By Pail Pihl and Blaine Pedlow
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year like no other. When times are tough, getting on the water can soothe the soul. Sadly the pandemic has made sailing quite a challenge these past six months. Nevertheless, Fleet 35 endures! It was our good fortune to welcome 505s from throughout the Northwest to the Stripped Down, Minimalist COVID-modified Single-Fleet Dale Jepsen One Design (SDMCOVIDSFDJOD2020) held on Bellingham Bay, September 12-13. 16 boats were racing, including sailors who came from both near and far; from out of the thick smoke-nado of Portland, as far east as Idaho and as near as the condo just down the street. A fantastic group of sailors attended the event including many masked faces that made their first appearance of the season. Conditions were light on the breeze, heavy on the smoke, but the Race Committee managed to run five races and keep the course square and the marks just within eyesight in the foggy-smoky mix that had settled on the bay. Fortunately, there was enough wind to keep crews and drivers on the high side of the boats on the beats, as well as kites filled on the runs.
Bobby Noyes and Mike Punnett drove out again from Idaho to attend the event and put up an impressive score with 3 firsts and no race worse than third. Of note was their consistent speed all around the course and unique “motorcycle” technique on the runs that they must have picked up at the most recent Sturgess rally. They consistently sailed higher angles on the run that paid off again and again.
Katherine Long drove up from Oregon and sailed with Paul Pihl. While Katherine hasn’t been in a 505 for a while, she hasn’t lost her touch and kept the boat moving in challenging conditions. Her knack for finding an opening on the left side of the line had them leading to the favored left side of the course in nearly every race. No doubt she had an edge in the oxygen rich air and relatively smoke free conditions after training her lungs for a week in the smoke choked streets of Portlandia.
Miles and Jack Thompson started off the event with a win and are always sail smart and are fast, but a poor start in race 3 was a tough blow and they weren’t given many options to claw back in a tough fleet. Still they demonstrated dominant speed in the last run of the final race.
Some of the tightest racing was in the middle of the fleet where 7 boats had a spread of only 11 points. Elsa and Blaine had moments of brilliance and have been sailing very well this season. Their high angles and speed narrowly edged out Pierre and Josh with their third place finish in race 5. Pierre is always fast in his new boat and had enlisted Josh Dyck to return to the fleet after a multiseason absence. Mats and Tom battled with newcomer Matt Pistay, who made it out for his first 505 regatta along with grizzled veteran crew Brent Campbell. The two ended with a solid 4th place finish in the final race showing they’ll be ones to watch! Anne and Chris Pittack made it out to their first event of the year and brought their famous blend of speed and stoke. While it’s always fun to beat other teams, that’s often not true with regards to Chris and Anne because they’re too. darn. nice. seriously. One point behind the Pittacks, Ben and Gabe edged out the Fighting Lady. Ben is wrapping up his first season in the 505 and brought Gabe back to sail with fleet-35 after a too long absence. Unfortunately, Jon Seestrom and Mike Poulos started the day with some topping lift issues that put them in the back of the pack. Nevertheless the duo showed some of their uncanny speed in light-moderate conditions later in the day. A race win from Jon and Mike, who had it, lost it on the run, and then fought back for the tough win in race 4 was an impressive showing. No doubt they would have ended up much higher in the standings without a failed topping lift. Some might call foul play, others would blame the Russians. Fleet-35 pulls out the cooler. That’s how we roll.
Young guns Cedrick and Jack Knowles were out on Black Betty and mixed it up with Paul VonGrey and Brian Richardson. 2020 has been a year that never ceases to stun and surprise. This was never more true then on Saturday when PVG was seen in the back of the boat. Brian took a turn too. Crew vs. crew. Surely the apocalypse is upon us.
Lena and Nick returned to Bellingham with some new well designed modifications on their boat. Will splashed Dire straights with driver Andrea. Niki drove up from Olympia to sail with Dillon for their first event of the year. With the addition of Niki, six women drivers made it to the event. Regardless of where people finished, the persistent smoke, and unfortunate lack of wind on Sunday, the continued awkwardness of standing six feet apart in the yard and masking up between sipping beers, fun was had by all. It is great to be a part of such a fantastic group of people and sailors. No doubt the 2020 DJOD won’t be forgotten any time soon. We’re all already looking forward to next year!