.

Sound Rowers banner

Sure enough, at Fort Worden State Park on the northern edge of town the skies were quite a bit clearer. It looked like a good day to race after all.

Cadence ready to launch

Most of the local rowing club and their boats were already parked on the beach. I quickly moved my boat from the roof rack to the beach, threading my through the racers and beach logs in order to do so.

Pre-race meeting

Steve Chapin, the race director for this event, held the pre-race meeting almost exactly on time. He welcomed the crew from Lake Oswego, OR, back for their second year at this event. I guess they didn't have enough fun last year! Steve went on to describe all the rules for the race, and pointed out the hazards one would likely encounter along the course. He also said that the course would go counterclockwise around Rat Island this year, seeing that the tides should not be much of a factor in the currents encountered at the island.

During the meeting Todd and his family pulled into the parking lot with their two Cadence pedal boats. He and his son were planning to race, so I was going to have competition!

8's launching

After the meeting people moseyed off to their boats and began launching them off the gorgeous sandy beach. There was not much of a surf, but there were some chunks of floating vegetation to contend with, including kelp and a bit of eelgrass.

I switched from running shoes to cycling sandals and walked my boat into the water.

Cadence afloat

It wasn't that chilly, at least not as cold as I remember it being the previous year. After the boat was afloat I carried the wheels back up the beach a ways, jogged back to the boat, got in and pedaled off. It was time to take photos of the other racers as they warmed up.

OC-1 by lighthouse


Cadence on the beach

I circled around the other racers a few times as the starting time for the race approached. Todd and his son seemed to be getting ready without needing my assistance, so I concentrated on my photographic duties. Still, it didn't look like they would be quite ready to go when the starting signal would be given. Oh, well.

Sure enough, when the horn blew for the start the two boats were nowhere near the starting line.

Orange Crush starts off

Other rowers taking off

Being next the the all-women Orange Crush 8 person shell, I decided it would be fun to see how long I could keep up with them by drafting in their wake. Unfortunately, however, it was only for perhaps a minute. Those girls can move!

I didn't want to work that hard to stay with them, and dropped off to find some other prey. My heart rate was over 160 bpm and my lungs were working hard to recover.

The Lake Oswego team rowed by and and they, too, were going faster than I wanted to go. Hmmm...anyone else coming?

Buffalo Soldier appears

Buffalo Soldier being followed

After a short time and as luck would have it, the 4 person shell Buffalo Soldier appeared off to the side. There was a good opportunity to catch them, so I took it.

Shane near Pt. Hudson

We were pretty close to Point Hudson on the northeast tip of Port Townsend. A couple of other racers were nearby, including Steve Bennett and Shane Baker. Historically I generally find both of those racers finishing either just ahead of or just behind me, so I figured that if I can save enough energy following what should be a faster boat (the 4 person shell), I should be able to finish far in front of both of them.

The GPS was reporting speeds in the 7 to 8 mph range. The heart rate monitor was fairly steady at 150 bpm.

Buffalo Soldier going around S end of Rat Island

Unfortunately, however, the gals in that boat had other plans. They kept heading off course, either too far to the east or too far to the west. I tried directing them straight to the island, but they seemed to only followed the directions when it was very obvious they were headed off course. When we approached the south end of the island I decided it would probably be faster to go my own way and let them fend for themselves. Sure enough, they took a very wide turn around the south end of the island while I cut it quite close.

Approaching the shallows

Shane and Steve were not too far ahead as we headed northward along Rat Island. There were a couple of large boats heading south, so it looked like there was probably quite a bit of water over the sand bar at the north end. Still, I was rather concerned that I might be cutting it too close to the shallows.

As it turned out, there was plenty of water at the bar. I headed directly back towards Fort Worden.

Buffalo Soldier and the ferry

Michael F. and quad

I encountered a bit of weed here and there, and stopped to clear my prop just in case it had gathered up any of that green stuff. While I was doing so Michael Furtado came rowing by. Hmm, I had better start pedaling harder and try to keep up!

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Soldier boat kept zigging and zagging across my course. Apparently they were using me as some sort of compass guide, but having troubles maintaining a straight line. Oh, well - at least it made the race a bit more interesting having a fairly close competitor.

Steve and Shane were slowly pulling away.

Just past Point Hudson the water became substantially shallower. I recalled from previous years that this area often appeared as dry land at low tide, so I changed course slightly in an attempt to make for somewhat deeper waters, yet not go too far out of the way than a more or less direct line to the finish would require.

A few moments later the bottom dropped away. Whew!

I tried pedaling a bit harder and in a more circular fashion. This seemed to help, and the GPS reported a speed of around 6.5 mph. Previously it seemed to have dropped to more like 6.25 mph. The light flood tide was probably to blame for some of the speed drop. Having been quite sick only two days before the race was probably to blame for the rest of it.

