It’s now in the books, winds have subsided, and we’re on to summer adventures with the sweet taste of the 75th Swiftsure lingering.
This year of firsts was as close to perfection as one can get. Dry skies, from sunshine blasting down on the Thursday Racers’ Social at Prince of Whales Whale Watching’s Ocean Magic II, where the new Spinnakers Swiftsure Amber Ale and Mount Gay Rum Dark & Stormy cocktails flowed freely, through the last race boat to finish on Monday at 04:49:03, the all-women Geminis Dream. In between, Mike Turner presented the Swiftsure 2018 Race Start seminar in the Distrikt to a large crowd with great questions, with big plastic sailboats ready to sail around the dance pit, giving visuals some impact. The fast-paced Awards went smoothly, leading into the Skippers’ Meeting, where the combination of predicted strong westerly winds and flood tides had skippers strategizing their route toward and beyond Race Passage, considering starting with a reef. That evening, all the stops were pulled out as the first-ever Dock Party was held, Spinnakers beer sold and The Midnights performed well beyond their planned 9 PM.
Race day dawned bright, a light westerly looking to build. Many hundreds mingled on Clover Point, and the Central Saanich Lions Club served more pancake breakfasts than they ever had before. Swiftsure’s Commentators, Daphne Goode & Mike Nusbaum, engaged the crowd with race lore and facts. The nearly 200-strong race yachts worked back and forth between HMCS Nanaimo and the shore, looking for the perfect spot on the line to get optimum clear air and the favourable ebb. Six clean starts got away, with only one ‘Over Early’ recalled. Good thing because there were only 2 spare cartridges in the gun magazine, not much room for restarting races.
The wind slowly built. It became apparent the common strategy of heading for Race Passage didn’t apply this year. Get out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca as soon as possible, head for the US shore and away from the oncoming flood.
Those of us aboard the Ocean Magic II, with its group of VIPs, chased the Cape Flattery Multihull, Dragonfly, into the strait, seeking to catch her in the crosshairs of our lens. She was just too fast, kicking up a rooster tail and lifting one hull out of the water.
Meanwhile, the Swiftsure Lightship Classic racers got a bone in their teeth and marched off in single-file or two abreast, up to the mouth of the strait. Through the day, all the racers pushed on, while wildlife as varied as sea otters, minke whales, orca and Dall’s porpoises played and hunted within sight.
Into the afternoon, the wind held. Dragonfly, long out of sight but being followed by the world on Swiftsure’s Race Tracker, was approaching the turn mark. But the PCT Wolf wasn’t there yet. No worries, just do a GPS mark turn, record it and spin the dial for home. This time through Race Passage. Not a new approach, and all knew what to do, right? Except, just at an inopportune moment, a 35 knot gust punched her way in. Ease, ease, ease! Okay, got it back. Phew, didn’t see that coming, first gust of the day. Dragonfly made it back not just in time for last call, they made it home in time for cocktails and dressing for dinner.
The R/P 55 Crossfire pressed on into the night. The wind held right up to the Swiftsure Bank turn mark of HMCS Nanaimo, albeit a bit of a softy. Ghost along, keep moving, make the corner and POOP, out came the cute. Home, Jeeves.
Though no race records were broken, Crossfire finished Sunday at 04:59:20, followed a while later by Westerly at 10:07:00. Dragonfly didn’t even get their sleeping bags out – they crossed the line at 19:09:11. The last boat to officially finish Swiftsure was the all-women Geminis Dream at 04:49:04 on Monday, May 28th.
Crossfire provided her alternate PHRF rating so was included in the calculation for Overall winner and First to Round the Mark, both of which she took. Dragonfly, like last year, took Line Honours, 1st Overall and 1st to Round on Corrected/Elapsed Time.
The soup this year, courtesy again of SYSCO Victoria, was cheddar & broccoli and warmed many bellies.
So, as we prepare to thank Swiftsure’s 182 volunteers on May 31st, we look back on a race event that hit all the right notes. We thank the many racers who came from great distances as well as our own back yard to mark the historic 75th Swiftsure by racing the largest race on North America’s West Coast, hosted by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.
Charlotte Gann, Swiftsure Race Committee