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.
Simply Sailing students are crewing aboard Turicum (C&C 44) preparing for VanIsle 360. After a few practice races and sail clinics during the winter the first big test was participating in Southern Straits 2013.
For many of the crew this was the first time to sail at night. And what a night we had. a starlite sky and aurora borealis - what a spectacle.
The winds were light, especially a night. We tried out our new 3DL headsail. What a fantastic sail compared to the older #1.
The winds picked up during the morning and the final leg from Halibut Bank to Point Atkinson turned out to be as good as racing can get. A photo finish with almost ten boats crossing the finish line within minutes, all flying their colourful spinnakers.
A happy but tired crew finished 4th in their division. Congratulations!
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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