Pete Clement has been sailboat racing in Gig Harbor since the 1970s. Earlier this month, he may have had his best race yet.
On June 8, the 69-year-old Gig Harbor resident and his crew broke the two-lap race record in the harbor, skippering his Beneteau 36.7 named Shinola, Too. His time of 26 minutes, 53 seconds broke the record of 27:57 previously held by Tom Mitchell, sailing his J-35C Wildflower, which had stood since 2003.
“The boat is very well suited to this particular course,” Clement said.
The secret to the record-breaking time? A strong side wind whipping through the harbor.
“It was blowing straight off the beam, which makes the boat fast,” he said. “We had that during this race. It was a good, strong wind. Gig Harbor is notorious for having light air and fluky wind conditions.”
Clement takes racing pretty seriously, according to longtime friend and Gig Harbor’s own Chief of Police, Kelly Busey, who has been sailing since he was a kid.
“Pete’s the only guy that takes the racing super seriously,” Busey said, with a laugh. “This is the Super Bowl to him. … He enjoys the camaraderie quite a bit. But he’s vicious out there. We all give him crap about it — we have to tell him to lighten up a bit.”
But at the end of the day, they’re all friends. Busey and others were happy for Clement and his crew.
“Everyone was really happy for him,” Busey said.
Clement credited a strong crew, along with the side wind, for bringing home the win. Also on the crew that day: Tom Greetham, Jeff Sharp and Ryan Squires, a junior sailor.
“We do a good job of preparing the boat, first of all,” Clement said. “Then you need to pick a boat that has the potential to win. We have that and then we’ve got good crew work. The crew was the secret of the whole thing.”
Clement didn’t find out they had broken the record until about a week later, after Busey had dug up the previous record and circulated the news via email. And Clement is actually a friend of Mitchell, the previous record holder.
“Tom (Mitchell) and I exchanged a few emails,” Clement said. “He’s a gentlemanly soul. He congratulated all of us and said, ‘Dang, I was hoping to hang onto that one.’”
Will Clement ever be able to top this one?
“Never say never,” Clement said. “But I think it’ll be a while. That was a really fast race. Someone could set off a bomb on shore and you wouldn’t know cause you’re so focused on what you’re doing straight ahead. It goes really fast. Before you know it, it’s over. It was a really, really fast two laps. I’d be surprised if anyone breaks it for a while.”
For those interested, a more casual version of this racing series continues through summer each Thursday night starting at 6:30 p.m. All sailboats are invited to participate. Contact Erik Carlson at email@example.com for additional information.