More Swiftsure: Hamachi, Bat out of Hell, Terremoto

Swiftsure pic borrowed from Hamachi’s Facebook page.

Following up on yesterday’s Swiftsure report, we have some more to the story. First is from frequent contributor and Hamachi crew Alyosha Strum-Palerm, who seems to be sailing everywhere, all the time, all on successful boats. Also, Bat out of Hell sailed a great race, and Terremoto had an unfortunate encounter with a rock. 


By Alyosha Strum-Palerm – Onboard Hamachi we had a race of highs and lows for sure, from being launched after Race Rocks to watching everyone sail up behind us at the finish, we were left with a mixed bag of emotions. But as always we were grateful to safely and quickly complete another Swiftsure, something that our good friends on Terremoto did not. We can only hope those injured have unexpectedly swift recoveries and the boat lives to fight another day.

On Hamachi we started second to last with the other ORC 40 footers and the big sleds. We misjudged the start and ended up crossing about a minute late in very chopped up air. After working hard for 15 minutes we found a lane and tacked off onto starboard hoping to find the next river of ebb. Several short tacks later, we found ourselves on a lifting starboard board in very favorable current. This lane sailed us around all the boats to weather of us and by the time we got to race rocks we had caught the TP52’s, RP55, SC70’s, and the faster Cape Flattery boats.

This is where we lost our 5-8 knot southeasterly and the transition to the westerly began. Glory, Crossfire, Riva and Terremoto committed to the Canadian shore while Smoke, Neptune’s Car, and we started to cross over to the American shore. We knew this was a gamble with the brutal flood just hours from starting and the risk of getting stuck in the middle of the strait with nowhere to hide being very real. This ended up being the deciding moment of the beat to Neah Bay. Smoke got absolutely launched and we were close behind them as well as Dragonfly and the Car. Longboard paced about a mile and a half behind us.

It took until 4.30PM for Crossfire to finally pass us again in the wispy fog just northwest of Pillar Point. This is where we finally saw Westerly again, which had gone hard to the American shore before Race Rocks. Pretty spooky sight to see a dark blue 70-foot boat appear out of the fog less than 200 yards away.

At this point, we thought we had all the other boats in our class well put away. As we got closer to Clallum bay we realized our lead wasn’t as untouchable as we previously thought. Longboard was in sight and Absolutely and Dark Star were about a mile behind us. This lead evaporated to several yards as we missed a nice shift and pressure to Dark Star and Absolutely. This is where Glory and Kinetic passed us as well.

The breeze piped up to about 13-15 knots and we made the change to the Heavy 1, this proved to be a good call as we extended back our lead on Absolutely, Longboard and kept pace with Dark Star, rounding just behind the 44-foot Bieker boat.

The downwind leg was a strange one, with boatspeed sitting between 11-13 knots for the first hour and sailing in visibility of <100 yards, it was difficult sailing for sure. We maintained about a mile to two gap behind Dark Star until race rocks, at times during the night we felt pretty out of phase. This is something we’ll aim to improve on before the outside legs of the Van Isle.

I was down below catching an hour of sleep when the DSC VHF alarm went off. It was sobering to hear that Terremoto had hit something at speed in the dark, in the fog, just miles from where we were. Our thoughts go out to them, then and now.

Rounding Hein Bank we felt as if we had a healthy lead on the other boats in our division and even some Div 1 boats. Strait Marine, Longboard and the 1D48 were about 20-25 minutes behind us and White Cloud and Jackrabbit were significantly farther back. Rounding the mark we pointed our bow at Victoria and let it rip on the heavy 1 in about 11-13 knots of breeze. We felt confident that a class and overall victory was within reach, especially seeing that the big boys had parked up on the approach for Victoria (Perhaps naively we thought we would escape this fate).

And park up we did, sitting just a mile from the finish and watching several dark sails get larger and larger behind us was frustrating to say the least. But as always you realize that that’s just the reality of handicap racing and sailboat racing in general. Sometimes you catch a break (like we did at Race Rocks) and sometimes you park up and watch everyone sail around you. We can only imagine the frustration on Smoke, as they had sailed a fantastic beat up to Neah Bay and a strong run back down to Hein Bank before parking up and watching all their competitors sail around them.

Following the race, Hamachi motored up to West Sound where she will stay for two weeks before Van Isle.

