The 76th annual International Swiftsure Yacht Race takes off near Clover Point on May 25. (Brian Webb Photo)

Mariners preparing for 76th annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race

Longstanding competition takes off from Victoria’s Inner Harbour May 25

Mariners from around the world are headed to Victoria to partake in one of the longest-running sailboat races in the world.

The annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race is sailing into Victoria for its 76th year, bringing yachts of all kinds from around B.C., Canada and the world to the Salish Sea.

Hosted by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, the race tests sailing skills, endurance and strategy during four long courses – the Swiftsure Lightship Classic (243.2 kilometres), the Hein Back Race (207.8 km), the Cape Flattery Race (179.3 km) and the Juan de Fuca Race (138.5 km).

The 2019 Swiftshore Inshore Classic sees sailors take a shorter, 40-km route off the Victoria waterfront, east toward San Juan Island and finishing in Cadboro Bay.

With 150 yachts already registered, boaters are preparing to face not only the unpredictable currents, but fog, rain, extreme weather and the challenges of night time racing.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Swiftsure International Yacht Race

With 150 yachts already registered, the race draws all types of sailors, from experienced amateurs to long-time professionals, like Alex Fox and skipper Glenn Wakefield, who first took part in Swiftsure in the ‘70s. This year they are again heading out on the water with their crew on the Westwind II.

“The race itself is always a challenge because of the weather and the tides changing constantly,” Fox said. “It’s kind of like taking a test that you think you know how to pass but every year it’s different.

Skipper Glenn Wakefield (left) and Alex Fox are sailing the Westwind II in this year’s Swiftsure International Yacht Race. Both sailors have been participating in the race since the ’70s. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

You plan for whatever wind is forecast, you plan for the currents and you come up with a game plan and you stick to that basically, but you’re also aware of where your competition is.”

Wakefield said, “[Swiftsure] is a classic for Victoria and the West Coast.”

Chris Maier, a lieutenant commander in the Royal Canadian Navy, is a skipper on ‘Tuna,’ one of two Navy boats participating in this year’s competition.

“From a sailing perspective, it’s just an amazing race,” he said. The sailing course looks simple, but when you go out… the tides, the currents, the weather, the shipping in the channel and all the other boats on the race course make it a very challenging event for the sailors.

And then there’s just the amazing community atmosphere that Swiftsure generates. We’re always excited to take part.”

Spinnakers Pub is again supporting the event and has released a new Swiftsure beer this year – a malty, lightly-hopped amber ale.

On May 23 the public is invited to check out the yachts at Victoria’s Inner Harbour before they head off to sea.

Race day starts May 25, with yachts leaving the Inner Harbour around 7 a.m. and the first races starting by 9 a.m. near Clover Point.

Onlookers can enjoy a pancake breakfast put on the Central Saanich Lions Club at 8 a.m. at Clover Point and watch the fascinating dance of the yachts below.

Each race starts with a gun blast from the deck of the HMCS Edmonton, and what follows can look like total chaos from above, with boats jostling to make it to the right position – as close to the start line without crossing it – by the time the gun goes off.

The Royal Canadian Air Force 442 Squadron will then conduct a search and rescue demonstration over the water near Clover Point.

For more information on this year’s Swiftsure race, visit swiftsure.org.

READ ALSO: SETTING SAIL: Swiftsure yacht race takes to Victoria waters



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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