Swiftsure 2017 (Or a series of questionable decisions)

So, Swiftsure 2017 – the first race I’ve taken Gudge in! We were in the 80 nautical mile race.

I got a big shipment of the rest of the safety stuff

and spraypainted the banners  at emma’s parents house (bribed with more prawns(emma did an excellent job on templates (they look good far away, up close you can see splatter. Gives us an urban feel, that’s what I’m going with)))

I took her down to the inner harbour Friday afternoon and rafted up with all the other boats. I had to move her down solo as Emma wasn’t arriving till the evening, and I had to back in which was a bit nerve-racking, as I don’t do that very often. The boat I was rafting onto was this IMMACULATE Cal 43 and they all looked pretty nervous as Gudgeon’s grubby arse slowly inched towards them. All went fine though and I was soon rafted with all the other boats.

Spot the non-shithot racing boat

I joined in some of the festivities (i.e heavy drinking) but went to bed around 11 to try to get some sleep. Emma had turned up and we were both exhausted, me from a busy week at work and her from a double shift at the hospital.

The next day we woke up (extremely reluctantly) at around 6:30. We went and grabbed a take-away breakfast from the place next to the harbour, got everything ready and left at 7:30, motoring down to clover point with a cluster of other boats. We were one of the first ones out which was nice! Note Gudge is missing lots of junk – I took off the dodger, removed the jerry cans and the porta-bote and even left the main anchor dockside! IN IT TO WIN* IT                          *hopefully not come last

Once at clover point, the jitters started in earnest. We were the first start, at 9am. This meant we had to manoeuver in light winds and current between 175 other boats, all under sail. And somehow get across the start line (between a navy frigate and a green buoy) without hitting anything. We raised the main and played around with how fast we could go while I tried to do some mental calculations around how far back we could be and still get over the line at a decent pace. We skulked about the back of the pack for a while and then at the 9 minute-to-go noise turned in. Mild panic as I thought the foresail was jammed, but it turns out the spinny halyard was over it. Got that sorted and we were off! At a screamin’ 3 knots! We crept over the line (while in a constant state of mild panic at the swirling melee of sailboats feet away) around 30 seconds after the start signal and immediately settled in the back 1/3 of the pack. (map pics just show boats in the Juan de Fuca race, not the other races)

Favourite part was beating the pants off a fully crewed 40 something footer who was struggling to fly their spinny

SEE YA LATER SUCKERS!!!! (later was around 25 minutes later when they cruised past us)

We were going hard for around 3 hours in light headwinds but favourable current until we got to Race Rocks, just as the (6 knot) current turned and the wind died completely. Enviously watching the faster boats manage to struggle through, we ended up anchoring in 165 feet of water and doing some halibut fishing (DAD HAT)

I then had a nap. Racing is intense, guys.

I was woken by Emma saying the wind had picked up – and it had! I made a snap decision to raise anchor and set sail – note that cranking in 400 foot of anchor rode with 70 feet of chain on the end is neither quick nor easy.

However, we can beat 3 knot currents in the strait with 10 knots of head wind, right?


Where ya going, Gudge?

Oh. Oh dear.

Note all the other boats taking advantage of the current shift at race rocks and heading West, while Gudgeon goes for a visit to Port Angeles! 3 knots of adverse current plus direct head winds meant we weren’t going anywhere except backwards. Despite being heeled over and ripping along, we were heading SSE instead of SWW where we needed to be!

Eventually the current shifted and we struggled back north and west

Notice how far behind we are now :(.

Basically I think the wind/current was better on the Canadian side, and by heading south (and backwards!) so soon, we basically doomed ourselves.

Then, the halyard jammed and when I cranked on it while reefing the winch jammed followed by the line clutch exploding. RIP.

We struggled on with a jury-rigged halyard rigged to a jib cleat for a while, but then at 1 am I made the decision to quit. I was worried about the main if the winds picked up (I was kicking myself for not replacing the spare halyard which we could have used instead but it was chafed and I didn’t trust it), both me and Emma were exhausted (as mentioned earler) and we were so far behind after my ‘shortcut’ I wasn’t even sure we would round the mark in time as the current was due to shift again in a few hours, leaving us with an 8 hour motor the next day.

We were only 30mins motor away from Sooke, so we headed over there and dropped anchor. Funnily enough Emma’s mum’s friend has a house there and took this awesome pic of us


LOOK AT THAT FOG BANK! We also saw the Northern Lights! Only the second time I’ve seen it – super cool!


In the morning we motored bank, dodging sailboats looming out of the thick fog. I got to use my foghorn again to my great delight, HOOOOONNNNKKKKK.

We made it back safely where I instantly fell asleep. DONE!

Although we didn’t finish it was still a really great experience – I feel like I learnt more in 12 hours than I did in an entire summer of weekend sailing. My safety equipment is all updated, and I have further areas to refit (I’ve already ordered another halyard).

Would Race Again (but maybe try to be less clever this time)






  1. I’ve been stuck on the hard all weekend so that sounded like a much better way to spend your time.

    Congrats on your first Swiftsure. May there be many more to come!

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