SEVENTY48 2022: Risk Assessment

As we paused at Foul Weather Bluff, we floated while checking the weather forecast and assessing our situation. The forecast was not friendly. The winds we had been fighting since Point No Point were scheduled to increase over the course of the afternoon. And the open water crossing in front of us would leave us exposed to the elements the whole way. If we had a hope of finishing the race in less than 48 hours, we would need to hit a pretty straight line from Foul Weather Bluff to the Port Townsend Canal, which means about 5 nmi with land nowhere near and just a couple of miles along Marrowstone and Indian islands.

Risk assessment is really just a “what if” game. What if the wind speeds continue to increase? Will we be able to make forward progress? What if the waves crash over that field repaired hatch? Are we confident it won’t fail? What if we end up more than two miles from the nearest shore and we can’t make progress and Melissa’s tail loses buoyancy?

As scary as these “what if” scenarios are, we don’t see any of them as life threatening. We’re prepared for immersion. We can raft up if needed. But one thing we don’t want in SEVENTY48 is a rescue. We want to paddle to the finish line on our own steam, and if we can’t do that, we want to pull out of the race and get our safety crew to come pick us up. Coast Guard or Safety Boat rescues in the middle of a situation we should have avoided? No thanks.

So we made the decision that this year wasn’t the year for us. We notified our safety crews and headed for the beach to call the Race Boss and make it official.

But Foul Weather Bluff wasn’t done with us yet. As we rounded the point and headed for the nearest takeout (Twin Spits Beach), that angry water returned. It’s common for the currents to be troublesome where water converges around points of land. This was a prime example. We fought through more waves and currents until we got to the protected bay around the preserve. For some of us, this was even worse than what we’d experienced a few hours earlier.

In the end, 2022 wasn’t a year we were able to finish 70 miles in 48 hours. We did make it 55 miles and decided the risks weren’t worth continuing at just about 42 hours.

As we get ready to launch for SEVENTY48 2023 tomorrow, we are hoping for calm winds, smooth seas, and the patience and resilience to handle the winds and waves we actually get. If you’re reading this during the race, follow along on the race tracker.


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