Swiftsure 2012 – Cape Flattery Multi – Aboard Blue Lightning F31
It started out very calm with light winds therefore the race committee decided to delay the start for the 2012 Swiftsure however not for long. It didn’t take them long to reset to let the races begin!
Blue Lightning was positioned at the committee boat end with a great line of attack and we had excellent timing to hit the line running. Dragonfly was over early and Bad Kitty was aft and to leeward of us.
The gun sounded, we were off and racing with plenty of sun, current & growing breeze. We were set to pass through Race Rocks before the tide turn against us so all looked very good for Blue Lightning. Note that these are our actual tracks taken from http://tracker.swiftsure.org
All was going great and once we reached Race Rocks, we decided to park, have lunch and watch our competitors sail on by, Very quickly they began to plant trees on us, not only did they regain position but they took off from us stretching their new lead to approx 3+ miles…
Lunch was over, time to get back in the race…
We found some breeze and got back to racing… As the breeze began to build (up to 38 knots later in the race), so did our layers and the fun factor began to compound. We were making our crossing to the US side as seas swelled to 12′ at times.We beat to the US shore under main and screecher (soon changed out to jib) climbing the swells at 10kts with our boat speeds and an average of 8~9 knots VMG. Needless to say we all had huge grins our faces and were loving it when the fog rolled in…
Visibility dropped to inside a 1/4 mile, onward we pressed into the fog but before we knew it, we heard a really big horn. Not your small ship foghorn rather one that rumbles through you announcing something very big is coming towards us and quickly.
The horn sounded again & again as we peered into the fog ready to take avoidance measures. Soon enough appeared a lit logo of a cruise ship within a ½ mile of us however we were in the clear as we were moving towards the shore moving away from the commercial traffic zone in the straight..
Once the fog cleared we realized that we had regained the lead! our main competitor was approx ¾ of a mile behind! It was time to get some lifts up to our mark & make the run for home leaving our competition behind.
We rounded at approx 8:30pm and began to find our heading for home. We settled in flying along at matching VMG to Boat Speed. It was a really sweet ride under main and Spinnaker only. We held our line without jibing for many miles while every was running quite smoothly until Mark Gumley’s spidy senses started to tingle….
With Gumley’s senses heightened, we agreed it was time for the spinnaker to come down, we were doing 19 knots and it was becoming very difficult to keep the spin full, even going really deep… it was time NOW for the spinnaker to come down and not a moment too soon, the Sooke Spook had arrived…
We were flying along under main alone at speeds of 14~16 knots – wind speeds were estimated at 30 gusting 40 when we were hit by a squall – winds were now in excess of 50 knots!
When this hit us, Mark lost steerage on the helm, the boat rounded up and we were in a world of pain… we were hove to and the main was bent back around the stays with wind howling across it putting tremendous pressure to leeward. Waves were pounding us from windward and seemed like we were going to be engulfed by them. From the stern the spray looked like steam was shooting straight up 10’ into the air. The wind was howling across the deck and it felt like we were making way up wind, in the wrong direction… We were in survival conditions…
“Drop the Main… NOW” yells Mark…
There were some challenges with the main, for one we didn’t have time to attach the topping lift on to the boom so now the boom was set down on the leeward net (not the best place to put more weight to), nor was the main coming down easily with all this pressure on it… the winds were continuing to howl and spray was a flying.
We ensured that any additional people weight moved outwards to the windward hull and only 1 person would be working to leeward (below the main hull position).
There was still no steerage… after what felt like 10 minutes, we began free up the main, it was starting to come down slowly however it was coming down in a pile of mess on the leeward netting. This is not what we want but we couldn’t easily furl the sail with all the pressure on the main in addition to weight distribution to windward.
I decided that in order to furl the main I would move to leeward and begin the task of slowly and safely winding the main around the boom however the weight and positioning was just too much for one person not to cause damage to the boat and sail. With assistance from Trent and Colin we were successful in further reduced sail area while maintaining control over the main as to not enable it to become an anchor in the water. We began to stow the main. We wanted to ensure that it would be lashed to the deck so it wouldn’t accidentally open up and cause damage or even worse if it became a safety hazard later in the race.
Now that we successfully regained steering and control over our main, we were now ready to rejoin the race… this is what it looked like on the tracker while we wrestled with the Sooke Spook:
With the main fully secured, we hoisted the jib and resumed racing… our speeds were consistently matching VMG again ranging from 12~14knts until we approached race. At race we saw 17.1 knots as our top speed under jib alone what a ride!
We passed through race (uneventfully) and we were now on the home stretch to our finish in Victoria..
The winds lighted as we unfurled the screecher, stowed our jib and made way to the finish line crossing at 2:22am. At the start of the race there were 222 days remaining in 2012 and we finished at 2:22…
When we arrived at inspection we were pleasantly surprised being greeted by a group of volunteers who provided us with piping hot soup and buns! That was awesome! The soup was great and we really appreciated it as we didn’t really have the opportunity to make a hot midnight snack, it totally hit the spot.
I would like to thank Mark Gumley for inviting me to sail this race aboard Blue Lightning, I had a great ride Trent (Mark’s Son) and Colin (friend) were excellent crew, and together we raced a solid race and had a really great time doing so!
To the organizers, volunteers and to all the sponsors that make Swiftsure possible, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation for all that you do. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to forge these memories nor experience such an excellent race that never ceases to please.
~ Jason Arnold
For more information on Swiftsure Race please visit http://swiftsure.org