ILWACO — A Port Angeles sailing crew is racing home today.
Gone with the Wind, a 32-foot C&C 99 and its crew of six from the Port Angeles Yacht Club, is one of 24 sailboats entered in the Pacific Northwest Offshore race from the Columbia River bar to Port Angeles.
The 193-mile race was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. today near the mouth of the Columbia River and end Sunday at Port Angeles Boat Haven.
Ron Hendricks, owner and operator of Gone with the Wind, said the Port Angeles crew hopes to complete the race by Saturday afternoon.
To track the race, click on www.cycportland.org/pnwo-home.
“It will probably take us 48 hours,” Hendricks said when reached by cell phone in Ilwaco on Tuesday.
“I have a really good crew — best crew that I know of in the Northwest.”
The crew consists of Mike Kalahar (tactics, driver and watch captain), Ray Kirk (navigator), Nick Benge (sail handling), Leon Skerbeck (sail handling), Darrell Chard (driver and watch captain) and Hendricks (cook, driver and owner/operator).
“We’re all local guys, and we’ve all been doing it for 40-some years,” said Hendricks, who recently installed a new bottom for his sailboat.
“We got this thing put together pretty good, and the boat’s in really good shape.”
The Pacific Northwest Offshore race has traditionally ended in Victoria.
The finish line was moved to Port Angeles this year because of COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit the crossing of the international border, said Erika Hansen-Dahlin, commodore of Port Angeles Yacht Club.
Gone with the Wind has raced in major events throughout the region, including the Shaw Island Race and Swiftsure, Hansen-Dahlin said.
“The boat is very well equipped and passed all of the rigorous safety requirements without any issues, including a second rudder, which owner Ron had to build into working fashion,” Hansen-Dahlin said in a press release.
The Port Angeles Yacht Club partnered with the Port of Port Angeles and Swain’s General Store to bring the 2021 Pacific Northwest Offshore race to the Olympic Peninsula.
Hendricks, 60, said the yacht club “really stepped up” to host the modified race this year.
“Erika been excellent about keeping that club running,” added Hendricks, who joined the club when he was 14.
Hendricks sailed across the treacherous Columbia River bar into Ilwaco at about midnight Tuesday to stage for his first Pacific Northwest Offshore race.
“Coming down here was pretty damn rough,” Hendricks said of the journey south.
“Going back, looking at the weather forecast, it’s looking like the wind is going to be at the tail, which is nice. Fair winds, tail wind, is a really good thing.”
Hendricks has raced with and competed against Kalahar, who owns a sailboat in Sequim, in larger overnight regattas.
“He’s either an arch enemy or best friend, depending on if I’m racing against him or with him,” Hendricks said.
The Pacific Northwest Offshore will be handicapped by classification.
Maxi yachts 70 feet or longer are expected to arrive in Port Angles in a day and a half.
Ultralight boats that are smaller than Gone with the Wind have their own divisions.
Hendricks said he was eager to compete against Penelope, another 32-foot C&C 99 operated by an Oregon crew.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how we do against them,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks said he entered Pacific Northwest Offshore to give the Port Angeles Yacht Club representation in the event.
“I decided, since we’re hosting, we should probably go,” Hendricks said.
“I’m about the only one in PA that’s got the crew and the boat that’s up to snuff for racing this kind of race.
“The safety requirements are really strict,” Hendricks added.
“You’ve got to have life rafts, and everybody’s got to have tethers and a jackline that runs the length of the boat so that you can tether on when the weather gets really nasty.”
Drivers work in four-hour shifts in daylight and three-hour shifts at night to steer the boat and keep the sails full.
“A lot of times, you’re up on top of a big wave, then you’ve got to surf down the back side of it,” Hendricks said.
“If the winds are light and you start surfing down the wave and you overrun the wind, then the sails push back into the boat, and then you’ve got a mess.
“That’s why the driver is critical,” he added.
“You got to have a good driver, because he can surf down a wave kind of at an angle to keep the sails full.”
Hendricks said stamina is the key to competitive sailing.
“You’re constantly getting beat up (by waves), and then trying to concentrate,” he said.
“You try to get enough sleep, and it’s kind of hard to sleep.”
Hendricks said he occasionally gets seasick when cooking for extended periods of time below deck. Fresh air tends to helps those who become woozy on the waves, he said.
Hendricks said he planned to cook lasagna, Mexican fare, sausage and eggs, potatoes and provide store-bought fried chicken, sandwiches and other snacks for his crew.
“Nobody goes hungry on this boat,” Hendricks said.
“Good food and good camaraderie. That’s what we’re all about on this boat.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].