Easter 2011 meant that it was time for the Southern Straits Regatta again. After last year’s crazy ride, we were prepared for the worst, however; the weather this time around was polar opposite.
As always, we started just off Dundarave Pier in West Vancouver where a small crowd of well wishers had gathered to send us off. The 90 nautical mile course first took us out to the Ballenas Islands, then to Entrance Island, Halibut Bank, back to Entrance before the final finish at Point Atkinson Lighthouse. We expected the race to last 30+ hours so the plan was to have the 10 person crew work in 4hr shifts. But given the beautiful sunshine and calm steady winds, after an entire week of rain, no one really wanted to hang out down below. We were in great spirits and recanted war stories of previous sails as we beat up the south side of Bowen. We stayed out of the Strait as it looked like the best winds were along the coast.
Thanks to Jill and Layne, the crew enjoyed a delicious dinner of beef bourguignon which we re-heated in the oven as we watched a beautiful sunset. At 8 o’clock, we started our shifts as half the crew went down below to some scotch and some sleep. As darkness enveloped us, we made the dash across the Strait to Ballenas. I’m uncertain of the exact point along the coast that we cut across as our Spot tracker was not working. As a result, we don’t have a GPS track of the route we took. The temperature plunged to near zero Celsius but thankfully, we had warm clothing. On the positive side, we were able to stream Radio Horyzont.pl over 3G with my Galaxy Tab. We live in amazing times when one can stream music from a radio station from Poland over the internet to a sailboat in the middle of the Georgia Strait. We came up to Ballenas at midnight, just in time for crew change. We’d picked up speed and were now doing about 7kts. The rest of our crew shook off their sleep and we had all hands on deck for the kite hoist and rounding.
One doesn’t really sleep while underway during a race – at least I didn’t think I did, though the rest of the crew assures me otherwise. I faded in an out to the sounds of water splashing against the hull and the occasional sounds of laughter from the cockpit and grinding winches. My body was exhausted but my mind was too excited to sleep. I kept waking up whenever the voices picked up in the cockpit, trying to stay with whatever was going on in the race and alert in case there was a call for all hands on deck.
My shift started at 4am as we just rounded Entrance Island. Words cannot describe how surreal it is to look back into the darkness and see four spinnakers barrelling down upon you as you leave a wake glimmering with phosphorescence. These guys meant business and we went from sleep to race mode, anxious to keep our lead. It took us 4 hours to get to Halibut Bank, round the mark and get back to Entrance Island. When the relief crew came back on deck, it seemed to them that we had not moved at all. Joking aside, we are on the final leg of the race and no one could sleep. Sunrise had brought another gorgeous day but the winds were getting lighter and we had come too far to be dead in the water. After a breakfast of porridge and coffee, we decided to take the rhumb line to Pt. Atkinson as some of us cracked open a beer and prayed – thankfully, the wind held steady. While light at times, we never really hit 0kts at any point during the race.
Kiva crossed the finish line at exactly 1pm putting our course time at almost 26.5hrs. Finishing is an exhilarating experience and gives one a huge sense of accomplishment. Finishing with a a great crew is just that much sweeter. Some races you fight the weather gods wrath, and others, the weather gods deliver you the only two days of beautiful sunshine amidst weeks of rain. Kiva will be racing in the Swiftsure Regatta on May 27/28 and will then do the 2 week Van Isle 360. We would all like to thank our crew mate Izzie Egan for the video footage from the race.