A Race that Unties Dock Lines

Published on April 5th, 2017

Kurt Hoehne reports from Washington on how the hearty promotion of a casual race and a worthy cause can untie a lot of dock lines.


It’s been a long time since 116 boats have been on Puget Sound for a race on the same day, but that’s exactly what happened for the 14 nm Blakely Rock Benefit Race (BRBR) on April 1.

And with a gentle southerly, sailors and non-sailors alike looking out at the Sound got to see a gorgeous parade of boats headed back to Shilshole after rounding the Rock.

Why so many boats?

Maybe it had to do with the beneficiary of the regatta, The Sailing Foundation (TSF) and its efforts at promoting youth sailing. While all the beneficiaries of this race are worthy, there’s a natural connection with TSF.

Maybe the participation had to do with the promotional efforts by the race host Sloop Tavern YC and Andrew Nelson of TSF. There was lots of outreach. Maybe the Sloop offering a provisional PHRF rating for a race helped spur attendance. It did in my case.

Regardless, why were there so many boats in BRBR is probably worth some study.

There were three, count’em three, non-flying sails classes comprising 15 boats. Starting first, they could stay in more of the dying breeze longer, though that couldn’t help some of the boats when it got super light off Shilshole. Despite that, every non-flying sails boat that started, finished.

In fact, only two boats that started DNF’d. Hey, it’s a benefit regatta and a beautiful day and, really, so what if some boats are a mile ahead. It’s great to be on the water, and that racing climate is what makes this race special.

The race was SO appealing, my boat partners Joe and Becky Burcar and I raced our C&C 36 Slipstream with their 6 year old daughter Charlotte and my 10 year old son Ian. We would have won (not) for sure if not for a major crisis rounding Blakely Rock.

Charlotte needed help getting her socks on, and was really quite insistent about it. Mommy was on the helm, and Joe and I were rather busy at the time and Ian’s help unacceptable. So, after gybing the headsail and pointing back toward Shilshole, the first order of business was Joe getting Charlotte’s socks on.

This race was primarily about a relaxed race and gathering some funds for TSF. Youth Sailing Director Andrew Nelson doesn’t have the final numbers yet, but it was surely a significant fundraiser for the organization.

Editor’s note: While our sport needs championship-style events for top sailors to pursue, every region needs events like the Blakely Rock Benefit Race that everyone can pursue. Photos here.

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