Racing in the Swiftsure International Yacht Race for the first time?  Here are some frequently asked questions, and we recommend you familiarize yourself with the applicable Notices of Race here. 

Getting Your Boat Ready

Q. What safety equipment do I need?

A. The safety requirements for monohulls, which apply to yachts racing under either the PHRF or ORC handicap systems, are posted under Registration, Notices of Race. The Four Long Courses have been designated as Coastal and the Swiftsure Inshore Classic as Inshore. An ‘X’ to the right of each safety requirement indicates where it is mandatory for either the Coastal or Inshore category.

The safety requirements for multihulls racing under the PHRF handicap system for the Cape Flattery and Juan de Fuca courses are the Multihull Safety Equipment Requirements posted under Registration, Notices of Race. These safety requirements were developed in consultation with representatives of the Northwest Multihull Association and the British Columbia Multihull Society.


Q. Are there any major changes to the safety requirements for 2023?

A. The Safety Equipment Requirements for monohulls and for multihulls are provided under Registration, Notices of Race. There are few changes for 2023 but racers should read all of the SERs applicable to their race course.

Q. Do I need to have insurance for my boat?

A. Each participating yacht must have third party liability insurance covering property damage, personal injury and death in an amount not less than $500,000 (Canadian or U.S.) per occurrence, and the policy must cover yacht racing activities. If you are a Canadian yacht and are seeking insurance, we recommend Navis Marine Insurance Brokers, Swiftsure’s Marine Insurance Provider.


Q. What kind of sailing experience should the skipper and crew have?

A. There are no minimum sailing experience requirements to race in any of the courses. However, your attention is drawn to item 4.2 in the Safety Equipment Requirements which pertains to practicing Man Overboard procedures appropriate for the boat’s size and speed. You will also want to review item 1.2 of the Safety Equipment Requirements for monohulls and multihulls which includes that boats must be “…manned by an experienced and appropriately trained crew who are physically fit to face bad weather”.

If you are racing in one of the Four Long Courses, you must understand how the Traffic Separation Scheme works in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

If you are the Person in Charge and racing Swiftsure for the first time, it is a good idea to include some crew who have previously raced in Swiftsure. While not required, it is recommended that you have participated as a skipper in at least one overnight race or have experience as a crewmember in all aspects of seamanship and navigation in overnight races.

Also, the Swiftsure Committee will be pleased to introduce you to an experienced Swiftsure sailor who will act as your mentor as you prepare for the race. Email the Race Event Chair, and we will introduce you to someone in your area.

Swiftsure also recommends that skippers have taken the Offshore Personal Survival “Safety at Sea” course; Sail Canada-World Sailing Approved and the US Sailing Association, but this is not a mandatory requirement.

Navigation is an important aspect of safety. It is highly recommended that one person be designated as the primary navigator and that there be at least one other person be identified as the back up navigator. When racing at night, vigilance in keeping a lookout is necessary as there is a considerable amount of commercial and other traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.


Q. What is a transponder and why is it required for the Four Long Courses?

A. Transponders are GPS tracking devices that are secured to your boat for the duration of the Swiftsure race if you are doing one of the Four Long Courses. Swiftsure uses Globalstar SPOT transponders.  The Race Committee uses the Swiftsure Race Tracker system to identify the location of competitors. Please note, however, that the SPOTs are not part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System so if you have an emergency on board you should call the Coast Guard using VHF Channel 16. When calling you do not need to know whether you are in US or Canadian waters as the US and Canadian Coast Guards coordinate their responses. Depending on the nature of the emergency you may also wish to activate your EPIRB or PLB if such are onboard.

The transponders also enable your family and friends on shore to monitor your progress through the Swiftsure Race Tracker system, with LIVE race views available via the website during the race weekend.  See the Swiftsure Race Tracker page under Race Info for more information about transponders. Through this link you can even replay the prior year’s race to see the route taken by the competitors.


Q. How much lead time is required to prepare my boat and acquire all safety equipment?

A. It’s a good idea to start your preparations early. You may need to order some items (e.g. sail number banners to be affixed to lifelines) or borrow some safety gear.

You fly on your backstay a numeral pennant indicating the race in which you are competing. The yachts racing in the Swiftsure Lightship Classic and Hein Bank races must fly numeral 1; the Cape Flattery Race for Multihulls fly numeral 2; the Cape Flattery Race for Monohulls fly numeral 3; the Juan de Fuca Race for Monohulls fly numeral 4, the Juan de Fuca Race for Multihulls fly numeral 2, and all of the Swiftsure Inshore Classic competitors fly the numeral 5 pennant.

It’s also a good idea to deal with any maintenance issues, such as your engine, well before you leave your home port destined for Victoria.


Q. Where can I find information about the race courses?

A. Information about the Swiftsure 2023 race, including the course options, is found in the Notices of Race on the Swiftsure International Yacht Race website. The sailing instructions will contain detailed information about the courses (e.g.; latitude and longitude of turning marks). Swiftsure 2023 Sailing Instructions will be available online after Monday May 15, 2023 on the Swiftsure website. Printed copies will be included in the skipper’s race package, which will be given to skippers when they check in at Swiftsure Centre in Victoria on May 25th  and 26th.   


Q. How do Monohulls Obtain a Rating Handicap?

A. PHRF-NW (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet of the Northwest)

The PHRF Member Application to obtain a PHRF rating is found at:

Contact: your yacht club’s handicapper or

PHRF BC: The application for a PHRF BC rating is found at:

Contact: your yacht club’s handicapper or

Offshore Racing Congress (ORC): Locally boats race under ORC-Club.

ORC-Club is designed to be simple for boat owners to obtain a rating.  For ORC-Club, measurement data can be accepted as declared by the owner or obtained from any other source, including photos, drawings, designs or data from identical or similar boats. Sail measurements can come from sail design data, from one-design data, as measured by the sailmaker or measured by an ORC measurer. There are more measurements than is required for PHRF, and the measurements are not the same.

The process is quite straightforward and can be done online. Go to and use the link on the front page to the ORC-Club Application. Enter the measurement data for the boat. Basic rig data can be taken from brochures and sister ships or from sources like Sail measurements can be obtained from design data that the sailmaker has or from measurements made by the sailmaker. To obtain a certificate with the least amount of effort, the applicant will need the dimensions for the main, largest genoa, and largest spinnaker.

The ORC Canada Rating Office will receive the application and will generate a Test Certificate for review. Once the owner is satisfied with the Test Certificate, he/she can go to the payment page using the link on the front page (Renewals and Payments), fill in the basic personal and boat data, and then press submit.  A payment page will be displayed and must be completed. When the Rating Office has received notice of payment, it will issue a Racing Certificate.  The boat data will then appear on ORC Sailor Services.