Buffalo Soldier near the finish

The finish

Pedaling faster at intervals and then slower for a short time for recovery seemed to reduce the distance that Michael and the quad had placed between us. I tried my best to catch them in the space between Point Hudson and the finish line, but they managed to cross the finish some 60 and 28 seconds, respectively, before me. Oh, well.

Michael and Steve after the finish

Steve and Shane finished 3 minutes ahead, which was a course record for Steve's fast sea kayak class. My time of 1:11:28 was also a record - for pedal boats. That averaged out, with a couple of stops for weed clearing, to be about 6.5 mph. My average heart rate for the race was 150 bpm.

All in all, some 13 class records were broken in the race. The conditions were certainly about as good as one could ask for, with fairly flat water, light overcast skies, cool (60's) air and not much wind.

More boats nearing the finish

I stuck around the finish line and snapped photos of the remaining racers as they arrived.

After a bunch of boats came and went there was quite a long gap with no boats in sight. I checked with the safety boats via VHF radio and confirmed that the other two pedal boats were still on the course.

Food area

As I was getting rather hungry I decided to put in and get something to eat.

The organizers had grilled freshly caught salmon, hot dogs and turkey available, and a keg of Scottish ale from a local brewery. Everyone else brought along pot luck items, including loads of salads, chips and desserts. It was very tasty!

Second pedal boat arrives

Todd's son Kelyn appeared at the finish line while I was dining, so it was a bit of a rush to go and get his photo as he approached the beach. He did very well for his first race, with a time of 1:37:15 for the course distance of 7.7 miles.

His dad arrived five minutes later. His excuse for the later arrival was that he had hurt his leg on a beach log before the race, running back to the car for his PFD. I can see how that just might cause problems!

Awards ceremony

Pedal boat winners

The awards ceremony was held after everyone had their fill and the beer was consumed. Unfortunately, this meant that a number of folks had already gone home - at least those folks who didn't want to stick around and enjoy the camaraderie or even just enjoy the gorgeous beach and pleasant weather.

Steve Chapin presented the awards by boat class. There certainly seemed to be a bit of local rivalry between some of the 8's! Anyway, there was a new course record, which had been set by Steve Chapin and Rob O'Brien in their double rowing shell. They completed the course with a time of 53:26. That averages out to about 8.6 mph. They were smoking!

The slowest boat in the race also won first place in their class. It was the skeleton/row boat with two guys and a gal who switched off rowing. Their time was 1:57:07, which averages to about 3.9 mph. Congratulations!

Pocock shell

After the race I went to Steve Chapin's shop and took a look at the wooden Pocock single rowing shell that he and another person completed, and another one that they are working on.

Photos from the race and from Steve's shop can be found here.

My stats and route
My race statistics

Thanks, Steve, for organizing such a fine event!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Manchester Race 2007

This year's race was wet, very wet. The light drizzle before the race continued into the start and on into Rich Passage as we headed to Blake Island. It finally let up on the east side of Blake and for our return to the start. At least there was very little wind, and the water was about as flat as a pancake over the entire course - except for the ferry wakes, of course.

My outrigger Cadence

I chose to use an outrigger equipped Cadence pedal boat for this event. It was joined by two other guys with Cadence pedal boats. Both were owned by Todd, who lent the second boat to a friend.

Couple of Cadences

We decided that it would be more fun to take our time and stick together going around the course, especially since Todd's boats were missing their weed cutters. This race was notorious for areas of floating vegetation dug up by the ferries. As it turned out we needed to stop a couple of times to clear their propellers. While the boats were still able to move quite well with green stuff on the propellers, it did require more energy. By the end of the race both Todd and his friend were pretty tired, so we tried to make the most of their energy.

Our course

Most of the other racers took a clockwise course around the island. We decided to go the other way, mainly so I could take photos of the other racers. This worked out quite well, though the camera lens persisted in collecting rain water or streaking, and the cleaning cloth I brought along was quickly soaked and nearly useless. Oh, well.

Tillicum Village

Todd's friend

Todd's friend was getting pretty tired by the time we reached Tillicum Village on the northeast corner of the island. I stayed back with him and tried to give him encouragement. Todd went ahead for a while and looped back a few times. After we reached the red buoy in the middle of Rich Passage, on which a pair of large sea lions had been resting, Todd continued onward to the finish.

I pedaled around in a zig-zag fashion having fun with the outriggers and their wakes. It also helped to raise my heart rate to 120 or so to warm me up a bit. Todd's friend just kept plugging along, and eventually we neared the finish.

At the finish

A hundred yards or so from the finish I steered close to the stern of the other boat and began pushing it with my hand. This increased our speed and helped Todd's friend cross the finish in style, in second place.


We beached and brought the boats back up to the lawn. There were a couple of large kettles of soups awaiting us, along with an assortment of other goodies. Yum!

Thank you, race director Vadim, for running an excellent event.