Friday, May 23, 2014

Swiftsure Race Preview

J/30 sailing off Seattle(Victoria, BC, Canada)- One of the Pacific Northwest classic offshore yacht races is about to take place this coming weekend- the “Swiftsure Classic”.  Hosted by the Royal Victoria YC in British Columbia, there are twenty-one “J” teams sailing in a fleet of 184 boats spread across four different race courses.  Indeed, the RVYC over time has encouraged broader participation in the Swiftsure by adding shorter, easier-to-sail courses depending on types of boats and, in fact, time limitations many people are experiencing today with their crews.  Those choices include the Swiftsure (138nm), the Cape Flattery (101nm), the Juan de Fuca (78nm), and the Inshore “day regatta held just off downtown Victoria.  The forecast looks light with 5-10 kt breezes from the SE to SW quadrants all weekend (see forecast here).

The Swiftsure has grown out of a long tradition of offshore sailboat racing in the Pacific NW.  The first recorded sailboat racing in the Victoria area was in the late 1850s, between boats of the Royal Navy and the early Colonists. Interest in the sport grew in the following decades, and by 1930, a long distance race from Cadboro Bay around the Swiftsure Lightship on Swiftsure Bank, at the entrance to the Juan de Fuca Strait was proposed, and there were six entrants! Since then, the event has simply grown in both stature and in participation.

Swiftsure LightshipThe Swiftsure has, in fact, been a pioneer of “social media” and “public broadcasting” across the airwaves since its inception.  In the earlier years of Swiftsure, Eaton’s Department Store (like Harrod’s of England) had a major display window at the corner of Douglas & View, in downtown Victoria— this was always set up as “Swiftsure Headquarters”. A large map of the race course was installed, and the progress of the race was shown by moving miniature boats across the map. As the numbers of boats increased this became a daunting task. The event, and this way of graphically displaying progress, was very much appreciated by Victorians. “People used to line the sidewalks, sit on the curbs. There was a feeling of excitement right there, in the middle of town!”

In addition to the Eaton’s race HQ, there was a radio show to accompany the race! “Since the first radio broadcast from “Dose crazy yotsmen” competed with the fisherman’s band to the outside world during the 1952 race, and L’Apache (later Diamond Head) broke her backstay during the effort, Humphrey Golby has been “on the air”. Coverage expanded when Harold Elworthy’s Island Tug and Barge Company generously provided tugboats for the press. Radio station CKDA pioneered with the limited ship-to-shore equipment of the day and ‘The Voice’ of the Swiftsure was born.”

Partaking in all the camaraderie and festivities associated with the premiere offshore event are J teams sailing in virtually all four courses.  In the “grand-daddy” of them all, John McPhail’s J/160 JAM from Gig Harbor YC will be sailing the Swiftsure Lightship Classic course, the lone J/crew to do so.

J/46 sailing Swiftsure off SeattleThe highly popular Cape Flattery Race has attracted a flock of thirteen J’s, including John Tenneson’s J/145 JEDI and Ron Holbrook’s J/133 CONSTELLATION in IRC Racing class.  Others in L-1 Class include some past winners of the race, like Tom Kelly’s J/122 ANAM CARA, Bob Brunius’s J/120 TIME BANDIT. L-2 Class is chock full of J/105s, many of whom have lots of offshore silverware and pickle dishes gathering dust- current Oregon Offshore winning team FREE BOWL OF SOUP (Doug Schenk, Eric Hopper, Matt Davis) will be up against Jerry Diercks’s DELIRIUM (Seattle NOOD winner), Jim Geros’s LAST TANGO and Lorenzo Migliorini’s ALLEGRO VIVACE. In the H-1 Class are a number of fast J cruiser-racers, including Oregon Offshore veterans VELOCITY (Tom Keffer’s J/42), RIVA (Scott Campbell’s J/46) and FUTURE PRIMITIVE (Ron Mackenzie’s J/37).

The Juan de Fuca Race seems to be popular with the J/30 gang, with two entries from Sloop Tavern YC- Ulf Georg Gwildis’s IMPULSIVE and CONRAD J (Geoffrey Wolf & Adrien Felon).  Joining them are Todd Rutter’s J/32 BLUE JAY and Jim Prentice’s J/109 DIVA.

Finally, the Inshore regatta includes the J/80 SW sailed by Kevin Reath, the J/30 CORVO skippered by Tom Kerr and the J/40 MALOLO helmed by Mike Hoffman.   For more Swiftsure Race sailing information