The Swiftsure is a set of races that occur in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Washington State and British Columbia all starting on the same morning and finishing at various times dictated by the length of the race and the conditions. The longest of the races heads out into the ocean and back and all races start on the coast in Victoria. We walked along the coastline from our docks to watch a flotilla of boats jockeying for position behind a start boat (a Canadian warship). The winds were strong at the start and over the course of the race two boats were dismasted and something like 25 (I forget and am too lazy to re-check my facts) retired because gear broke.


For those who haven't seen a sailing race, the boats can't sit around in one spot waiting for the start gun. First, they would drift into each other as the wind pushed them about and second, more importantly for the racers, they would lose the advantages they could gain by having good initial speed across the start AND by using the boating rules of the road to force other boats to start early or to have to turn in non-optimal directions.

You can see the warship start boat in this picture with the boats jockeying around to pass it exactly at the start time.


One complication of the race is that the Strait is a major shipping lane and commercial shipping boats have the right of way in a shipping lane. Usually, a boat under sail has the right of way over a motor boat except in a few important instances such as when the motor boat is: disabled or otherwise not moving, engaged in commercial fishing, restricted in its ability to move (like a large ferry in a small channel) or is a commercial vessel in a traffic lane.

So, the racers have to not only avoid hitting these big ships (that should be easy) but also not come so close that they cause the ship to change course. Both actions violate the rules of the road.


I also very much want to try kite boarding:


It was fun to hear locals and tourists saying things like "look at all of those boats out today, it must be a good day for sailing" and also to see all of the race fanatics with their binoculars hissing and gasping over minute course changes before the start. Good times.

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