Round Salt Spring Island yacht Race

The annual May long weekend round Salt Spring Island race is one not to miss on the west coast of British Columbia. Usually over 100 Sailboats from all over British Columbia and Washington State race in the annual Round Salt Spring Island race put on by the Salt Spring Island Sailing Club. The Commodore, can be proud of all the members that helped out with the multitude of jobs to make this event such a big Salt Spring success, year after year. Special thanks the race committee for putting in a huge amount of time organizing the race and a big thanks to all the sponsors.

It is one of the premier races in British Columbia, and few will challenge our claim that it has the best scenery (Although most sailors do not have time to see it). The 42 mile route is very challenging with strong tidal streams and tricky winds rolling off the Vancouver Island mountains.

The largest unknown element in sailboat racing is the wind. Will it be strong? Will it blow at all? There is usually not a racer on any of the 100 boats that would say we did not have enough wind during this race. With sustained headwinds that have been know to blow over 25 knots, and gusts measured by some boats up to 40 knots, the beat up Satellite Passage between Piers and Saltspring Islands can very tough going. The smaller boats can had solid sea water flowing over their decks as the waves rolled over them.

For conservative sailors it would have been time to find a safe harbour, but apparently most boats on the race have no timid crews. With the thought of glory and prizes dancing in their heads everyone bashed on, and the wind bashed back. The end result is that it is usually a busy week for the sail makers in Sidney, fixing all the ripped and torn sails the week after the race. I know our skipper that usually tear a sail or two and will be in line in Sidney with new but already beat up sails.

If the wind hold once around Cape Keppel the brave skippers can hoisted their spinnakers and try to sail past burial island up through the gauntlet of Sansum Narrows. Several boats have been know to blow their spinnakers out in this area and or end up on the rocks and or worse…

When one reached Vesuvius, I realized not everyone likes 100 plus sailboat tearing around the island, and a big thanks goes to the crew of the BC Ferry corporations mighty “Bowen Queen” who will do their best to weave in and out of the various race boats.

At Southey Point (ironically at the north end of the Island) all the boats will probably have to doused their Spinnakers to see what lay in wait in Trincomali Channel. Luckily “Hopefully Captain BOB and his huge barge Hercules” wont be coming around the corner – that is never fun. For most of the boats, the direction of the wind can led to one of the fastest reaches down Trincomali Channel. Although the tide can be flooding strongly against the fleet in Captain Passage, there can be sufficient wind to allow most boats to get through without to much difficulty. Then it was one or two tacks to get around Nose and Scott Points, and then a close reach back home to Ganges Harbour and the finish line.

This is a re hash of the 2007 race report I wrote. The wind can be fickle and blow in any direction at any speed. Who knows what the wind god will give us in May on the long weekend.

See you there.
Scott Simmons

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