A Surprise victory

Juneau boat brings home the 'Spirit of Adventure' trophy in Around Admiralty race

Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2000

The Spirit of Adventure trophy is returning to Juneau.

The trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the Juneau Sailing Club's Around Admiralty Island sailing race, has been held by Ketchikan-based skippers for much of the past decade. But on Wednesday, the Juneau-based sailboat Surprise wrested the cup out of Ketchikan's most recent four-year hold.

The Surprise, which is captained by McKie Campbell, arrived in Douglas at 10:14 a.m. Wednesday to complete the 200-mile sailing race, which is billed as the longest inland waters race on the West Coast of North America. Besides Campbell, the Surprise was crewed by Gary Smith, Jay Ginter, Wade Rogers and Nancy Wood.

``They have more sailing background than I do,'' Campbell said of his crew. ``They really deserve a lot of the credit. I couldn't have done it without them.''

The Surprise was actually the third boat to cross the finish line at Mayflower Island near Douglas Harbor, but it held enough of a lead from the first leg from the south end of Shelter Island to Baranof Warm Springs that the first two boats across the finish line -- the Nirelle and the Shoreless -- dropped to second and third place for the final leg of the race. The Nirelle, skippered by Eric Twelker of Juneau, crossed the finish line at 9:58 a.m., followed three minutes later by the Shoreless, which was skippered by Eric Kueffner of Juneau.

``There's a rivalry between Juneau and Ketchikan, and Ketchikan's had the trophy the past four or five years,'' Twelker said. ``Now the trophy comes back to Juneau. Even without the handicap, he (Campbell) is ahead. He sailed very well.''

The race is scored using a handicap system that takes into account the speed and maneuverability of each type of sailboat, and the Nirelle needed to beat the Surprise back to Douglas by more than three hours in order to win the race. The Surprise beat the Nirelle into Baranof Warm Springs by about 40 minutes, but that advantage worked out to more than two hours with the handicapping system.

The Surprise is a 1973 Cal 3-30, while both the Nirelle and Shoreless were newer J-30s. Campbell said that made a difference in how the boats run in different types of wind. The eight boats in the race - six from Juneau and two from Ketchikan - ranged in size from a Catalina 27, which is 27 feet long, to an Erickson 38, which is 38 feet long. In past years there have been sailboats as long as 55 feet long entered in the race, including the Tintagel of Ketchikan which won from 1996-1998.

``My boat is heavier, so it goes straighter,'' Campbell said. ``The J-30s do better zig-zagging back and forth, so they go farther but they go faster. They sail more at more of an angle to the wind on downwind legs.''

Final overall results weren't available, because a couple of the captains still hadn't reported their official times for the final leg yet, Chris Miller said. But Miller confirmed that the Surprise won all three of the major trophies - the Spirit of Adventure for corrected time, the First to Finish for total elapsed time and the PHRF (handicapping formula) series which uses a point system based on the times from each leg. He said the Nirelle is officially the second-place boat, but the final placings for the other six boats could all change once the missing times are called in.

Miller said the Surprise's uncorrected time for the race, which started at noon Saturday, was 45 hours, 52 minutes, 54 seconds and his corrected time was 36:06:39. The Surprise had the fastest PHRF time in both legs, so it had two points in the PHRF Series standings.

In the first leg, the Surprise and the Nirelle pulled away from the rest of the pack and finished more than five hours ahead of the other six boats in the race. The Surprise and the Nirelle swapped leads about five or six times before the wind died as they neared Baranof Warm Springs, near the south end of Admiralty Island. When the wind picked back up, the Surprise was able to find it first and beat the Nirelle across the line by about 40 minutes.

``After the first leg, we all kind of knew the first five boats were Juneau boats, so it would be hard for one of the Ketchikan boats to win,'' Campbell said. ``They had to make up too much of a difference in time.''

The second leg, which typically is slower than the first leg because of winds, ended up being much faster than usual this year, with some boats reporting faster second leg times than they had in the first leg. It was a faster race than most of the sailers had seen before, and the usual finish isn't until Thursday night or Friday morning.

``For about the last 60 miles we all had our spinnakers up,'' Campbell said.

The seas were rough as they passed Yasha Island, and the wind died down near the last of The Brothers Islands. But the wind picked up and blew most of the boats in together for the final 50-60 miles. The Shoreless led most of the final leg, with the Surprise running second, but the Nirelle caught the Surprise and then the Shoreless just before crossing the finish line.

``It's the fastest I've ever seen, and I've been doing this since 1985,'' the Shoreless' Eric Kueffner said.

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