Stay tuned for more adventures from team Hamachi at Van Isle. We can only imagine the kind of mischief and fun we will be getting into.

Bat out of Hell

Bat out of Hell. Jan Anderson photo.

Alert reader Jenni pointed out I left out mention of the winner of the Juan de Fuca race. Sorry! I don’t have a report from onboard, but I watched her race in replay on the tracker and it clearly showed a very strong performance, by all appearances having led her class the whole way. Second place Bulletproof scooted up on third place Final Dash in the drift to the finish, which couldn’t have felt good on Dash which had had a strong second going. Congratulations to Lance Staughton and crew aboard Bat out of Hell.



Terremoto. Jan Anderson photo.

Terremoto‘s race came to an abrupt end a couple of miles west of Race Rocks. In the moonless fog she found a rock while sailing at about 13 knots under spinnaker. One crew was hurt (ribs) and the boat started leaking, but between the Royal Vic personnel and the Canadian Coast Guard, the situation was soon under control. The injured crew was picked up, and the boat was accompanied to Victoria. Ultimately Terremoto was delivered to Canoe Cove Marina where she was hauled. It’s worth noting that while the impact was huge, the cassette-type keel mounting system remained basically intact. A lesser design may have had much more damage.

One Weird Swiftsure Race

One Weird Swiftsure Race

What do you call a Swiftsure that is really neither a “Swiftsure” or a “Driftsure?”

Weirdsure? Fogsure? Can’tbelieveyoucamefromthatfarbacksure?

The universal comment after this year’s Swiftsure Race, sailed Saturday-Sunday, was that it was “interesting.” Given the wind predictions, one could easily interpret that to mean it sucked. But suck it did not. It really was interesting. In the end the big winners were White Cloud and Longboard on the Hein Bank ORC course, Rage and New Haven on the Lightship course and Dragonfly, Absolutely, Dominatrix and Last Tango on the Cape Flattery course. Results here.

A tired Bruce Hedrick reported that the J/35 Talequah had a great Cape Flattery race, finishing second. But he admitted his predictions were a bit off. “It was one of the weirdest ones ever,” he said. And since he’s been doing these since the 1960s, that’s saying something. “At 0530 there was no gradient, and the wind was SSE at the start with a westerly at Race Rocks. We caught and passed Glory, which is how weird things got.

Bruce Hedrick gave a presentation at the Strathcona Hotel at 1630 Friday

Eventually the westerly filled. Sort of. “The Strait was like Swiss cheese, full of holes that you couldn’t see on water.”

But the weirdness was just beginning. As boats sailed into a thick fog bank, then turned for home, they were sailing fast through a thick night fog. With a clear sky directly overhead and no moon or light pollution, the night sky stood in stark relief. ” We could even see the space station,” Hedrick said. Even the Northern Lights made an appearance.

Ah but Swiftsure returned to character as the wind died in the morning. “With the ebb starting, we took the great circle route, getting as far to the east as we could,” Hedrick explained. It worked and with some aggressive sail changes and intense trimming Tahlequah managed to nab a few boats fighting the ebb at the finish. “Many boats were parked up. It was very painful for some people.”

Hedrick pointed out that his alma mater’s forecasting models were close. “It proved once again that the University of Washington’s MM5 1 1/3 kilometer model was more accurate that any of the other GFS services.”

Here are a few of Jan Anderson’s photos. Please visit her site and support her work.

Onboard the mighty Crossfire on the Hein Bank course it was the best of times and the worst of times. Her track shows the long tack to the U.S. shore, which paid dividends. Smoke hit it even harder and had a nice lead, but Crossfire was giving chase, leaving Glory (temporarily) behind.

Crossfire‘s navigator Brad Baker explained the chase during the first half of the race, “Smoke, literally, smoked everyone by going hard left, and sailing into the current and a left shift, doing an end around and nearly a horizon job.  It took us the entire leg to Neah bay to reel them back in. We were about a third of a mile behind them by the time we rounded.”

Crossfire’s track courtesy of Rick Donohue.

Smoke stayed with Crossfire gybe for gybe until Hein Bank, when things started to go horribly for her, not good for Crossfire and brilliantly for Dark Star and Glory.

