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2011 Swiftsure International Regatta - Unlimited Flattery

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  • 2011 Swiftsure International Regatta - Unlimited Flattery

    The Swiftsure race is an out-and-back distance race, run every year from Victoria, B.C. on Memorial Day weekend. While the race is named for the historic Swiftsure Bank lightship, a floating lighthouse that is no longer on station in the present day, it's nickname around here is "Driftsure": nothing about this challenging race is ever swift or sure. Typical conditions can be extremely light winds and adverse current, to heavy Westerlies that can build monster waves. The dynamic of the weather changes during the course of the race: sometimes the strong Westerlies die away from land or after dark, so the situation is always variable.

    So why race it? Tradition, and every so often, Swiftsure delivers a moster spinnaker sleigh ride in heavy wind and waves in the dark, through heavy commercial shipping lanes. Yes, sailors are a funny group!

    The forecast for this year's Swiftsure was looking up leading up to race day, with W 10-20 building 15-25 for Saturday. A welcome relief of a forecast. The previous year's race was punctuated by a hard beat up the Straits of Juan de Fuca in a Westerly, and an exasperating beat back from the mark as the wind shifted to a fickle NE'ly after dark and into the next morning.

    On Wasabi, we were sailing the Unlimited Cape Flattery race, a race to Neah Bay and back, with Artemis, an Andrews 53, Flash, a 1D48, and a token Farr 40 as our chief competitors. Our start was 10 min after the Swiftsure Bank start which included various speed machines Icon, Neptunes Car, Rage, and Strum, plus some other boats like the always-competetive Aerodyne 38, Kairos.

    Race morning was not shaping up as forecast: Driftsure. We started on time in some light breeze which shut off even before all the other starts got off the line. The next 6 hours or so is summarized by us not having enough rode to anchor in the deep water we were in, to prevent us being swept backward by the flood tide. And so it was with all the boats around us. The wind finally filled and Icon led the way through Race Passage, followed by Neptune's Car and Artemis, who had played the in-shore strategy of current relief over wind-pressure. At this point Artemis was far ahead of us and other Neah Bay boats, by perhaps 2 miles.

    We led a fair-sized pack of boats through Race Passage and worked the Canadian shore, trading tacks with Strum, Rage, and Flash. Confronted with glassy conditions in the Straits, Flash committed to the American side early while we and Artemis played the Canadian side along with the Farr 40. Strum and Rage took turns making tentative moves to the middle, but they looked unkind so we stayed on the shore through Sooke Harbor and past Otter Point. Artemis committed to crossing to the American shore here; they were on the horizon and it was hard to see them most of the time, but we kept to the game plan and stayed on the Canadian shore, out of the long flood tide, all day and all the way to Sherringham, where we encountered steady breeze to 15 knots, did an in-line change from the light jib, and committed to the cross.

    On the cross we crossed first in front of Rage, then in front of Strum, and finally converged on the American shore, a mile and a half in front of Flash, just behind Dragonfly, and dead even with Artemis! Neptune's Car was ahead as well, on the beach, while Icon was on the horizon, out past Neah Bay, going out. Strum was still right on our hip, and Rage out in the center going out to the Bank. The gamble had paid off and we were still in the game. The American shore here past Pillar Point typically has a very favorable lift as well as current relief, as the prevailing wind is Northwesterly (even while the middle is Westerly), making one able to almost lay the mark at Neah Bay on stbd tack in some cases. The clouds and squalls cleared completely, and the breeze held. Artemis came in and we tacked 4 boatlengths in front of them, forcing them away inshore. To our chagrin they immediately got a favorable shift inside us, and over the next half hour moved steadily ahead.

    We converged on Neah Bay at sundown, in a Southwesterly. Dragonfly rounded first, then Artemis rounded ahead of us by 4 minutes, and we rounded ahead of Flash by 15 minutes. The second stage of the race had started, on cue, in the dark with no moon!

    You can get anything at night in the Straits. Wind from almost any direction, no wind, and commercial traffic as well as other racing traffic. This night was actually one of the more enjoyable night sails I've had: the wind never shut off, it was all downwind, it was a clear and starry sky, and we sailed the leg with decent boatspeed. There were only a few ships to contend with. The order of business was to run Artemis down, and beat Flash. With a couple miles of leverage on Flash we thought it was doable. We rotated out folks and people got some naps as the evening progressed, but as I said, pleasant sailing.

    Dawn brought us with very decent breeze and boatspeed through Race Passage, a half a mile ahead of Artemis. We had not seen Flash since the rounding. Race Passage had a very respectable 4-knot adverse current running when we passed through, but the breeze made it manageable. At Race Passage we did not have corrected time on Artemis, so this last leg was going to be crucial. After Race Passage one makes a 45 degree left turn to Victoria, and here we played the "low road" strategy, flying our A2 then peeling to a Code 0, while Artemis played a "high road" strategy, going to their jib, to the finish.

    With dawn, the wind often diminshes and the last half a mile to the finish line is typically desperate, as one tries to squeek in before the breeze dies completely, against some current that usually runs along the breakwater and Broachie Ledge. We got in, put away the boat, and congratulated ourselves for squeeking one out against Artemis, who had sailed a great race, with Flash no where in sight! Flash was probably anchored at Race Rocks now, or stuck in some hole near Sooke. So you can imagine our reaction coming around the corner to see that black mast in the marina, the one with jumpers. Flash had finished a full 45 minutes ahead of us, somehow eeking out an hour's time difference over the course of the run during the night. Ye Gads!

    With the wind now firmly in the 'off' position for the remainder of the morning, Flash, Wasabi, and Artemis corrected out to 1,2, and 3 in the Unlimited Flattery race!

    The wind built again later on, bringing the rest of the fleets home!

    Some video:

  • #2
    Great write up. On Flash we were amazed to watch you come from the Canadian side and kick our asses to Neah Bay. Kudos also to Artemis who showed great speed on the way out. We like to think that Steve took us to the American side early to avoid the rain because he was concerned about the crew. When you rounded ahead of us and dissapeared into the night, we thought it was going to be a long night. We sailed the center of the straits, cncentrating on staying in the wind and peeling when necessary.

    The radio said 25 knots in the race and we went down to the R3, for breeze that never materialized. When we got through the race, we went back to the A1, then finished with the L1 to make it up to the breakwater. After finishing and putting the boat away, we motored to the inspection dock. The first thing after rounding the point was to look for Wasabi's rig as well as Artemis's. I have to admit that Flash is a low key, fun boat but the mood definitely kicked up a notch when Vern Burkhardt, race chairman showed up at the inspection dock with champagne and the CYC Trophy for the first monohull back from the Flattery Race. Racing is much better with good competition, no doubt.

    It's great to win, it's better to beat someone you respect. Looking forward to more racing against Greg and the crew of Wasabi.


    • #3
      Great write-up Rogue, Thank you!

      Here are a few clicks from the lens of Jan' Marine Photography, Nice work as always!

 ~It's not the size of the website, it's how you use it! ~


      • #4
        Thanks for the input guy's, glad it turned out fun! We texted with Paul Sunday morning and it didn't sound fun out at the bank for them.....
        A little disorganization goes a long way toward fun sailing.