As Swiftsure Races go, this certainly wasn’t one of the worst and really was pretty good since we had wind, for the most part, and if you were on the fastest rated vessel in your class, as we predicted, you probably did fairly well. It was a still a challenging race and provided sailors with plenty of tactical and strategic options. RVYC once again did a great job running the event including getting it started on time, making the post race inspections short and to the point, and then providing any boat that wanted it a cup of excellent minestrone soup for each and every crew member. What a great way to finish Swiftsure.
The weather guys at both PredictWind and MM5 were pretty much spot on as we had 8-10 knots from the SSW for the start and with the tide slack it paid to start at the Clover Point end of the line and hold starboard tack until you tacked and came in south of Albert Head. You did not want to get too close to the beach even though you were sailing into an increasing flood tide as the wind did go quite light and flukey in there.
Ed. Note: Photos by Jan Anderson. Click to enlarge. To see the entire gallery (you’re probably in there somewhere!) go here.
It was at Race Passage that the first of interesting things occurred. For the Cape Flattery Race we knew Dragonfly would once again smoke the course and the fleet which they did finishing at 2000 hrs on Saturday night. In the IRC fleet it would be a battle between Flash and Wasabi. At the Race in a building flood, conventional wisdom had it that you short tack the rocks, playing the back eddies until you got past Otter Point and maybe up as far as Sheringham. Both Dragonfly and Flash blew that out of the water by going through Race Passage on starboard holding that tack all the way to the US shore. They got lifted as the wind went from 210 to 280 and they took very few tacks to make it all the way out to Cape Flattery. The breeze built to a max of about 20 knots and then as predicted dropped as you got between 1/2 and 3/4 of the way out the Straits. Even so at rounding there was still about 10 knots of westerly. For both Flash and Dragonfly it became a case of the rich get richer as they were able to get back down the Straits and back into the higher breeze between Sheringham and the Race and ride that all the way to the finish. Normally, in the IRC fleet, Wasabi would have ground Flash down in the breeze however Flash with a lead of about 4 miles and over 30 minutes at the mark was able to get back into the stronger breeze faster and hold Wasabi off finishing 32 minutes ahead for an easy sweep of all the honors.
For the multihulls, Dragonfly finished almost 2.5 hours ahead of Bad Kitty and yet lost overall honors by 11.5 minutes. I don’t however think that Dragonfly cares much about corrected time, they just smile all the time talking about doing 20-25 knots on the downwind leg.
In the rest of the Cape Flattery race it was a much more interesting race, however the fastest rated boat still swept all the honors. At the Cape Flattery mark the always well sailed Beneteau 40.7 Bravo Zulu was the first boat around closely followed by the J-120 Time Bandit, and the J-122 Anam Cara. Then it was time for the faster rated boats to stretch their legs and get back to the Race before the tide started going into the big ebb of the day. A twenty minute lead at the mark meant a three hour difference at the finish as the fastest rated boat on the course, the J-122 Anam Cara really smoked on the downwind leg and got back into the breeze finishing over 30 minutes ahead of the Time Bandit, and two hours and forty five minutes ahead of Bravo Zulu, to take a clean sweep of all the honors.
As it normally does, the breeze dies from the west to the east and if you didn’t make it through the Race before about 0230 on Sunday morning the combination of wind going away and the ebb building to over five knots made it pretty tough to get through. Even the boats that did make it also had a tough time on the approach to the finish as the wind would come in puffs from the west, die, another puff from the south, die, and then a puff from the south-southeast, die, all the while fighting the building ebb which, while it wasn’t five knots, was still a knot. This meant that some boats took over five hours to go the last 10 miles to the finish.
More on the other fleets as we get a chance to talk to survivors. Right now it looks like on the long course it went very light in the ocean and stayed light for the trip back down the Straits. Preliminary data shows only three finishers on long course PHRF with 20 DNF’s. In the IRC Long Course unofficial reports have the TP 52 Glory taking all the marbles without skipper John Buchan onboard.