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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Southern Straits Race...

More details to follow, but here is a quick synopsis of the event...

Due to the extremely rough weather predicted (storm force winds in excess of 50 knots) many boats decided not to participate in the event.  We decided to go to the start line and make our own decision on the water.  At the start the winds were E 20-25 - gusty but manageable, but we knew there would be more wind out to sea.

We had a somewhat late start, opting to be really conservative and not get caught in a mess or collision.  We quickly left all other competitors behind with the exception of Strum whom we paced for about 10 miles.

Strum was sailing with a a full main and masthead kite - we opted to put one reef in the main and fly the A5 (our smallest kite).   Midway across the strait Strum blew up their kite and we quickly passed them.  We were pacing the ferry into Naniamo when we finally crashed as well.

From off Naniamo we gybed around and headed a warp speed over towards Lasqueti, hoping to be the first to catch the westerly (which didn't come until the next morning).  Winds intensified along with the seas.  Dropped down to just the J4 and a double reefed main.  Winds & seas continued to build.  Dropped the main completely and went with just the J4.  Seas continued to build.  Rigged the inner forestay and put up the storm jib, then dropped the J4 which was taking a beating.

About 4 miles from Sisters after hearing the carnage behind us on the VHF we decided that things would likely get even worse before better and that we should seek cover and let things die down before continuing (since this was looking to be more like a war of attrition).  We then headed back to Ballenas to seek shelter.  Amazingly we were able to make 6+ knots upwind in the slop under storm jib alone!

The sea calmed down considerably near the lee of Ballenas, but the winds were very strong stilll as we beat our way up the lee shore towards Northwest Bay.  We then received a call on the radio that the race was abandoned.  After a couple more tacks upwind we then started the motor and headed as deep into Northwest Bay as we could with the intent of spending the night.

In Northwest Bay we found a little marina and they were gracious enough to let us tie up - power was out, but we were at a dock!  The majority of the crew decided to catch a taxi back to Naniamo and take a ferry back to the mainland - the Horseshoe Bay ferry was on weather hold so they went to Tsswassen and took a bus back to Coal Harbor to pick up their vehicles.

On the radio we heard about a boat sinking, people in the water, dis-mastings, etc so we made the right call to seek shelter.  Later while at the dock we heard from Kinetic - they had rounded Sisters around 5:30pm and heard from the race committee when they called in that the race was abandoned.

We learned a great deal on this trip - first that the boat is a lot tougher than we are, and that good preparation and practice (in advance) for heavy weather made things a lot easier; plus we had a wonderful crew who never failed to get the job done even while feeding the fish...

Here is a stripchart from near Ballenas from the ship computer...

Here is a video put together of the event by Joy: