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BC Sailing Association News May Club of the Month - Swiftsure (Royal Victoria Yacht Club)
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May Club of the Month - Swiftsure (Royal Victoria Yacht Club) - May 01, 2017

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The Royal Victoria Yacht Club hosts the largest race in the Pacific Northwest—the Swiftsure International Yacht Race in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This year is the 74th running with over 200 boats from as far away as Portland Oregon, Greater Seattle, Greater Vancouver, and throughout the Vancouver and Gulf Islands. Over 200 race yachts and 1,500 racers will descend on Victoria to test their sailing and navigation skills, their patience and endurance.

The birth of the Swiftsure race occurred in 1930 through discussions among representatives of the Royal Vancouver, Seattle, and Royal Victoria Yacht Clubs. One proposal was for a race around Vancouver Island patterned after the British Fastnet Race. Another was that sailors could get just as sick if they sailed around the Swiftsure Lightship anchored at Swiftsure Bank. This vessel, the US Coast Guard’s red ship with ‘Swiftsure’ in dazzling large white letters on the hull, was the navigation light station to guide vessels entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Thus the Swiftsure Lightship Classic race course was born. Since 1961, the Royal Canadian Navy has provided a mark rounding vessel anchored at Swiftsure Bank for this race course, after the Swiftsure Lightship was stood down from service.

Since 1951, upon the request of the Pacific International Yachting Association, the Royal Victoria Yacht Club has permanently hosted the Swiftsure International Yacht Race. In the early Swiftsure years, the race start was from various locations around Puget Sound and Juan de Fuca Strait and at varying times through the spring/summer. With the Royal Victoria Yacht Club as the race host, Swiftsure has since been run from Victoria’s Inner Harbour and waterfront for the start and finish of the race during the US Memorial Day weekend.

In response to a considerable number of racers who indicated they wanted to participate in the Swiftsure International Yacht Race, but did not wish to race such a long distance or to race in the swells of the Pacific Ocean entering the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, shorter courses have been established over the years. Recently, the one-day Swiftsure Inshore Classic was added. So today, sailors have the choice of racing single handed, double handed, fully crewed, overnight, or in a long day race.

The Notices of Race are on the swiftsure.org website. There are four long courses, and three single-day Inshore Classic race courses:

  • Swiftsure Lightship Classic for monohulls, 138.2 NM
  • Hein Bank Race for monohulls, 118.1 NM
  • Cape Flattery Race for monohulls, 101.9 NM (includes a double handed division)
  • Cape Flattery Race for multihulls, 101.9 NM
  • Juan de Fuca Race for monohulls, 78.7 NM (includes a double handed division)
  • Swiftsure Inshore Classic for monohulls and for multihulls, a long day race on May 27th (includes single handed divisions)

A great place to watch the start of the race is at Clover Point in Victoria on the morning of Saturday, May 27 from 9 AM. Through the night and into Sunday, Ogden Point, at the entrance to Victoria’s Inner Harbour, is a fine spot from which to view the finishing yachts. And the fleet can be followed on Swiftsure’s Race Tracker system which is accessed from the home page of swiftsure.org.

Swiftsure…Always a Challenge

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