The 79th running of the Swiftsure International Yacht Race got off with a bang. Skies were overcast but bright and dry. Winds were present in a big way – a fine start to the day. So many numbers have been tossed about in various media but when the dust settled, and the race boats headed for the course, there were 126 boats registered and prepared to race:

  • 7 in Swiftsure Lightship Classic
  • 23 Cape Flattery PHRF
  • 41 Cape Flattery ORC
  • 5 Juan de Fuca Multihulls
  • 32 Juan de Fuca Monohulls
  • 9 Inshore Racing
  • 9 Inshore Cruising

The Swiftsure Lightship Classic had a clean start bang on 1000 PT on Saturday, May 25th. The following start, in which Cape Flattery PHRF and ORC boats started together, 64 boats massed near the committee boat and, with no clear view of the handful of ‘Over Early’ boats in the largest fleet, Principal Race Officer Dugald Smith made the call – General Recall of the fleet. The Cape Flattery boats reassembled, got into their desired ‘slot’ and at 1029 their race began with an ‘All Clear’. No need to seek clear air – a term used for finding unimpeded wind for each boat – there was lots for all. This was an upwind start under white sails, though many boats now sport dark grey 3Di sails, a three dimension membrane fabric with 5 layers fused to become the specific desired sail shape. Next up, Juan de Fuca Multihulls had a clean start at 1040. Juan de Fuca Monohulls were next out, and got away cleanly at 1100, followed, after a slight delay, by the Inshore Racing division at 1123 and Inshore Cruising division at 1134.

Not long after all races were started, some boats experienced challenges. A dramatic shredded mainsail sent one boat back to the docks. Of the 5 starting multihulls, 3 soon found the conditions overwhelming and withdrew from racing. The smallest boat in the Long Courses, No Dress Code, had hit something unknown just before the start but kept racing until they discovered water below decks and had to be assisted back to Fisherman’s Wharf by the RCM-SAR 35. In all cases, crew were safe. Clearly the safety protocols were pressed into service; crew, craft, mission.

The tide, slack soon after the start, shifted to a flood. The sea state flattened some and the westerly wind gusts that had punched up above 35, became less punchy and the westerly held steady. Boats lined up in their desired lanes and headed for Race Rocks – some chose to go outside, some through the Passage. The race settled into a groove, the winds held. A few more boats pulled the plug and headed for harbour.

Around 3 PM PT, Swiftsure’s social media lit up – angry comments piled up about the race tracker not working. Folks at home who were following their loved-ones boat couldn’t get race tracker information. After research into the Kwindoo tracker function by Swiftsure’s webmaster, Swiftsure issued a bulletin that the issue was a gateway server error from the Kwindoo tracker’s host. By 2330 PT on Saturday, the Kwindoo tracker support team identified that their server had experienced an attack from a foreign country. By Sunday 0530 Pacific Time, Kwindoo’s tracker support team notified Swiftsure that all was back to functioning normally.

Well before midnight on Saturday, the first boat to finish Swiftsure 2024 was in the Juan de Fuca Multihull race. Makika, Nigel Oswald’s Farrier F25C, crossed the line at 20:29:25. A little after midnight, Mahana, Gabe Mills’ Corsair F27 finished at 00:38:31 – the only multihull boats to complete the race.

Only two other boats were to finish before midnight on Saturday; Zvi, Alan Lubner’s Reichel/Pugh 55 at 22:49:05 was soon followed by Mist, Steve Johnson’s TP 52 at 23:24:39.

A few boats in the Juan de Fuca Monohulls finished early Sunday morning. Line Honours to Zulu, Mark Insley’s Jespersen 42 at 00:57:59 – the first boat for race host Royal Victoria Yacht Club to finish. Followed by Fortissimo, Tahlequah, and Sir Isaac.

Today will bring softer winds. Here’s hoping all boats make it for the Sunday midnight deadline – including the Swiftsure Lightship Classic.