November in Tofino is pretty chilly. There were plenty of surfers out in the water in their wetsuits. However, it seemed to be a bit too cold for swimming. A couple obviously had a different view of things. The girl initially came running down to get in the water in her swimsuit. She soon headed back but returned before too long with the guy and they both jumped into the surf. I’m not sure this was terribly smart but they seemed to have fun.
This hydroplane was due to compete at Oak Harbor. They pulled off the jetty and headed towards the track but, for some reason, they broke down. They were left drifting just outside the jetty for a while. The driver climbed out of the cockpit and was left to wait for a tow to come along. It took a while for a boat to come to their aid. They weren’t drifting fast but they were slowly heading away from the shore and towards the course. They were taken care of long before they got anywhere risky, though.
The hydroplane races at Oak Harbor had a variety of classes of contenders. Many of the boats appeared on course from a marina across the harbor but the most exotic of the boats were operated from alongside the spectator area. A pit area was set up on the shore. Here the crews were busy preparing the boats to race – occasionally carrying out engine runs. There was no slip so the way boats were put in the water involved a crane lifting them up and depositing them alongside a jetty close by. The initial lifts seemed to be a bit slow and inaccurate but a little practice and they were soon moving them across and back after the races with ease.
It’s been a long time since I watched any hydroplane racing. The Kankakee event in Illinois was a fun one to attend, not least because the constraints of the river meant it was possible to get really close to the action. Racing is quite popular in the Pacific Northwest and one event was scheduled for Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. I decided to head along and see what it was like.
I was quite surprised how easy it was to attend. I found parking conveniently close and got a waterfront spot to set up with ease. Plenty of people came and went during the time I was there but it never felt terribly busy. The racing took place in the harbor and it was a bit distant for all of the spectators. The good spot to watch from would have been across the harbor but that was within the naval facility so out of bounds for the rest of us.
The course provided for some good angles on the boats as they made the first turn. The second turn was rather distant. The PA system was well away from me and the program seemed to be only vaguely related to what was happening so most of the time I was oblivious to the classes that were racing at any one time. The more powerful boats were staging from the pits near the crowd but many of the smaller boats would appear on course from the marina across the harbor. I would just watch them going around and try and figure things out from the flags on the course boats.
It was a sunny day so sitting next to the water and watching the occasional race was pleasant. Not knowing what was going on was a bit harder and the random feeling of when a race would occur left me a bit confused but I got to watch racing and get some photos so hardly a bad was to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Some colleagues arranged for us to buy some tickets for a baseball game while we were in Tokyo. The Giants were the home team playing another local team called the Swallows. The game was played inside Tokyo Dome, an inflatable structure and thankfully one with air conditioning! Here is a panorama of the interior of the dome during the game. Baseball games in Japan have some notable differences from those in the US, mainly relating to crowd behavior. That may get a separate post so I will leave it for now.
We recently had the 40th anniversary of the Fastnet race that ended up with a significant loss of life and boats. Weather forecasting technology and the methods of communicating were very different forty years ago and some of the boats were ill-suited to open water racing of that nature. Growing up in Cowes, the Fastnet race was always a big deal. It was every other year as part of the Admiral’s Cup. Some of my school friends got to crew on it. I watched the start of one of the races when we still lived in the UK and I scanned in some of the shots I got that day. The start was always frantic. Boats are jockeying for position, often very close to shore. Lots of shouting goes on. With a good wind, big sailing boats look so cool to me.
During my exercise to scan old negatives, I came across some photos of a company cricket match I took part in. It got me thinking about cricket and whether anyone plays the game in the Seattle region. I figured that the large Indian population in the area might have brought cricket with it. A quick Google showed a local league with plenty of teams and a game taking place the following day up in Everett. I figured this was worth a look.
I took a drive up for what was a 40 overs match. (For those that don’t know cricket, be prepared to be baffled for this post.) I wasn’t intending to watch the whole game but I wanted to see a bit of the play, get some photos having never photographed cricket in any depth, see what the standard was and have a bit of a flashback to my youth when cricket was a big part of my spare time in the summer. The Saturday had been a gloriously sunny day but the sunny was cool and overcast so not the good weather for cricket but certainly not unknown in a British summer!
Something about the field that they were playing on meant that they weren’t changing ends at the end of each over. They just swapped the batsmen over and changed bowlers. This frustrated me a touch as I was hoping for different views without having to walk all the way around the boundary. However, I guess the exercise is good for me.
Having never photographed cricket in detail, it was interesting trying to find good angles to shoot from. I liked trying to have the bowler and batsman in the same shot and switching focus from one to the other was trickier than I anticipated. I also found that some of the more dynamic poses of the players were reached when the ball was long gone. I was hoping to have the ball be a feature of the shots so it became a choice of ball position or player position.
I had a chat to some of the players from the batting side. One asked me if I wanted to join. It is a long time since I last played and I wasn’t much good even then. These guys were not professionals but I would not be setting the world on fire if I joined. Still, I might look out some other games at some point – preferably on days with a bit nicer weather. Sitting and watching a game in the sun sounds pretty good.
The races at the rowing meet I covered in this post tend to overlap from what we saw. The length of the course and the time to complete it is such that the next race was started before the last was finished. Consequently, there is not a way for the crews to return up the cut as the next boats are heading towards them. Apparently, they all wait in the next bay. Then, when it is clear, they all row back up together. The cut was full of crews rowing back to take their boats out of the water. It made for an impressive sight!
A short walk from the campus of UW takes you down to Montlake Cut. This is the home of the university rowing team. Having read The Boys in the Boat, we had read a lot about this location. The Shell House from the book is still there and is in great shape. George Pocock is no longer building his shells there, but it obviously has a place in UW rowing lore and it looked interesting on a sunny weekend day. It looked even better from one side but the giant cherry picker in front of it kind of ruined the chance of a photo from that direction.
The technology of rowing boats has always been prized. In George Pocock’s day, the crafting of high performance shells made his work in demand from university crews across the US. George may be long gone but the company that bears his name continues. They no longer are along the Cut but now operate out of Everett in a building with a slightly less scenic location.
Wood has been replaced with composites and these shells are light, stiff and very impressive. A few of the shells were laid up in the parking lot waiting to be loaded on trailers while others were already strapped in. The crews’ shoes are attached in place along with seats. They don’t look like the most comfortable of vessels but they do look like they are well designed to go fast and to transfer the power of the rowers directly to the water.