Baker explained, “For the Hein Bank Race the key moment was Hein Bank to the finish. From my perspective timing was everything and if you got there at the wrong time, I don’t know that there was much you could do.  That was the case for us aboard Crossfire. Though we could have managed that last leg better by making a quicker tack to the left, I don’t know that it would have mattered much as far as the overall finish goes. The wind died and we parked, allowing other boats that we’d done a pretty good job of putting away, a chance to catch up.

Baker wraps up, “Overall it was a spectacular race, about as nice a Swiftsure as I can remember. Yes there were some challenging moments with light air and the current certainly was generally not favorable. That all said, oh man it was beautiful out there. We had amazing weather and the spectacle of nature was abundant. We’re talking porpoises and seabirds. We sailed in and out of fog banks on the American side near Pillar point. It was surreal as we crossed tacks in clouds with Hamachi, Westerly, and Neptune’s Car. The sunset at Neah Bay was beautiful. The new moon setting on the horizon, wow.  During the night there was not a cloud in the sky, bringing out the stars and milky way in full force. We watched as the space station crossed overhead. Oh and did I mention the Northern lights?”

And that ferocious little Riptide Mk II Longboard spent some time in third place on the water, mixing it up with those TP 52s and the like. And in the end, she won Hein Bank Division 1 handily but lost to Division 2 boats White Cloud and Jack Rabbit on overall corrected time. The ever humble Longboard skipper Peter Salusbury explained, “We got lucky on the way out favoring the long port gybe in the SE to the US shore along with Hamachi and Smoke and at one point were third in fleet! Very weird sailing in that thick fog bank all the way to Race Rocks – thank goodness for AIS plotters! We had to gybe around a number of commercial ships. And for the Hein Bank fleet the corrected standings were largely influenced by what time you got to the finish line. The big boats on our course got completely shafted, we faired much better, and White Cloud and Jack Rabbit won the lottery by sailing in without ever stopping in a freshening westerly. Guess that is Swiftsure for you!”

It’s worth pointing out that, luck or no luck, the first two boats in Hein Bank Division 1, Longboard and Dark Star, were from the talented screens of Paul Bieker.

There are as many stories as there are boats in Swiftsure, and it’d be great to share some more. Photos too! Send ’em in and I’ll post them. Also check out (and of course “like”) the Facebook Page if you’re into that social network. When I come across relevant Facebook posts (there are a lot of worthy videos and photos) I’ll share them there.


Bruce’s Weather Brief for May 27-29 and Swiftsure Classic!

Bruce’s Weather Brief for May 27-29 and Swiftsure Classic!

What a week it has been in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Tuesday saw a steady 40 at Race Rocks and Smith Island had a gust to 59. Yikes. That is not fun sailing, that is survival or better yet, just stay at the dock and don’t put yourself or your vessel in harms way. How things can change. Yesterday, for the delivery up to Victoria, it was for the most part a mill pond across the Straits with even a light, warm easterly in places.

As usual, the most predictable part of this weekend will be the tidal currents in Race Passage and they won’t be insignificant.

Tidal Current Race Passage


0749    Max Ebb         6.7 knots

1151    Slack

1436    Max Flood       6.1 knots

1818    Slack

2146    Max Ebb         4.9 knots


0110    Slack

0253    Max Flood       1.8 knots

0433    Slack

0843    Max Ebb         6.6 knots

1237    Slack

1527    Max Flood       5.9 knots

1912    Slack

2042    Max Ebb         5.0 knots

Kudos to the Race Committee for changing the start order because the JdF and Flattery fleets are going to need all the help they can get to make it to the Race before the flood starts. As you can see from the surface charts there is simply no gradient over the Pacific Northwest, nor will there be until later this coming week. We are caught between two relatively weak high pressure systems and with the jet stream (see 500MB charts) well north of us, there’s nothing to move this situation along.

This is also reflected in the fact that the models used for forecasting are not very much in agreement especially after tomorrow afternoon. This is where being your own weather forecaster will be helpful and that’s going to start by logging the pressure readings, wind direction and wind strength over the race course. This mornings readings showed the pressure at Forks at 1015.1 with the pressure at Bellingham at 1015.5 which tells us a couple of things. 1. The wind will be light in the Straits and from the east, never a very stable situation. And 2, sure enough 2 knots from the East at Race Rocks, 2 knots from WNW at Sheringham, and 4 knots from ESE at the JA Buoy at the mouth of the Straits. As the land masses heat up over the course of the day, this will draw a westerly down the Straits with the most wind (15-20 knots) being in the eastern part of the Straits, Race Rocks to Smith Island. This pattern may repeat itself tomorrow. Generally speaking, the first day of this pattern is the best chance of good breeze. Each day in succession, the breeze will fill later and not be as strong.

