For the public, there are many opportunities to experience the historic 75th running of the Swiftsure International Yacht Race – and it’s all free!

On Thursday, May 24th, at the Causeway Docks of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, watch as yachts begin to arrive in the afternoon, and chat with the racers on the docks.

Friday, May 25th until 6 PM, walk the docks and, later in the afternoon, have your picture taken with Captain Jack Sparrow & Scarlett as they swash buckles. Make this the year you participate, celebrate and purchase historic 75th Swiftsure memorabilia and clothing at the tent at the top of the Causeway Docks.

Alastair Chesson AC Design photo

On Saturday, make your way to Clover Point for 8 AM. There will be a pancake breakfast available from the Central Saanich Lions Club, while Swiftsure Commentators Michael Nusbaum and Daphne Goode share race information with the public over a PA system.

At 9 AM, a large gun blast and puff of smoke from the bow of HMCS Nanaimo will signal the first of six race starts. Each 10 minutes, a new race start is announced in the same way.

Once all races are underway, a Royal Canadian Air Force 442 Squadron will deploy a Cormorant helicopter for an over-the-water Search and Rescue demonstration in coordination with the Canadian Coast Guard. This is an actual demonstration of their expertise in executing a recovery of a body in the water – though for this exercise, a 180-lb OSCAR water training rescue dummy will be used. The Cormorant helicopter’s pilot and, from the bridge of HMCS Nanaimo, RCAF Major Justin Olsen will be speaking with Mike & Daphne over a VHF radio, which will be publicly broadcast during the SAR exercise.

Anywhere along Dallas Road, your vantage of the race yachts is very good as the Long Course boats make their way toward the Race Passage toward the west, while Inshore race yachts sail west toward William Head before turning at their mark and making their way eastward. You may watch the 40-odd Inshore yachts sail to their finish later in the afternoon in Cadboro Bay from Cattle Point. The Long Course boats will race right out of sight and sail on into the night for their destination turning mark in various locations in the United States before racing back to Victoria. The four Long Course turning marks are:

  • Swiftsure Lightship Classic yachts, all monohulls (single hull) race around HMCS Nanaimo (the race start boat you saw at Clover Point) stationed on Swiftsure Bank, then returning to Victoria (138.2 nautical miles)
  • Hein Bank Race yachts, all monohulls, will race around a Royal Canadian Navy Orca-class patrol vessel, PCT Wolf, off Neah Bay on the US Olympic Peninsula before sailing east to the weather buoy off Hein Bank, then will sail to the Victoria finish line (118.1 NM)
  • Cape Flattery Race yachts, both monohulls and multihulls (catamarans & trimarans which are 2 & 3 hulled sailboats), race around the RCN PCT Wolf, off Neah Bay on the US Olympic Peninsula, before returning to Victoria (101.9 NM)
  • Juan de Fuca Race yachts, both monohulls and multihulls, sail toward Clallam Bay on the Olympic Peninsula, rounding MV Jo-Kepa V, a Nordic Tug 42, then turn toward the Victoria finish line (78.7 NM)

How long will it take the Swiftsure race yachts to finish? Nobody knows for certain – it’s a race. Challenging race conditions play a very big part – from the wind to the currents and tide to the visibility and whether it’s daylight or not. All affect ones’ abililty to stay focused. The fastest boats could cross the Finish Line off Ogden Point on Victoria’s Breakwater late on Saturday, but most will finish through the night, into Sunday and as late as Monday, May 28th at 6 AM when the race officially ends. And there’s an award for that… the Lanterne Rouge for commitment. Throughout the race, follow the Long Course boats on Swiftsure’s Racer Tracker, developed by our own Alec Matthews.

Weather conditions look promising for an amazing 75th Swiftsure. Be there! Say Hi to the racers and watch them start & finish. Get the t-shirt. Discover what it means to live on an island on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Here’s a fantastic Swiftsure article by Richard Watts from the Sunday, May 20th Times Colonist.

Information about Swiftsure Race Starts & Courses

Yachts registered to race.

More detail about Swiftsure’s Public Events.

Swiftsure – Always A Challenge. See you there.

Charlotte Gann, Swiftsure Race Committee