Southern Straits 2015 Recap


VRC Skippers and Yachts represented our club proudly at the 47th Annual Southern Straits Yacht race.  Twenty yachts from VRC, more than any club besides the host WVYC, braved the elements on four different courses starting early on Good Friday morning.  The forecast was for strong Easterly winds for the start with the breeze dying off in the afternoon and overnight then building again Saturday, though the incoming system was a weak one and very unpredictable.  There was a good possibility the wind could just shut off Friday afternoon making for a long race.


The VRC docks were abuzz with activity early Friday morning, skippers and crews loading food and gear onboard, scrubbing the boat bottoms and offloading any unnecessary weight.  Commodore Ben Rummen herded skippers and crew together for a group photo on the docks before yachts started trickling away towards the start area off Dundarave Pier in West Vancouver.  The VRC yachts rendezvoused just East of the starting area to form up and parade past the pier flying burgees and battle flags to show our pride in our club.  Hundreds of spectators lined the shore to watch more than 90 yachts circling around the starting area in preparation for the 10:30 am start.

There was a strong outgoing tide from First Narrows meaning that the Southern end of the start line would be the favoured position to get into the flood river to help sweep the fleet West out of English Bay.  The first start was for the bigger, faster yachts on the long course and it was a clean start.  Ten minutes later the 45 yachts racing the medium course rushed the line in a chaotic mass.  Post race YouTube viewing shows several of the more aggressive skippers playing bumper-boats as they fought for position after the start.  Soon after the Short and Inshore courses started setting a beautiful view for the spectators as spinnakers flew and yachts quickly rolled out of English Bay.

The winds and waves built as the fleet headed West.  The conditions resulted in many boats hitting boat speed records, many round-ups, wipe outs and torn spinnakers and even a man overboard situation for Fiasco with Clara Allegro acting quickly in recovery.  Aboard Talisman skipper, and VRC Fleet Captain, Shane Alfreds reported a high boat speed of 13.5 knots shortly before blowing up their spinnaker off Cape Roger Curtis.  As the crew, full of Straits rookies, quickly cleaned up the destroyed sail they watched the same gust knock down 8 or 9 boats ahead.  Avalon, skippered by VRC Fleet Surgeon Pieter Smits, was in her element as the larger, more stable yacht charged through the fleet of smaller race boats.

As the Long and Medium course boats headed North West to the Sisters Islets turning mark and the Short course boats headed towards Nanaimo the wind did lighten but all boats kept making progress towards their marks.  Boats were treated to some blue skies and sunshine as the afternoon progressed.  The faster boats on the Long and Medium courses made quick progress around their turning mark as the fleet stretched out due to the lighter winds.  Though nearly all boats rounded the first mark before midnight.  Many boats did find holes during the night and drifted briefly but early in the morning were treated to an unobstructed view of the lunar eclipse while racing down the Strait.

Early morning saw much of the fleet finishing off Point Atkinson in shifting winds and rain squalls as the sun rose to reveal new snow on the mountains above the Sunshine Coast and North Shore.  Some divisions struggled through light to no wind conditions to finish as the morning turned to afternoon.  This year though was a relatively fast race with the majority of the fleets finishing early Saturday morning.

VRC yachts competed strongly with many scoring highly in their divisions.  Highlights include Ian Lloyd’s Raven 5th in Div 2, Gunnar Jonsson’s Havoc 6th in Div 4 and Shane Alfreds’ Talisman 4th in Div 5 (first time Straits).  Most impressive was VRC boats taking 4 of the top 5 in Div 7: 1st – Wade Harrogate’s Silik, 2nd – Ed Karadontis’ Dusty Mauch, 4th – Kevin Treharne’s Sorcerer (first time Straits) and 5th – Tyler Campbell’s Sea Weasel.

The enthusiasm from VRC yachts bodes well for a very successful racing season.  Upcoming events that VRC yachts will be competing in include WVYC’s Collingwood Channel race on May 2nd, the Round Saltspring Race May 15-17, Swiftsure May 23-24, Van Isle 360 starting June 6th and our own VRC Summer Regatta July 11-12.