Most models show light air over the starting area tomorrow morning which will make getting through the Race before the flood starts at 1130-1200hrs a challenge. The flood starts first on the Vancouver Island side so if you get through the Race with the last of the ebb, get to the US side as fast as you can. If the pattern holds, we’ll start in a drainage or downslope ENE which will probably be less than 5 knots. Clearly with all that ebb tide you will not want to swept over the start line early as getting back might be next to impossible.

The other part about getting to the US side of the Straits is that when the westerly does fill, it comes down the US side first, with Canadian side staying light. Two of the models show the westerly filling between 1500-1800 hrs. This will make this a long race.

How long you might ask? If we run the GFS model for Crossfire, certainly one of the fastest boats out there, it shows them completing the Hein Bank course in 42 hours. Don’t kill the messenger……

Around the rest of the Northwest it will simply be a great weekend to be on the water so load the family, the BBQ, and enjoy yourselves.

Ed. Note: Bruce is giving a weather presentation at 16:30 this afternoon. We’re trying to find the location right now, when we do we’ll update this post. UPDATE: The in-person brief at 16:30 is at the Strathcona Hotel!





Bruce’s Brief for Swiftsure 2016

Bruce’s Brief for Swiftsure 2016

What a challenge this has been for the weather forecasters this week with none of the models coming into agreement about what is going to happen this weekend. The latest problem is that there is a new low pressure system that has formed off of the north end of Vancouver Island. It’s weak and not going to last very long, just long enough to make things interesting on Swiftsure. Its attached frontal system will drag across the NW on Saturday with the post frontal system taking a while to set up.

The good news is that we have an ebb tide for the start and a fairly good southeasterly breeze which will at least get us out of the starting area and through Race Passage at a fairly good clip. By 1100 to 1200 things will start to deteriorate as the front will have passed and the breeze ( what there is left of it) will start to get squirelly. Some models have it evaporating in the mid-Straits and staying that way until after midnight. One model has the wind evaporating at 1200 in the mid-Straits but then filling in from the west at 4-6 knots at around 1700 hours which would at least give you some light air beating out to the mark. Once you round the mark it will be a race to see who can get back down the Straits and into more wind. It won’t build from the west however the wind will increase in velocity the further down the Straits you get.

Then there are those pesky tides.

0750 Slack

1228 Max Ebb                        4.0 knots

1416 Slack

1922 Max Flood          4.5 knots

2248 Slack

0225 Max Ebb                        4.1

0706 Slack

0816 Max Flood          .3 knots

0950 Slack

1337 Max Ebb                        3.5

1715 Slack

2019 Max Flood          4.0

2334 Slack


As I said, getting out won’t be a problem. It will be getting back that will be interesting with the combination of light air and LOTS of ebb. As you can see, on Sunday morning you have a very small window 0700 to 1000 hrs to get back before the ebb starts rolling again. The later you are coming down the Straits, the more wind you are likely to have so you can work the beach as you approach the Race and then just fight it out.

The keys to this year’s race will be making the most of the east-southeasterly at the start, then sailing rhumb line towards the mouth of the Straits. As the wind begins to clock in the mid-afternoon, work to the south of the rhumb line to be in a position to pick up the incoming westerly. It’s here that the real separation will occur in the fleet as the boats with the best drivers and the best trimmers will move to the front of the fleet. It won’t be easy but hard work will pay big dividends. Have the barber haulers ready and be prepared to go back and forth between the genoa (or wind seeker) and the kite. Weight to leeward or as we say, “All dogs in the house!” The night fighters will make out as trimming going downwind at night is tough. Navigators will have to keep you on the favored board and be using the 7×50 bino’s to keep you in the breeze.

Naviguessors will also have to be logging wind reports as well as the pressure readings to try and get a feel about just how fast the high pressure will be returning and with it, the westerly. Boats with the Starpath ultra sensitive barometer will benefit.

Be safe, have a great race and with any kind of luck I’ll have a post race summary for you on Tuesday.

Ed. Note: Thanks again Bruce. To our readers, please share the info and get people to visit the site! Thanks.