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Swiftsure Victoria Annual Yacht Race

BOOK DIRECT - Best Price

  • Birds of a Feather B&B has a honeymoon and a family suite still avaialble for this event May 24 - 26, 2014
  • If you need a private zodiac charter = perhaps taking pictures, shadowing the race, other - please contact www.MarineEcoTours.com
  • For complete infirmation for the current event year please visit www.swiftsure.org

The first recorded sailboat racing in the Victoria area was in the late 1850's, 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 Lightship on Swiftsure Bank, at the entrance to the Juan de Fuca Strait was proposed, and there were six entrants! By 1960, forty-five boats were entered in this now-classic race. However, in the following year, the Lightship was removed from service, and now sailors round a Navy Vessel temporarily on station at the same location.

In 1962, after considerable grumbling by skippers of boats that were too small to go to "the Bank", Royal Victoria Yacht Club introduced a shorter-course race to Clallam Bay, some fifteen miles west of Port Angeles, and called it the Juan de Fuca Race. Like the granddaddy classic, it too started with modest beginnings. In the first year of the Juan de Fuca race, there were but four entries; by 1969 this had risen to forty nine boats.

With continued and increased participation, and faced with only two courses, one of 137 miles and the other of only 76 miles, the race organizers and many skippers found themselves in a dilemma. The solution was the introduction in 1988 of the Cape Flattery race, of 100 miles in length, halfway between the Swiftsure Bank and the Clallam Bay courses. This has proved to be a very popular race, attracting some of the very largest boats.


In the earlier years of Swiftsure, Eaton's major-display window at the corner of Douglas & View, in downtown Victoria, was set up "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".

"Since the first radio broadcast from "Does 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' was born."

Sun shines on the start but high winds await
BY PETER COWAN Times Colonist staff
May 29, 2005

Joe and Rita Lott have followed the Swiftsure race for 30 years, always making sure they come out when one of their sons is racing.

This year, son Timothy was on one of the more than 250 boats jockeying for position Saturday morning just off Clover Point, the start line for the 62nd running of the Swiftsure International Yacht Race.

Neither Joe nor Rita sail much themselves, but three of their sons caught the sailing bug. “We always play closer attention to the race when one of them is in it,” said Rita.
With the sail number of their son’s six-metre Cal20 sailboat memorized and two pairs of binoculars, they were looking out for their son’s boat as it started in the “classics” race category, designed for older boats. Rita also had a cell phone so they can call Timothy on board the boat to check on his progress.

The Sidney couple was among thousands of people who gathered at Clover Point to watch five different starts for the various race courses that make up Swiftsure. The 10:10 a.m. start time for the first group was delayed about 15 minutes as the race committee readjusted the start line.

There was another delay as boats competing in the Cape Flattery course were recalled because too many were over the start line early. That was the largest start, with 100 boats. Other starts had individual boats recalled because they were over the line early.
The ebbing tide helped push the boats forward, but as the wind died, it helped to push them over the line early. While the winds were fairly strong for the early starts, around 11 a.m. it died down near the shore, so while boats heading out toward Race Rocks were heeled over in the strong wind, boats still waiting to start were drifting along.

The weather for spectators was fine, though, with sunny skies and warm temperatures.
“Victoria has really turned it on today,” said Rita Lott. “Visitors must be impressed.”
While winds were calm at the start, they picked up substantially on the course. Mike Nusbaum, one of the race organizers, who also sailed on the boat Dystocia, said that nine kilometres into the race the winds picked up to 50 km/h.

Nusbaum said the high winds were causing boats to withdraw from the race, many with broken equipment. Hushwings III out of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club ran into a rock near Becher Bay and lost its mast. Cariad also lost its mast in the heavy winds and was heading back late Saturday after having its equipment retrieved by rescue boats. No one was hurt on either boat and both were able to motor to port.

Environment Canada was calling for gale force winds overnight. But a few lucky sailors made it to the finish line before the high winds hit. In the Classics division, Dystocia was first in the long course and Lifestyle in the short.

The first to cross the finish line in the Swiftsure races was Yummy in the Juan de Fuca race, which came in around 8 p.m. Saturday and Dragonfly in the Cape Flattery race, which came in around 10 p.m. The rest of the boats are expected between 4 and 6 a.m. today.

Kayakers had a grandstand view of proceedings as the races got underway. Variable winds caused some problems as too many boats crossed the Swiftsure Victoria Yacht race start line before the starting signal. Photo Credit Darren Stone, Times Colonist

A new piece of technology on the Swiftsure race course this year is giving fans, and competitors real time information on where boats are on the race course.

For the first time, transponders are being used on eight of the more than 200 boats in this year’s Swiftsure sailing race. The pager-sized transponder receives position information from Global Positioning System satellites and relays that information back to race organizers over the pager network in real time.

That position information is shown on the swiftsure.org website, letting the world know where the boats are at any given time.

Mike Nusbaum, one of the event organizers, said as well as letting spectators watch the race’s progress it also is a safety feature. During an emergency, organizers know exactly where transponder equipped boats are.

Next year, he hopes to have every boat fitted with the device. Right now many other off-shore races use the device.

Steve Rander, skipper on the boat Rage, said the devices will dramatically change the race for competitors because they will be able to see exactly where each of their competitors are.

This will make the navigator the most important member of the crew, he said, because he or she will have to evaluate real time weather, current and, now, competitor information to figure out the best course to win.

Technology has really changed sailboat racing he said. He remembers when loran, the precursor to GPS units which give you your precise location, was not allowed in Swiftsure because it was seen as an unfair advantage. To figure out their location on a chart, competitors had to take compass bearings off points of land, or use automatic direction finders which honed in to radio signal towers.

Now, almost all skippers use GPS to plot their location.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014 to Monday, May 26, 2014