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The Toliva Shoal Race
By Frank & Lisa Mighetto

In the early 1970s the OYC became engaged in a new event: the Toliva Shoal Race, which was destined to become an annual February activity. The newly formed South Sound Sailing Society (SSSS) started the race in 1971, and the following year the OYC became involved as a co-sponsor, providing the club house, dock space, and volunteer help – as well as OYC sailors who participated as racers. After 1972, the OYC’s annual listed this race in February

1970 Toliva Shoal Race.jpg

events, and by 1974 members had devoted an entire page to the race and its social activities, indicating its importance.

Toliva Shoal is the third in the Southern Sound series of races, which begin in December and run through March (the others are sponsored by the Three Tree Point, Gig Harbor, and Tacoma Yacht Clubs). In recent years, this event typically has attracted more than 70 boats, which race north through Budd Inlet, following Dana Passage past Anderson Island to the Toliva Shoal buoy, and then returning - often in the dark.

As longtime SSSS racer Steve Worcester recently explained, it was no accident that the sailing society and the Toliva Shoal Race emerged when they did, as their founding coincided with the ready availability of fiberglass boats, which are relatively easy and inexpensive to maintain, and performance handicapping (PHRF), which handicaps boats on observed performance, allowing dissimilar classes of sailboats to race against each other competitively. “These developments came in the late 60s and really took hold in the 70s,” he noted.

This race has developed over the years in terms of course and timing as well as social activities. From the outset, racers and their friends and families attended a dinner the night before, which started as a traditional "chili feed" and now features more elaborate fare. While early years included live music, the band and dancing were abandoned to allow people more opportunity to socialize. For many years, the proceeds from the dinner and before-race breakfast have benefitted the Youth Sailing program.

“All the races have been different and fun,” recalled PC Bob Connolly, who has been racing in Toliva Shoal since 1995. “The [event] three or four years ago was great in that the wind blew 15 to 20 knots all day, no rain, sunny and the entire fleet finished the full course before dark. It was a Cal kind of day and we did quite well.And then… there was the race on "Re-Treat" [PC Tony Re's boat] that finished in the dark and in the fog at Lyle Point, the southeasterly point on Anderson Island.Getting back to OYC was a challenge...”

According to Bob, the race is significant for many reasons. “It puts the SSSS and OYC on the map with other clubs and shows them that we love racing.The race is very challenging in that it is not a short race and you have to know how to sail in light or heavy winds as well as know what the currents are doing.As far as the scenery you can’t beat it; on a clear day the Olympics and Rainier as well as all the islands you pass along the race are spectacular to see.”

Furthermore, Bob likes “to brag to visitors of other clubs that come to town for the race about our sailing program and our great facilities.” Also, it is encouraging “to see that the sailors of the club and the power boaters can work together in harmony.” Debe Anderson, who has served as race committee chair for the past two years, agreed. “You have to have powerboats to run Toliva,” she pointed out recently, as power boats often serve as the committee and chase boats. As Bob summarized, “One of the goals of the club is the promotion of boating. What better way than to have other clubs join in a great time?”

For more information on the history of the race, see the South Sound Sailing Society's website ( author wishes to thank Debe Anderson, Bob Connolly, Dave Knowlton, and Steve Worcester for providing information for this article.

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