The 40th running of the RSSI Race was one that saw many changes and yet had many things the same. The web site had much to commend it including some very interesting history of the race which shows how much the race has changed over the years. Some of the early winners of this race would no longer qualify to compete, an interesting trend that follows our culture’s move towards sheltering ourselves from all dangers, and thus many worthwhile challenges. The length of the race and the wiles of Mother Nature came through again to provide challenges aplenty for the many sailors who took the test.

One of the best changes to my view was the changes to the order of start. After last year when the slower boats were decimated by the time limit and the fact that they were double penalized by having less time to finish (by starting last) something had to be done to address this problem. I would have gone for a complete reversal of the order myself as division 5 was still badly treated which showed in an almost 75% DNF rate. At my short time at the Club on Sunday I heard many people very enthusiastic about the change. It gave the slower boats a shot at clear wind and a chance to see the bullets streak by. The only boats that are disadvantaged by this strategy are the slower boats in Division 1 & 2, like Imp for instance, and yet that disadvantage is much less than what a Division 4 or 5 boat has had to live with for years. This problem could be handled by letting those slower boats in the fast categories opt for starting in the fleet that corresponds to their PHRF rating.

I heard nothing but rave reviews for the Lamb BBQ and for having it on the Friday Night. This years committee are to be commended for their great work and for the courage to make these changes. Our club rose to the occasion and the volunteers proved amazing yet again. We should be very proud of those who stand for office and then prove their metal (gold). I thank them for all of us racers…Thank You!

Here my race report shifts to a new format as an illness laid me low and I was forced to miss the race. Reports now from our club boats in order of finish:

#1 Imp, skippers Adrian and Craig Leitch, 26th overall

We didn’t do as well as possible right off the start since the port end was favoured by the time of our start, but too crowded for the timid like me, and most boats in our division gained signficantly up the left side in the beat to Welbury.  We pretty much held our own on the run to Victoria shoal etc. but the tide turned and we didn’t get to shore fast enough; however we picked up a few places in a good rounding at Southey, and didn’t have to face as much of a hole there as the slightly earlier boats, since we went past many of them we could see still stuck inshore.  Slowly passed a few on the long beat to Sansum with a few lucky guesses on shifts, then lost a few places around Burial where the ebb was making things squirrely or haphazard….

We were past the narrows by the time it turned to flood, which caught us by Keppel just as the wind died and we watched crab pot floats start to slowly move past us in the wrong direction…up to that point it had been a good race, but after that it was pretty tough.  All the early starting boats made it past Keppel, I would guess over to about Swartz Bay/Piers  or Portland Island, where I presume Vincent was, since we saw Roger over there.  We got a taste of downflow off the slopes off Mt Tuam, that got us past Keppel, and then a taste of westerly for a few minutes that got us to ~Swartz, but then all went quiet and dark.  After that, it was misery for hours and hours of trying to hold station or make slight progress with jib or (as the tide got stronger) spinnaker on the “breeze” from aft produced by floating backward!  Only tide relief to be had was near Portland, and then a bit of breeze on the nose got us across the stream to Beaver, where the adventurous got past us by going in really close (two went in too close and were left there, stranded; I don’t like to play that game too hard, since one cannot see the lack of wind on the water in the dark – a significant point of difference between myself and my co-skipper at that point, which cost us the lead to Blackadder unfortunately as it turns out; they went past us there).  However we made up some ground by going over to Prevost, and avoided climbing the ladder up too far between it and U-62, took our lumps across the stream (which actually, if taken at the right point in zero wind, generates enough to sail close-hauled in the right direction) and lo and behold found ourselves in just the right place to be the first boat to pick up the new northerly at the Sisters (talk about luck, I had been hoping or more actually praying  for that for hours,ever since yet another major “difference” of opinion with the co-skipper at U62!)  Luckily i was proved right on that one…mutiny having been threatened several times on the numerous spinnaker hoists/drops in the pitch black between Portland and Beaver.

#2 Kaitoa, skipper Philippe Erdmer, 33rd overall

The day dawned wet but breezy and the wind held until most boats got past the half way point, so even slow boats had a very good sail for the day.

Between the start and the finish 24 hours later, a full range of sailing conditions prevailed, from flat out downwind surfing in the rain to flat calm drifting in the sunset and then moon light; all this was handled with competence in the  constant search for speed by a keen crew of Kait, Matti, Eldin, Leh and Dylan.  That crew of our juniors, who are also sailing instructors in our sailing school, drove KAITOA to a finish as the third Club boat to cross the line. They also managed to best convincingly the only other Ross 930 that finished, and placed solidly mid-pack in overall race results, 33rd of more than 100 starting boats. These would be honorable results for a seasoned crew, let alone first timers, and they have every right to be pleased at the result.

