There are age-old traditions around the Swiftsure International Yacht Race and likely the longest is that between the race and the Royal Canadian Navy.
HMCS Oriole IV (ships I – III were all posted in Eastern Canada) is the longest serving ship in the Royal Canadian Navy and enters the Swiftsure Lightship Classic each year. She arrived in Victoria from Nova Scotia in 1954, racing her first Swiftsure in 1955 where she placed 14th. Almost each year since, HMCS Oriole has valiantly competed, taking enthusiastic crew for an offshore racing experience.
The Royal Canadian Navy provides Swiftsure with an MCDV (Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel) as a race start vessel and later, after all races are underway, the Kingston-Class MCDV, with her crew and Swiftsure Race Committee volunteers, powers to Swiftsure Bank to stand on station throughout the weekend as the rounding mark, until each and every Swiftsure Lightship Classic racer is accounted for. As well, the Royal Canadian Navy provides an Orca-class vessel for the Neah Bay rounding in American waters; she also stands on station until all racers round her.
Swiftsure has a long-standing relationship with the Royal Canadian Navy. Beginning in the 1850’s, the precursor race to Swiftsure was held around Victoria Day between boats of the Royal Navy and British Colonists (some of whom went on to become the founders of the Victoria Yacht Club).
The relationship between the Royal Canadian Navy and Swiftsure allows intrepid racers to charge out into the open waters of the Pacific, while providing the Royal Canadian Navy an opportunity to show leadership and protection on Canada’s West Coast.
Swiftsure Chair Vern Burkhardt and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club’s Commodore Andrew McBride, Vice Commodore Dunnery Best, Swiftsure Principal Race Officer John Abel hosted a luncheon in honour of Rear Admiral Gilles Couturier and Senior Protocol Officer James Webb in thanks for the Royal Canadian Navy’s continued support. Rear Admiral Couturier happily reminisced of his viewing the exciting race start when he previously served on this coast.