The Hood River Yacht Club held its annual Double-Damned downwind race Saturday. The downwind, every-boat-for-itself sprint from Cascade Locks to The Dalles has grown in popularity and reputation since its conception in 2008. This year’s field of 27 boats was a record for the event, and as the fleet lined up in Cascade Locks for what has proven to be 40-plus miles of gut checking, crew testing, gear breaking, mast snapping and general mayhem on the water.
“That’s what put the event on the map; when it’s on in the Gorge, it’s full-on, and that’s what people who come for this race are looking for,” said HRYC’s Doug Archbald. “This year it was a different challenge, however. Wind was light and the race was incredibly tactical. It was a very fine line between working the edges of the river to get relief from the current and following where the strongest wind was.”
Of the 27 to start the race, only 14 finished. Several pulled out of the race at Hood River and several more had to retire frustratingly close to the finish line because the wind was all but dead just west of The Dalles. For those who finished, a major handing-over of the revolving trophy and bragging rights was due. The winning boat, captained by William Erkelens from the San Francisco-based Richmond Yacht Club, finished first in just over seven and a half hours, ending Hood River Yacht Club member Morgan Larson’s four-year winning streak.
Last summer Erkelen’s boat was in the running but suffered a broken mast near Wind Mountain and had to pull out of the race.
Larson finished in the middle of the pack with a time of 8:16:12, while the last of the 14 finishers came in with a time of just under nine hours.
“Typically times are just over four hours for top finishers,” Archbald said. “I had to retire about a quarter-mile from the finish because the wind just wasn’t there. It was a long day on the water, but the wind was warm and the scenery was amazing.”
The Hood River Yacht Club recently finished its annual summer evening race series and moved on to its fall series. For the eight-race summer series, 15 boats were in the running. First place went to Larson and boat “Brunzer,” a Moore 24 that is particularly well-equipped for downwind racing in windy conditions. Second went to Tyler Bech’s “Super Friends,” followed by Romeo Robichaud’s “Martin,” Archbald’s “Morjito” and Brian Petros’ “Electric Mayhem.”
“We had record attendance for the summer series, which is a sign of the growing interest in sailing around Hood River,” Archbald said. “As racers get better, so does the caliber of racing, which is attracting more people, both locally and from out of town.”
Archbald said anyone “seriously interested in getting involved in sailboat racing” can contact him for details on how to join the action. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on HRYC visit hoodriveryachtclub.org.