Polar Bear Race – 2014-03-09

Polar Bear Series / Racing / VRC
Schogun under sail

Hold on there! Is that a boat moving under sail? Or are we almost as mad as the Pacific Ocean rowers practicing in the distance?

Shock and awe! There was a breeze! At just under 10 knots yet! The sun was starting to peek out after what seems like weeks of rain, and life was looking good.

A depleted crew arrived on the comedy boat M.V. Perihelion at 9 AM bearing gifts of shepherd’s pie and salad, so we cast off to make our way out to English Bay and await the combatants for the final race of the season. Would anyone turn up? After all we had only managed three days of racing the whole season so far and people must have been getting despondent. But, again I say, there was a breeze! Half the usual committee had gone down with one sickness or another, so Tim O’Connell joined us as race PRO, Mida climbed out of her sick bed to do her bit and Jenn, fit and stoic as ever, came aboard too. I just drive the boat and take some pictures, so I don’t count really. But we made a jolly bunch.

Sea Weasel before the start

The heavily pregnant Sea Weasel follows Turicum before the start.

Even jollier we were when the fleet turned up en-mass and we set the course, using the QC buoy as the start pin and deciding to send the racers off on a downwind start towards a freighter.

Some confusion arose when we described the freighter as grey, with red anti fouling, and a “K” on the funnel. It turned out that there were three identical boats out there as described!

After much back and forthing on the radio, the right freighter was identified and everyone seemed happy. And we didn’t even get one single boat calling us in the middle of the start sequence to ask directions or clarification on anything! Well done everyone. Hmmmm.

The start

Havoc leads the start followed closely by XS and the eventual winner Tiger Lily

The start was perfect and the sun started to come out on cue. We decided to send the fleet around twice, but thought better of it after a bit and shortened the course for the Division 2 boats as the wind was dying – again.

The rivalry between VRC Fleet Captain Ben Rummen’s Thursday’s Child (Thirsty Child) and VRC Race Officer Shane Afreds’ Santana 30-30 Talisman (or “Head Banger” as Ben calls it, and Taliban as the rest of us refer to it) is legendary, and today’s joust was no exception.


What a great sight. Cregan is at centre with yellow and red spinnaker finally set.

But none of this stopped Alex Cregan from being the loudest skipper of all out there on this day. We could still hear him as he went around the freighter 2.5 miles away! I don’t think he was happy with the way the spinnaker went up somehow. We decided to put lunch in the oven.

Bad mistake because Tiger Lily came charging back before half the fleet had made it a hundred yards it seemed! So we were going to be busy. We had decided to take times at the first lap for the Division 1 boats, just in case the wind died completely, plus we had to distinguish the Div. 2 boats before they got to us so that we could put the “shortened course” flags up.

Race committee

Score keeper Mida and PRO Tim O’Connell check out Tiger Lily as she crosses the line for the first time.

There was some great racing as the fleet came back towards us, and our grandstand seat was fabulous. I even had to revert to a golf shirt and felt a distinct glow on my face from the sun. Not that the picture shows much evidence of that, but really, it was warm!


Slingshot of Div 2 drifts slowly past us saying thanks as they won line honours for their division, by a long way.

The division 2 boats started to get back but some had enormous difficulty in rounding the mark as the wind died and the current kept taking them the other way, but they all made it in the end, and even Division 1 got everybody home except for 3 boats who retired, one of which was Alex Cregan on Argosy who was so hoarse he couldn’t speak, so had to drink! I am sure it was water of course.

With the race over, it was back to the VRC clubhouse for the wrap up – and that’s when the fight started!! I’M KIDDING!

I brought the Perihelion in alongside the visitor’s dock next to the club house and suddenly 50 people climbed aboard with another 100 or so scattered around on the dock! We handed out some beer and lots of prizes kindly donated by our sponsors Navis Insurance, Granville Island Boatyard and Evolution Sails. I even spotted Brent Henderson doing the Titanic thing out on the end of the bowsprit.

Dock party

This was pretty much after it was all over, but Brent is still dancing on the dog house roof!

What a party we had! I was amazed at how many new faces I got to see, from boats from different clubs too. But young faces. We do have another generation doing this boys and girls! I hope they all enjoyed it as much as I did, but I have to say I am still scraping off the old sticky beer. But it was worth every moment.

So, as for the season, we had enormous fun, but did very little racing because the wind gods had deserted us for the most part. Now Summer is here soon and we will be cruising, visiting the amazing places on our coastline and rejuvenating our souls for next Winter. Did I really say that out loud??

Thanks so much to Ben Rummen and Shane Alfreds and their many helpers for all the hard work and putting all this together so that we can have fun. We all really do appreciate it.

Written by Evan Seys