Perfect weather to start an international yacht race. A great pancake breakfast by Central Saanich Lions Club. Two skilled racers sharing with the assembled crowd the finer details of yacht racing and the yachts arrayed in view.  Upon the WesternOne cranes above, US and Canadian flags snapped in a breeze perfect for sweeping the yachts through each start.  HMCS Nanaimo stood on as the mark boat from which the Race Committee for Swiftsure did countdowns and a gun signaled each start with a puff of smoke.  After each race successfully started, the RCAF 442 Squadron Cormorant helicopter team put on an incredible Search and Rescue demonstration over the water, with the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue vessel standing by.  Did you see the flashing blue light just beyond, on the water?  The Victoria Police intercepted a vessel attempting to interfere with the SAR demo – and stood between the interloper and the rescue vessels. The demonstration came together like clockwork, the ‘body’ in the water successfully retrieved and deployed to safety.

This describes just the race start!  Swiftsure begins on Wednesday with setting up the tents on Ship Point. On Thursday and Friday, race yachts and crew pour into Victoria, check in for their respective race courses (there are 4) then get down to the serious business of catching up with each other, meeting the new yachts in town, enjoying the many questions from the public and guests to Victoria and taking in some great bands and rums ‘n beers.

Once the race began, there was yet much for the public to take in on Ship Point in the Inner Harbour of beautiful downtown Victoria.  A market with a wide array of pocket-sized businesses displaying their wonderful products and services.  The food trucks had tasty treats.  I personally sampled much of their wares. In the tent on Ship Point, bands played and beverages were on offer. And the Race Tracker was up and awake, ready to display the positions of each racer in the 3 long courses.

If you were at Ogden Point Saturday evening, you saw the inspiring Dragonfly ripping her way to the finish shortly after 8 PM!  Always a delight to watch under sail, this wild multihull is jaw-dropping to see when the breeze kicks up.  I spoke with Richard Ackrill after the race and he told me they had speeds above 17 knots when the winds were about 15 knots.  That displays the efficiency of this racer.

Throughout Sunday, the parade of race yachts sailing toward the Ogden Point finish line from Race Passage was a brilliant sight for all.  The winds held through Saturday evening on the entire race course but later became light at the West entrance to Juan de Fuca strait.  They stayed firm for the East entrance and the expression ‘the rich get richer’ applied to those race yachts that made it around their distant race mark before sunset on Saturday – they finished their race typically in the wee hours of Sunday and were greeted at the dock by a photographer, the inspection dock team and hot bowls of soup (thank you, thank you Sysco Foods). Great stories, a bit of busted gear from pushing the boats and the crew hard but no big hurts were reported beyond the usual ‘boat bites’.  First across the line from the Swiftsure Lightship Classic race was Glory.  Fitting, since the real glory of Swiftsure is challenging the long course and succeeding.  It is TOUGH, it is LUMPY and it brings HUGE satisfaction to master.

SO many to thank for your commitment toward making Swiftsure take place again; this short note will not do justice but – the RCN, RCAF, Canadian and US Coast Guard, JRCC, RCM SAR 33, 35, 37 and the Swiftsure Communications Team, led by Don McLeod gain our deepest gratitude for your shared knowledge and expertise in safety. Swiftsure’s many engaged sponsors and donors of services without whom we couldn’t finance the race. The over 200 volunteers that share their time and enthusiasm (soup heated and served any time of the day and night)! The yacht owners and their crews that come back year after year for the challenge that is Swiftsure. Our technology team that nobody sees but that bring you the race tracker, the website, the race results on the fly and so much more. The photographers and videographers that keep the reporting lively.  I’ll have missed some important groups and for that I apologise but you are thanked and please know – no part of this race is viable without the input of many diverse groups in the community and beyond. Finally, Swiftsure is led by a man of legendary energy, talent, knowledge and commitment.  If you’ve ever met him, you’ll never forget him – Vern Burkhardt, Swiftsure International Yacht Race Chair. Tireless, interested in every aspect of creating an incredible race experience and a terrific listener. When you see Vern – please do thank him for all he does to lead his motley crew that is the Swiftsure Committee toward making Swiftsure happen. The Swiftsure Committee is a team in the truest sense and it is a privilege to work with such creative, smart, dedicated and focused individuals.  All differences are surmounted through our common focus… make this race the best possible experience for the skippers and crew while creating public engagement. Don’t lose money (Swiftsure is self-financed every year since 1930 when we began).

To the public – your interest in Swiftsure is very important – we want you to know that you are in a marine environment and there is much to know and be interested with, living beside the ocean.  Please check out the photos at, drop us a comment on facebook ‘SwiftsureYachtRace’ and tweet us at SwiftsureRace.

To the skippers and racers – yahoo guys, let’s do it all again next year!  See you on the water.


Charlotte Gann

Swiftsure International Yacht Race Committee

Swiftsure – Always a Challenge