Just for the record, as you likely have reports from many others, here is one man’s account of the race. A windward start out of the harbour took the fleet away in short order and only a few tacks were needed to get out of the harbour and lined for the reach to Captain Passage, leaving Welbury spar to port. The first taste of real speed was then experienced by most boats, who lost no time launching their chutes around Nose Point for the fast run from the south wind down the entire length of Trincomali Channel. The hundred full spinnakers along the channel made for a glorious sight for spectators along the entire east shore of Salt Spring. Dozens of boats reached Southey point in groups, making for exciting close roundings after jockeying for place and speed right until spinnaker take down. Kaitoa’s skipper gave it three boat lengths to clear Southey Pt safely, while two more boats tried to go inside at the same time; one boat made it. The other one demonstrated the sound that a keel on a Hunter 44 makes when it contacts Cretaceous medium grained sandstone, at speed; the 23,000 lb boat jumped up out of the water before bouncing back, and shook itself off. This of course allowed the competition to gain on it, and proved instructive for the crew of Kaitoa, i.e., a lesson not likely soon forgotten.

The beat down the west side of Salt Spring was favoured along the Vancouver Island shore and was used to advantage by many boats in their approach to Sansum Narrows. The wind started to fail around 4:00 pm, and the progressively later boats had to work increasingly hard to beat the tide change to a big flood at 18:00. Once south of Separation Point, most of this mid pack fleet slowed to a crawl on flat calm seas while carried back by the tide, with only whispers of breeze allowing them to get past Cape Keppel and to the Saanich Peninsula shore near Piers Island. As darkness fell and the dinner dishes were being cleaned up there started a long drift into the night; the next five hours saw us ghost along at less than ¼ knot to just make Beaver Point by dawn at 04:30.

With the light came the first stirrings of a new wind from the N, which built to 10 – 12 knots in minutes. Dozens of boats woke up and started beating to the Channel Islands, favouring the Prevost shore. An hour later, however, that decision would prove costly for those who continued to Captain Passage where the breeze died and the building ebb inexorably dragged them back south. A few boats, Kaitoa among them, chose early to cross the channel south of Batt Rock, and crept ahead of at least 20 others while at no more than walking pace. This situation persisted for two hours until about 08:30, when the wind freshened and allowed the fleet to progressively regroup near the Sisters and start the sprint to the finish in more than 10 knots of breeze. The last 20 minutes were busy for crews and any bleariness from the sleepless night was swept away by the adrenaline of tacking crossings and one last fight for advantage to set up for the final approach from the Goat Island shore to the narrow finish gate at the Club. By this time the sun was out in full force and as boats finished by the dozen, many less than a minute apart, cameras on shore were clicking enthusiastically. Kaitoa had been within boat lengths of the two other leading Club boats many times in the race, Electra and Imp, and while Imp got away at the last minute, Kaitoa finished within 16 seconds of Electra after 42 miles of racing – what more could you ask for.

#3 Electra, skipper Roger Kibble, 35th overall

Race  day was overcast but blowing about 6-8 knots so all the boats started smartly. The Race Chair decided to send the fleet anticlockwise, a strange decision that favoured the fast boats rather than the slow ones! The wind was forecast to be moderate and then disappear around 6-7.00 pm.

Electra elected to start at the windward side to avoid being blanketed by anyone. This was a good move and soon we could tack in clear air and make good progress on the west side of the harbour despite the slight flood tide. We caught up and passed many Division 3 boats which had started earlier  by the Sister’s Island. The wind was fresh enabling 5-6 knots of boat speed. Quite a few boats had to tack to get around the Welbury Spar Buoy and some forgot this mark altogether and had to return.

It was a great sight seeing 108 boats under spinnakers sailing down Trincomali Channel. We were doing well and turned the corner at Southey Point ahead of all our division boats and ahead of many Div 1 and 2 boats. The wind became a whisper on the other side of SS that shielded the Southerly breeze thus permitting much of the fleet to bunch up, a typical RSS development. We drifted along, kept out in the mid Channel to avoid the hole before Vesuvius and then grabbed more breeze coming out of Burgoyne Bay.

