My Swiftsure Experience – May 2018

posted Jun 8, 2018, 5:09 PM by A Rice

Kristin Bedell

The Swiftsure International Yacht Race is the premier long distance sailing race in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia area. Starting and ending in Victoria, BC over the Memorial Day weekend, the 75th edition on May 26 attracted nearly 200 boats including 18 multihulls.  

We had not gone for a couple of years.  I didn’t race on our Corsair F31R, Freda Mae, but enjoyed the journey to and from Victoria. This year Vincent DePillis, Jon Frodge, Johnny Ohta, and I treated this as our first cruise of the season (our fourth racer, Jim Kublin, joined in Victoria).  We had a lovely sail to Port Townsend on May 23 (land of beautiful views, quiet, and friendly people), staying overnite with old friends and eating BBQ salmon and garden fresh salad greens of all varieties. From there we attempted to sail through the washing machine of the flood tide at Point Wilson and across the straits. This was when the adventure started: a strong westerly and adverse tide created square-shaped, very choppy waves. The skies were clear and sunny -- which allowed us to easily track freighters and take in snowy Olympic peaks to the south – but the chop made me queasy. I sat still in one spot for 5 hours while the guys sailed the boat. It takes longer than you think as you go westward and try to reel in the ever elusive land mass and entrance at Ogden Point (graced by two huge cruise ships). We cleared customs and docked at 4pm. The inner harbor had filled up quickly and most multihulls had arrived. For hours after, I sway and rock as if I am still on a boat. Fortunately, our hotel room was two blocks away and a comfortable escape from the hubbub -- perfect for showers, watching basketball play-offs, and re-heating food. 

On Friday Vince did his boat thing -- puttering, yakking with other sailors, getting ready for Saturday’s race.  My favorite pastime is wandering through neighborhoods and parks admiring gardens. I stumbled upon the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria which had an exhibit of Emily Carr’s paintings of forests and trees, as well as amazing First Nations prints from the Pacific Northwest. While the guys attended the multihull dinner at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club that evening, I had sushi at Nobu - highly recommended!

On Race Day everyone is hyped up, even at 7am. The boats head out of the harbor as if they are going to war – anxious to get to the starting line by 9am for the Juan de Fuca race to Clallam Bay: round trip 78 miles. I hopped on a green bike-share bike to get out to Clover Point to join neighbors, young and old, who gather to watch the cannon start the races. Despite a clear day, Vincent knew it would be an exciting race. I checked the tracker every few hours but generally did not worry, taking the opportunity to explore this relaxed city. My favorite sights included a Victorian era bike parade, a farmer’s market packed with excited kids, a serious cricket match in Beacon Hill Park, and bracing the wind walking on the Ogden Point breakwater to the lighthouse. Suffice to say the Freda Mae racers returned by 8pm both exhilarated and exhausted. Results here.

We also took two days to return to Seattle. Sailing from Victoria to Port Townsend was much more fun since we were going downwind with the tide the whole way and even spinnakered around the back side of Protection Island. Following another fantastic evening with friends, we  pushed off on a quiet Memorial Day to sail through the canal and home. Light winds the whole way but great chit-chat on the boat and naps for the tired sailors. I am so grateful to live in such a glorious region of the world.