Last weekend’s Southern Straits Race put on by the West Vancouver YC was neither a gear-buster nor a maddening drifter. It was just a good old fashioned fast race. Sailish’s Bruce Hedrick supplied a pre-race weather briefing that was delivered the night before to racers in attendance.
There were three courses, a 133-mile long course allowing the faster boats to stretch their legs, a 98-mile medium course that seems to appeal to a lot of cruiser-racer types and a 70-mile short course.
The coveted honors of first to finish on the long course was done emphatically by Steve Travis’s Smoke, which finished an hour ahead of the two other TP 52s. Results here. Photos here (skippers is password). Facebook page here.
We have a report from Peter Salusbury, owner and skipper of sailish-favorite Longboard, a Bieker 35. He finished third on corrected time on the long course.
The 2019 Southern Straits of Georgia Race will be remembered as one of the best and fastest ever! Bruce Hedrick’s pre-race forecast proved accurate (once again) with a 5 – 8 knot westerly at the start which gradually built as the fleet beat out of English Bay and tacked up the Bowen Island shore. There was a massive ebb current on the start line which really accelerated at the committee boat end and Steve Travis’s TP 52 Smoke timed the start perfectly at the boat end and jumped into a massive current ‘elevator’ before the rest of us – there’s some great drone photos and video of the start which captured Steve’s amazing start. (ed note: I’ll try to find that video and post it later)
Most of the long course fleet left the south shore of Bowen for the long starboard tack across the Strait with the TP 52’s (Smoke, The Shadow, and Sonic) along with J/160 Jam really using their long waterlines to their advantage over us tiny 35-footers to stretch out a nice lead. A few interesting wind shifts further west on the race course created some interesting passing lanes – the J/111 65 Red Roses skippered by Alex Smyth called it well by staying north, we opted to keep more west and they did a nice job getting a jump on us before Sisters.
After Ballenas the seas flattened out and the wind lifted nicely on port tack so we gained a little back jib reaching into Sisters. Smoke really legged out on the other TP’s and rounded at 1753. The leg from Sister’s to Entrance couldn’t have been better. The most amazing full moon came up right in the east and with the crystal clear sky, lit up the race course all night – truly magical to be sliding downwind at 15+ knots boat speed with an A2 on such a beautiful evening.
We caught up and passed 65 Red Roses by Ballenas so the battle was on after that! Our timing crossing Nanaimo Harbor on the approach to Entrance couldn’t have been worse as we had to douse the chute really early to negotiate our way around two large inbound ships and then got into an interesting conversation with a tug and barge coming out of Nanaimo on the beat upwind to Ballenas!
The stiff beat from Entrance to Ballenas was bone jarring for us little 35 footers with TWS hovering between 21 to 26 knots and a steep chop. The TP 52’s reveled in the conditions and rounded fairly closely at half past midnight. We were very happy in our upwind speed and legged out on 65 Red Roses to round 36 minutes ahead of them. From Ballenas to the finish line of Point Atkinson, the NW stayed in the 20+ knot range all the way home which made for an impressive, enjoyable downwind slide home.
Smoke did a nice job stretching out over The Shadow and Sonic and won line honors at 0313 – less than 3 hours after rounding Ballenas! From the results, it looked like The Shadow and Sonic had a close finish over an hour behind Smoke, finishing within minutes of each other. The always well sailed J/160 Jam skippered by Bill Fox finished a little over an hour later to take second overall on the long course. Alex and the team on 65 Red Roses did a masterful job all race and deserve full credit for finishing first overall on the long course. On Longboard, my team did a great job pushing the boat around the course to grab the final podium spot on the long course.
Ross Macdonald and his very fast X-41 Daia made short work of the beat to Sisters on the Medium Course and took line honors just before 0200 – well done to Ross who always gives an upwind clinic in these conditions! On corrected time, John Peterson’s J/109 Legacy took Division 2 (by 8 seconds over Lodo!), Steve Blaine’s Hanse 400e Rubato won Division 3, and the Dufour 34 Invictus skippered by Vern Lhotzky took Division 4 and the Medium Course overall win.
On the short course, the Hotfoot 30 XS sails by Benoit Sonrel held off some close competitors to take the Short Course line honors win. My old Flying Dutchman colleague, Huntly Gordon sailing Flyway took Division 5 and the Short Course overall win. We all had to admire those short course boats on the stiff beat to Ballenas Island on Friday afternoon/evening – tough conditions to go upwind in such small boats – really well done to them all.
As always, the host club West Vancouver Yacht Club put on a great event – thanks to co-chairs Kelly Brix and Adam Ferguson and PRO Jen Ross – and of course the army of volunteers and club members who truly make it all happen. And a big thanks to all the competitors who travel from the US and Vancouver Island for this event – it’s a big commitment and we appreciate you all making the trek to and from your home ports.