We beat up towards Maple Bay and then threaded our way through Sansum Narrows before the tide turned against us. we were able to pass more boats as we tip toed through the maze of current eddies and wind gusts. Local knowledge pays off big time here. The wind gradually faded away as we approached Pillar Point and we crawled painfully up Sattlkeite Channel trying to get over to Piers Island. Most of the fleet were imprisoned by the new flood tide just before Fulford unable to transit  the current line to get tide relief.  A few Div one and two light boats managed to do it and thus got way ahead in positive current. Steven in Lithium was one of these boats and they managed to keep going, get around Beaver Point and drift along on the home stretch from the Channel Islands to finish around 2.30 am. The fastest boats , Flying Tiger’s, Santa Cruz 52’s etc, enjoyed even more time in wind and positive current and finished earlier around 7-8.00 pm. But the bulk of the fleet waited for hours under a now brightly shining moon trying to find wisps of moving air to propel them ahead.

Little wind shafts would pinpoint a boat  without warning and move it ahead a little while others beside would be motionless. We were not favoured here but at last found some private shore breeze that pushed us suddenly at 5 knots on a mirror surface sea. We caught up other boats that were bunched at Beaver Point.

Gradually almost all the now diminished fleet assembled at Beaver Point in a stationary pack of patience and expectancy that was almost audible. Around 5.00 am some wind appeared and soon Flying sails were deployed in vain attempts to grab forward movement. Some boats at last began to move. Then the wind veered to the North and a new race began with the group close hauled. Most chose to go towards Prevost Island in search of some tide relief and then they tacked back by the Channel Islands and then back along the Prevost Island shore in fierce duels and brave efforts to gain some advantage.

Then the breeze vanished again leaving the fleet divided between those who  chose the Prevost Island side and Captain’s Passage area and those who hugged the Salt Spring Shore. A few boats opted for the middle ground in hope that any new wind would favour their position. It did eventually.

Around 8.15am, some air movement began and 0.5 to 0.8 knots began to be  recorded on the knot meter. Boats crept along carefully each adjusting their wind seeking sails. Electra was in a close battle with its regular adversaries,  Vampire and Radiant Heat, both J 30’s. The latter tacked away just a little too far, stalled out doing a 180 degree uncontrolled turn and so lost contact. This was sailing at its most exacting and demanding level with the slightest mistake proving costly.  We very moved along in slow motion doing a few painfully slow tacks when the air wobbled. At last the wind came built in a line from the west side. IMP captured it first, then ELECTRA and then VAMPIRE and soon after the rest of the fleet.

After about half an hour the breeze machine was turned up a little and careful tacks were made to optimize forward motion, maintain strategic position and to anticipate the slowly building wind.The fleet started to move in earnest and the rush from just before the Sisters Islands to the finish line was on. J29’s , Martin 242’s, Ross 930’s, J 30’s, C&C 115’s and other hot boats vied with each other to choose the best tack lines and find the most breeze. It was interesting to see how the gains and losses of this giant tacking contest dictated the finish order.

The finish line was a short one located at the South corner of the Club Dock . The Wind was now veering to the North West and the finish line was best fetched with a late tack to approach the line at almost a 90 degree angle to the marker Buoy. Most boats were tacking too early. Electra had slightly trailed Vampire for most of the race even in the waiting zones. These two boats tacked again and again at this late stage each taking advantage of  wind gusts and lifts  in this home stretch. Vampire covered Electra’s every effort to gain an advantage. In these stronger gusts Electra gradually made up some ground with each tack and soon only a few boat lengths separated the vessels.

As they approached the finish area Vampire had to tack first. Electra held on in a stronger wind hoping to do some sort of last minute finish line starboard tack finesse. Electra tackled directly at the large yellow Buoy while  Vampire had to do one more tack in less wind onto port a few boat lengths from the line. Electra charged at Vampire as close hauled as we could go but it was just not quite enough and Vampire won by one boat length, some 23 hours after the start. Exciting stuff indeed.

So Vampire won the Division and we were second, both boats winning splendid gift basket prizes. We divided up these spoils with Nick , Claewen, and Cameron so everyone was happy.

Velica skippered by Vincent Argiro was totally impressive . Sailing single handed for such a long time at a high level of competitiveness and  being able to finish well against all the competition in difficult challenging conditions was truly an impressive and terrific accomplishment. I  cannot remember anyone else doing an equivalent single handed sail in this race . This  performance should be memorialized in some way.

Kaitoa  skippered by Philippe Erdmer was going great guns and impressively beat other  Ross 930’s.  Wildfire , skippered by Gyle Keating also sailed brilliantly to beat a hot J29 and a Beneteau 37-6.  Another impressive performance was that by Soul Thyme skippered by Keith Simpson. They  finished and had the style to provide a full roast prime rib dinner to the large crew.

Just to finish in this race was an achievement as many celebrity hot boats were not able to complete the course.

#4 Velica, skipper Vincent Argiro, 42nd overall.

(Vincent wrote a very thorough report which is quite a joy to read, I am just giving you one chapter due to the growing length of this report, ask Vincent to send you the whole thing, its a good read.)

