GXSC race report (unabbreviated)

Michael Lampi

Drove to Alki Beach following Google's directions, which had me going over the West Seattle low bridge as that route was open to all vehicles before 8AM Saturday. Driving along the "Authorized Vehicles Only/Photo Enforced" route had me pretty nervous until the signs indicating *when* that would be enforced appeared. Janna Gross followed me as well, so I was doubly concerned that I was leading her into trouble.
As usual, even at 7:30 AM parking was limited at Alki Beach, though I managed to snag a spot pretty close to the race HQ. Lots of other boats were already set up, and more arriving by the minute, though the race was fairly lightly attended - possibly due to the West Seattle Bridge closure issue as well as the web site banner saying the race was on July 27 instead of August 27. Two guys (Igor and ?) on surf skis paddled over from Magnolia to avoid the problem. A parking enforcement officer was on hand to inform several people that their vehicles were in violation.
Weather-wise there was a light breeze, grey sky with just a hint of mist falling which stopped over the next half hour or so.
The tide was going out, so I parked my boat on the beach. Everyone else had theirs on the grass.
Jeff had the pre-race meeting, pointing out the hazards including tide current direction and the southerly wind - and then we were launching.
The warmup area was fairly flat, but we could see that beyond Alki Point the water appeared to be rather bumpy.
The race started promptly at 9 AM, with the starting line being more of a suggestion than a reality due to the wind. Peter and Ivan in the double ski pretty much led from the start, with some of the rowing shells following close behind -- until they hit left the relatively calm water of the bay.
My route was the course in reverse, so I headed towards Decatur Point. Most of the waves were abeam, and ranged up to 2 or 3 feet. I had to stop 4 times in the first mile to clear weeds from the propeller, and several more times before the turn buoy. There was quite a large patch of rough water stretching eastward from the turn buoy, probably due to currents from the south and Rich Passage mixing. Some of the photos and videos on the web site show the action. I even got splashed a few times. Peter and Ivan skirted around this patch to the south, far away from the camera, and some other folks followed. Other folks went to the north - also far from the camera. I went straight through and encountered Theresa and Sophia in the double and Todd in his single.
Heading north towards Blakely Rock was somewhat like a down winder, though my boat doesn't surf well. Waves were only 1 to maybe 2 feet at most. There were surprisingly few racers encountered (Peter Hirtle, Rod, Janna and some others) so I suspected that people might have bailed due to the conditions. Oh, well.
Blakely Rock had the largest congregation of seals I had ever seen there, all mugging for photos.
Leaving Blakely Rock I ran into rougher water. For quite a stretch the waves were in the 2 to 4 foot range; however, these waves were off the starboard bow, sometimes lifting the bow and dropping it onto the next wave. The chain drive also started skipping every couple of crank revolutions when heavy pressure was placed on it which limited how fast I could go. Eventually I figured out the rhythm to reduce the skipping and headed towards the finish.
Rod and Janna were ahead of me at the end, though I was slowly catching up to Janna.
There were beverages, packaged cookies and a home made delicious cake after the race. Yum!
The awards ceremony was held during which the double open canoe crossed the line. Park officials came by asking if we had a permit, and insisted on seeing it. Yes, Jeff had a permit!