Saltspring Island Sailing Club, in association with Maple Bay Yacht Club, was proud to host the twelfth annual Single- and Double-Handed Sailing Race for monohull sailboats around Saltspring Island, with an overnight stop at Maple Bay. Multi-hull sailboats were also invited to compete within their own division.
And it’s a Wrap!
Thank you to all 26 boats and 46 individuals who, together with a small but dedicated band of volunteers from SISC and MBYC, made this a great weekend of full-on racing, great meals, warm camaraderie, and an abiding appreciation for the magical place where we live and sail.
A two-leg, three-day, three-feast event, this year’s Vendée started at SISC on Friday night, July 8th with a delicious dinner and good conversation. Some evening downpours sent crews scurrying to the docks to close companionways and stow sails. The first racing leg to MBYC followed on Saturday, where the day’s leaders were presented with the traditional yellow shirts, a nod to the Tour de France and the french origins of the Vendée Globe.
The race began under cloudy skies, but with a solid 10-12 knot breeze in Ganges Harbour. The mass start of twenty-six boats went off smoothly, with no boats over early. The beat out to the Channel Islands saw the fleet fan out across the whole course from Welbury Bay to the Beddis Beach shore of Salt Spring Island. Those that went too far either left or right were not necessarily rewarded; a more central course that picked up the current stream while minimizing distance sailed seemed the best approach. Velica, serving as committee boat, motor-sailed to the right of the fleet, careful to stay out of the path of and well downwind of the competitors. It was quite fascinating to have this witnessing perspective, enjoying the skill and artistry of others, while having no ego in the game.
Once safely around Beaver Point prior to the tide change (a major issue in Round Saltspring 2016), a long light wind lull brought a “parking lot” to the fleet and persisted until Cape Keppel. Most boats were able to fill spinnakers on what began as a reach and ended as a run. The wind later picked up near Musgrave Rock (the short course mark for this leg), enabling 17 of the 26 boats to cross the finish line in a tight cluster less than half an hour before the 6:00 pm time limit.
Velica had motored ahead to greet the fleet at Maple Bay, and cheered the lead boats as they popped into sight from Sansum Narrows and caught a building northwest wind accompanied by a bracing rain shower. Most crews arrived at MBYC with their foul weather gear on, a strange sight on a July evening. The crescendo of arrivals built until right at the time limit, after which we had to make the sober announcement that the other nine boats could look forward to a great dinner, but no finish time in the book.
The Sunday leg from Maple Bay to SISC began with brilliant morning sun and just enough wind for an orderly start beside the speed buoy, about halfway out of Maple Bay. Once again a variety of strategies played out across the fleet and the water. Much of the fleet went left to the rocky shore below Maple Mountain, which looked a long gamble until a ribbon of wind filled in that allowed the first boats there to shoot out around the point briskly. Competing with this approach were those boats that made straight for the Salt Spring Island shore under Mount Eskine, and got more quickly into the remains of the northwest flow in the northern reaches of Sansum Narrows.
Light, fickle winds in Stuart Channel faded to nothing near Grappler Rock (Velica’s super-sensitive ultrasonic wind sensor read 0.3 knots!), and for a while it looked as though the short course mark at Southey Point might come into play. Velica stationed herself at that point to confirm that at least seven boats made it through that short-course line and into Trincomali Channel, the minimum declared in the Sailing Instructions to make that leg “stick.”
While there, and just after the first boat, Sunnyvale, crept around Southey Point within spitting distance of the jagged rocks, we caught sight of a distinct wind line at Fernwood Dock. We watched it steadily advance northwestward, just as the weather models had predicted the day before. One by one, boats were greeted by this new wind and new hope for a timely arrival back into Ganges Harbour.
The wind filled in, building to 10 knots, then 15 knots, looking more and more like a kinder, gently version of the Round Saltspring 2016 end game. Velica had to put her Oceanvolt electric motor on full throttle, flatten her mainsail, and blast along at a VMG above 6 knots to get to Captain Passage ahead of the charging fleet. Once in Welbury Bay, those who had re-packed their spinnakers were greeted with a fast and colourful reach and run to the finish. In the end, all but a few of the fleet crossed the finish line in front of SISC well before the time limit.
Another feast catered by Penny’s Pantry was enjoyed by all before the awards were distributed and weary but mostly satiated guests headed for home ports, near or far.
This was the first Vendée Saltspring during my six years at SISC that allowed the full course to be scored on both legs of the race. While the fleet was a little smaller than usual, we hope the success of this event will bring many back for next year’s event, along with other friends. The 2017 edition will begin and end in Maple Bay, and we look forward to being the Saturday night haven for another Vendée Saltspring.
(with some text from Silk Questo and with photos from Maggie Argiro)
Vendée Saltspring 2016 Race Chair