Tricky navigation for 15 competitors
BY CHRISTOF MARTI, SPECIAL TO THE SUN AUGUST 7, 2014
Fifteen boats competed in the biannual Vic-Maui International Yacht race starting in early July, and the 2014 event saw it all.
From light winds to storms, from idle fishing in the doldrums to tricky navigation around the high pressure zones; it was all there. Great memories were made yet again and we all look forward to the 50th anniversary race in 2016.
The race started in Victoria and took the competitors across the Pacific to Lahaina, Maui; more than 4,000 kilometres away. Most boats took around 14 days to complete one of the world’s longest ocean races.
This year’s competition was very challenging, as the Pacific high that has traditionally developed by this time of the year was split into several high pressure zones.
While high pressure brings us sunny weather in Vancouver, sailors dread it as there is no wind in the centre of a high. The fleet soon split into two groups, one seeking a more westerly path between two distinct high pressure zones, the other staying closer east hoping for stronger winds closer to shore.
Both groups had to endure days of light winds making little progress to Maui, sails flapping idly under the scorching sun. The sailors worked to make some headway towards the elusive trade winds, the day only broken by the lonely flying fish and the odd tuna slicing through the water.
Rumour has it that some competitors passed the time fishing or going for a swim. After days of crawling across the Pacific, the fleet finally reached the trade winds. Competitors who decided on the more westerly route came out on top and enjoyed sailing in a solid breeze, while the other boats farther east had to wait a little longer to enjoy the fresh breeze.
This year’s Vic-Maui race saw its share of excitement. Early on, Anduril lost steering and had to hobble into San Francisco under emergency steering. Kinetic lost two steering cables but had a third in store that got them to Maui. Strong winds and sudden squalls shredded thousands of dollars worth of sails on different boats.
A final storm near the finish line tore through the fleet with brute force, bringing down the mast of Kahuna and ripping up the main sail on Turicum. Luckily, nobody was hurt and all boats made it safely into port. The sail lofts back in Vancouver are looking forward to the fleet’s return.
Long Board crossed the finish line at Kaanapali first and took the overall win. String Theory won their division and took second overall.
Read the entire race report here.
The weather forecast for the 2014 Southern Straits was promising: Wind & sunshine for Friday, lighter winds for Friday afternoon then an increasing breeze through the night and possibly a few sprinkles for Saturday.
We started the race with a bang: Coming up to the start line, a bit early for our desired position near the pin, we de-powered the boat to slow down,
when suddenly a gut wrenching bang and a shudder went through the boat, I looked aft only to see that one of our competitors, Madrona, had their anchor roller buried in our wind vane.
A quick look revealed no apparent damage, so we pressed on with the start and got over the line at the gun in clear air.
Westerly, a Santa Cruz 70 rolled us immediately and further upwind Glory a TP52 pressed ahead. Not much we could do against those two sleds.
On we sail, close hauled, under full main and the number one genoa, the boat flying through the water close to hull speed. Beating our way out of English Bay was fantastic, criss-crossing with our competitors exhilarating. We passed within a stones throw of the Point Atkinson lighthouse, out into the Strait of Georgia towards Halibut Bank.
We flew the brand new Code Zero as we try to get every bit out of the weakening winds. Early in the afternoon we round Halibut Bank and head back to Point Grey just off UBC. Rounding the second mark we are now on our way to Sangster Island some 35 miles up the Strait of Georgia. Initially the weather gods did not mean well and winds were light. Luckily this did not last long and the breeze freshened up resulting in fantastic race conditions.
We had the crew divided into two watches. Our watch was on early evening until 10:30 pm and so we got to enjoy the sunset. My favorite times on a boat are sailing into the sunset and then again early morning at sunrise. Nothing can describe the feeling when the sails are full, pushing the boat through the water, while the sun sets over the ocean. Simply fantastic.
Approaching Sangster Island was some of the best sailing I experienced. String Theory ran under spinnaker in a building breeze. The waves were not big, but just enough to keep the helmsmen on the toes. A little hick-up during a gybe added some excitement but was a great exercise for the team to perform under pressure. Finally, we round the island, spinnaker down, jib up and hard on the wind String Theory points her bow towards Ballenas Island. Close hauled, racing at close to 9 kts, under a starlit sky - sailing nirvana. It was hard to give up the helm and finally get some rest before getting up again at 2:30 am.
It’s never easy to get on deck in the middle of the night, but this year at least it was not cold and there was a good breeze to take us home. Looking ahead we saw Jam becalmed near Bowen Island. Memories of languishing in the lee of Bowen for hours in flat seas came back. Meanwhile the wind slowed down and finally we hit the conversion zone with confused winds. We decided to get the spinnaker up, only to have the wind die on us. Up comes the wind-seeker and 30 seconds later the wind was up to 15 knots. Luckily, Mort the boat owner, was sleeping as we tried in vain to get the sail down and hoist the genoa again, while the wind seeker was flapping in the building breeze. It was a bit chaotic and I think there was a moment when we had three or four sails up, none of them flying properly until we finally sorted it out. We managed to do this twice within less than 20 minutes. Excitement!
Just as our watch came to an end, the wind started to behave again and filled in. The other team came on deck and took us home for a fantastic finish in strong winds.
While the ranking does not reflect this, Team String Theory had a fantastic race, great sailing and a fabulous time as a team. What a wonderful group of sailors!
We all look forward to the next race.
Photo by Penny N.
Part two of the Van Isle 360 coverage appeared in the Vancouver Sun.... more.
Christof is the owner and operator of Simply Sailing. An enthusiastic sailor he loves to share his knowledge with other sailors.
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