The Glassy Half Empty: Emerging from Sansum, beside Separation point, I could feel the wind dying and the current disappear, and then begin to reverse. Oh no, I thought, this is the doomsday scenario! The sunset light was beautiful, and I took a few moments “off” to take photos and have dinner. But then the chartplotter began to trace my track in reverse, and my set ETA to Beaver Point went to infinity. I looked around and heard the sound of anchors being deployed. I knew of this strategy, but had never actually done it in a race. Furthermore, I had only deployed Velica’s anchor once before in three years, and never alone.

Checking the depth sounder, I was in 55 metres of water! Doable, but just barely. I locked the helm, crawled out on the foredeck and plopped the anchor over the port bow and watched metre after metre of rode disappear into the cloudy water. Finally the weight in my hands lessened. Since I was already going backward at almost a knot, the anchor bit well and I tied it off and went back to the helm. I verified that I was no longer drifting and exhaled deeply. Half was relief, half was resignation that I might be there a long time. Soul Thyme was just ahead of me and they all disappeared below for a full sit-down dinner. I heard plaintive notes coming from a boat to starboard, and made out a crewman sitting on his foredeck fiddling quite beautifully. This too is Round Saltspring.

An hour went by, and the shadows lengthened. First as a tickle, then as a caress, the wind began to move on my face. The wind instrument read 2 and then 3 and then 4 knots. The current was still visibly making a bow wave and vibrating the anchor rode. I knew that if I pulled the anchor too early, I would be helpless in the current again, and might not be able to deploy it again, so this was a high stakes call. I set the sails and felt and saw the boat ride up on the rode, so I knew I had drive. I returned to the foredeck and hand-over-hand pulled up the anchor. As soon as it was free the boat began to lurch backward toward other boats behind, still at anchor. I had to tie off the anchor, get back to the helm, steer her into a reasonable attitude, and then return to the bow to pull more rode. I repeated this cycle at least five times before finally I had the anchor in my hand and the boat at sail. I bore off for the Musgrave Landing shore at the little bay there, looking for current relief until the wind and the boat could gather speed. Watching the instruments and the shore, I found the relief and started to make positive ground speed of 1-2 knots. All the other boats near me remained at anchor, and I was slowly leaving them behind. Elizabeth popped her head out of Keith’s cabin and shouted approval to me and admonishment to her crew-mates to put down the forks and pick up their winch handles.

5 Wildfire, skipper Gyle Keating, 51 overall

The start was exciting, we were late over the line as usual but that turned out in our favour as we had relatively clear air pretty much all the way out of the harbour trading tacks with two boats one we crossed ahead of the other just behind. This continued at times pretty much the whole race. One was Dementry the other Monnikedammer not sure which was which.

The run down Trincommali Channel was almost surreal with brilliant clouds of spinnakers everywhere. Rounding Southey point close to the mark with one boat sitting hard on the rocks and other boats pushing us closer and closer was a bit nerve racking and caused some raised voices as nobody wanted to get stuck.

Southey Point to Maple Bay was decision time as to which side to take, in the end I don’t think there was much difference as all the boats near us seemed to get through to the narrows in good time only to have the wind shut off just about the time we made Musgrave Rock.  After six or seven hours of great sailing conditions it was now time to sit in the rain and suck it up. Our track at this point looked like a worm trail in the mud. Then next wind we got was not until just before sundown when we picked up some light air just aft of the beam and after about fifteen minutes the spinnaker dried out enough to fly and we were off on probably the most exciting run of the race. We were getting about ten with gusts up to fifteen of apparent wind and were having to run off before the gusts to keep the boat on her feet. Thank God there was nothing in the water as we were really covering a lot of ground and even though the moon was trying to come out the light we had wasn’t enough to see anything in our way. Then the wind dropped off again and came forward.

Finally past Fulford Harbour after many tacks back and forth fighting the tide.

More drifting amongst a group of faster boats that had been pinned over by Piers Island and had used the earlier wind to come in from the right side as we worked up the Salt Spring shore

More beating into a freshening breeze taking us past the Channel Islands then up the side of Prevost short tacks trying to stay in the wind and out of the tide, individual boats peeling off and heading for the Salt Spring side through the opposing tide. Decision time again. After a brief strategy session stuck with the right side then headed across in a thin band of wind that came and went but slowly moved us into the usual early morning wind in the harbour, nice beat to the finish line under the time limit.

#6 Soul Thyme, skipper Keith Simpson, 54th overall

As of this moment Keith has been playing his cards close to his chest despite me asking him for a race report and a recipe. Should he decide to reveal the secrets that propelled him to the top half of the fleet I will add them to the report.

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