Skipper McKie Campbell and his boat, the Surprise, sat out the last two runnings of the "Spirit of Adventure - Around Admiralty Race", a 200-mile sailing race around Admiralty Island National Monument.
This year, Campbell and his four-man crew returned with a vengeance.
The Surprise claimed its third title in the 21st annual running of the sailboat race, which started on June 19 and finished June 24. The race is billed as the longest inland-water sailing race in the Pacific Northwest.
Besides Campbell, the Surprise's crew featured Gary Smith and Jay Ginter, who'd helped the boat win the race in 2000 and 2001. Also on the boat were Pete Vogel of Wisconsin, a friend of Smith's, and Sail Magazine West Coast editor Kimball Livingston, who is writing a feature story on the race.
"Our particular boat had a two-year layoff," Campbell said. "I had too much work. I'm trying to fix that.
"It was sort of two races in one for us, one to get the boat ready after two years of neglect - the last time I'd used it was in the 2001 Around Admiralty race - and then to do the race."
The Surprise, a Cal 3-30, won the title for the best time using the Practical Handicap Rating Formula (PHRF), which is used to help equalize things between the different types of sailboats. The Surprise also won the "Spirit of Advanture" trophy for the best raw time over the course, even though it had the slowest PHRF rating in the fleet.
Finishing second in the racing division was the Haiku, a Yamaha 33 skippered by Brian Lieb. Taking third place was the Shoreless, a J-30 skippered by Eric Kueffner. The Majeck, a Catalina 400 skippered by Rick Currier, took fourth place. Also in the race were the Nirelle, a J-30 skippered by Eric Twelker, and the NaNa, a Pearson 36 skippered by Steven Dahl without a crew. The defending champion Nirelle and the NaNa didn't finish under sail power.
The Surprise finished 11 minutes, 55 seconds ahead of the Haiku during the first leg from Shelter Island to Baranof Warm Springs, then beat the Haiku by 31:13 on the second leg from Baranof Warm Springs to Mayflower Island (near Douglas Harbor). The PHRF time difference was 1 hour, 58 minutes, 38 seconds.
"Physically, every fully crewed boat was in the lead at some point in the race," Campbell said, discounting the NaNa because it didn't have a crew. "They may have trailed on (handicap) time, but physically they were in the lead."
The boats left Auke Bay and the starting line near Shelter Island on Saturday at noon, and the Surprise arrived in Baranof Warm Springs about 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. The boats had a lengthy layover at Baranof Warm Springs before resuming the race on Tuesday morning. The Surprise arrived at the finish line on Thursday morning.
Campbell said one of the secrets to winning the race was avoiding trouble, such as pockets without any wind, or hitting the tides just right to make things easier as the boats circled the course.
"We've always said the hallmark of this race is its variability," Campbell said. "Sometimes you're out there searching for any wind, and the first night we had a nice spinaker run to Chatham (Strait). Another time there was an iceberg in Tracy Arm. We passed it and it passed us four times as we were floating with the tide."
Campbell said the Nirelle "horizoned" the rest of the boats - sailing so far ahead it was out of sight over the horizon - early in the race. But the Nirelle got caught in a spot with no wind and had to watch as all the other boats passed it on the way to Baranof Warm Springs.
He also said the Majeck ran into problems with a strong ebb tide as it arrived at Baranof Warm Springs and even though it was within sight of the first leg's finish line, the Majeck had to wait 3 1/2 hours to get enough wind to get past the strong outgoing tide.
The High Noon, a Peterson 41 skippered by Mike Rentel, won the new cruising division race, which started on June 19 and finished on June 26 after seven daily legs. Besides Rentel, the High Noon's crew featured Karen Schmitt, Dave Carnes and Jacqueline Mitchell.
In the cruising division, boats were allowed to throw out their three worst legs and the High Noon won the four legs it kept for its score of four points. This is the first year the Juneau Yacht Club's Sailing Squadron has sponsored a cruising division during the race.
Taking second place in the cruising division was the Eventyr, an Amazon 39 PH skippered by Alex Andrews. The Eventyr and the third-place Commitment, a Catalina 36 skippered by Gerald Gotschall, actually tied with seven points, but the Eventyr was awarded second place because it had one more first-place leg finish than the Commitment. The Brujo, a Tanton 29 co-skippered by Phil McRee and Donna Baron, took fourth place.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.