Swiftsure 2015 – One for the Ages
This was one for the ages. Just about perfect conditions at least for three out of the four long courses. On the new Hein Bank course the TP 52 Glory was first to finish, first in IRC, and first overall averaging 10 knots around the course. The Swiftsure Classic race that went out into the ocean wasn’t quite so lucky as the breeze dropped to 4-5 knots in big swells, fog and mist. Rage out of Portland was the first boat around the mark, rounding at about the time the first boats were finishing the Hein Bank course. What was really interesting was that Rage was only two minutes ahead of the second boat to round, the amazing Bieker 35 MK 2 Longboard out of West Van. Not surprisingly Rage went on to be first to finish but only about an hour and 20 minutes ahead of Longboard who took the overall trophy.
For the start there was about 8-10 knots of SW breeze and the key was to find clear air and get over to shore north of Race Passage where you could pick up at least a knot of extra current sweeping you through Race Passage. At the Race you had to hitch back up to Island to stay in the current and the wind. Those who tried to head across early found themselves in much less wind and much less positive water. People kept trying to be the first to break for the American shore however as they ran out of the wind they were forced to hitch back up only to find this had cost them considerably.
About 1/2 way to Sheringham, the breeze stabilized at 12-14 knots from wnw so you could finally stay on starboard, get the big boys on the rail and sail fast towards the mark with 1 to 1.5knots of current pushing you the right way.
Between Pillar Pt and Slip Pt at Clallam Bay the breeze increased to 17-knots which got everyone down to their #3’s. This only lasted for about 45 minutes and then it was back to the H#1’s. After Clallam Bay the breeze stayed at about 12 knots until it became the battle between the southwesterly coming over the land and the northwesterly trying to fill down the Straits. The tacticians who got it right made big gains. As you approached the Neah Bay mark the breeze dropped back to 4-6 knots.
All the forecasts showed there would be more breeze on the Vancouver Island side for the run back so most skippers tried a gybe set at the mark to get themselves back out into steadier breeze and the flooding tide. It did however pay to gybe back to starboard and run down the US side when those SW puffs hit. Almost all the boats on the Neah Bay course rounded well before sunset.
As you worked your way back down the Straits, as predicted, the wind steadily built from a benign 7-10 knots to 12-15 at Sheringham. VHF weather reports had 24-knots at Race Passage so prudent skippers changed to their heavy kites and tee’d up a headsail just in case there was more wind than that and those who arrived at the Race between 2300 hrs and just after mid-night encountered gusts over 30 knots that resulted in some spectacular round-ups and totally trashed kites.
Once you turned the corner and aimed towards the finish the breeze backed right off to 10 knots and folks got ready for a dropping breeze as you got closer to the finish, or so they thought. Almost as soon as you set your kite again, the breeze came back up to 20-knots and held all the way to the finish. Unbelievable!
There might be a pattern here as on the Cape Flattery course it was the Bieker 35 Terremoto that totally torched that fleet, correcting out a half hour ahead of first to round and first to finish Madrona, Carl Buchan’s beautiful 40-footer. Even though Madrona was 12 minutes ahead of Terremoto at the mark, they were only ONE second ahead at the finish.
On the Juan de Fuca race there was truly a break in the ULDB domination of this Swiftsure when the Catalina 42, Cantina, skippered by Gary Sagert while not among the early finishers was close enough to capture the overall honors having been third overall at the rounding. That had to be one very comfortable ride.
There were certainly a lot of sailors walking around Victoria Sunday morning with silly grins on their faces congratulating themselves for having sailed in one of the best Swiftsure Races EVER.
I should also mention that Royal Vic did their usual superb job of race management including greeting every boat at the Inspection dock with a cup of hot minestrone soup for every crew member. OUTSTANDING.