Date: June 22 - 24 2003
Course: Winter Harbour to Ucluelet
138.10 nautical miles
to the Pacific
By Shane Alfreds
dinner was at Dick's place. That's Dick's Last Resort http://www.dlastresort.com
where we were staying. It's a small B&B in Winter Harbour and
somehow thirty some odd sailors were going to be eating at his table
that seats ten. Unfortunately in the afternoon Dick got a call that
there was a fire in his family home and off he rushed. Dick is a
great guy and a fantastic host; we all hope that everything is well.
So after the three sittings of dinner we are sitting around in Dick's
living room looking over weather faxes downloaded off the net and
listening to Kevin (onboard Redshift) who was predicting 15 to 20
knot Northwesterly winds, just what the fleet wants to hear. We
go to bed, having packed enough gear in case it will be a long overnighter
but hoping that Kevin's prediction turns out true.
5:30 AM, Kim
sticks his head in the door and says "It's 5:30." Great,
he woke me up before my 5:45 alarm setting. Colin gets up but Jason
and I continue to snooze. My alarm goes off, I get up. Jason gets
up after I'm done and head down stairs for breakfast. I eat fruit,
cereal and juice; nothing too heavy for me on race day. I made that
mistake once at Swiftsure, now I have a rep for getting seasick.
Down onto the boat by 6:30, everything is ready. I threw on my foul
weather gear and I'm all ready to go. It's a grey cloudy morning,
no wind in the harbour. It's not looking like we're going to start
with those forecasted winds. We motor down to the start line which
is down the channel that doglegs from west to south as you leave
The start line
is between the lighthouse and a rock that you can sometimes see
when a wave crashes over it! Oh goody! Well the race committee positioned
a small aluminum boat at the rock end to mark the line. We scout
around a bit and decide that the rock end is where we want to be,
it's closer to Ucluelet anyways. We can see wind out there, but
there is very little at the line. The countdown starts and we pull
out the screecher and go no where fast. We seemed to have found
our own little hole right at the line. Dragonfly is less than a
hundred meters away and somehow they get some wind. Well the skipper
didn't take too kindly to this hole opening up to disrupt our well
planned start. After several loudly exclaimed explicatives, that
I won't repeat here, the wind seemed to listen and off we went.
Over to the
right we can see Flip, Flop & Fly had a great start with a few
of the mono hulls. Dragonfly is out in front of us and going a little
higher. Bad Kitty is in the middle with a decent start. Redshift
and the rest of the mono hulls seemed to have also found a nice
wind hole that wasn't as considerate as ours was. Off we charge
as the wind builds its time to pull up the spinnaker and bear off
to round Brookes Peninsula. Up our spinnaker goes, a nice clean
set. 3F, Bad Kitty and then Redshift all get theirs up. Dragonfly
heads to windward and sends someone out on their broken bowsprit
to deal with a rigging problem. We charge past them and we're further
South than 3F, we're leading the fleet. As we head out the fleet
eventually all gets the breeze and gets their spinnakers up. We're
starting to move now; 3F seems to be going as fast but are sailing
higher than us. Redshift is slowly gaining on them and they seem
to be on the same course. Dragonfly is sailing way lower than us,
looks like they're trying to pass close by Brookes. Bad Kitty has
Big Blue out and is heading lower than us too. We get out far enough
that we can see down the coast past Brookes. The wind has built
steadily and all we can see is dark water with the occasional white
caps. Looks like the predictions are turning out to be true.
We decide that
we need to watch the fleet behind us. We can't let any of the multi-hull's
behind us get out of our site and into some stronger wind. Dragonfly
continues on the same tack heading further out and getting smaller
and smaller. Bad Kitty seems to have the same idea and big blue
seems to disappear in the clouds to the West and behind us. Redshift
and 3F seem to be following us, staying within a few miles of the
coast. Their spinnakers are getting pretty small on the horizon
behind us though.
We are really
starting to move now and the waves are steadily building with the
wind. We're sustaining 14+ knots and hitting 17+ while surfing down
the waves. I should explain our positions and responsibilities on
the boat for sailing in these conditions going downwind. Kim is
out on the windward ama, driving the boat. He's concentrating on
getting speed out of the sails and using the waves to keep the boat
going fast and heading as far downwind as possible. Jason is responsible
for jibing and trimming the spinnaker. He also has to blow it off
if we get into serious trouble. He sits at the front of the cockpit.
Colin tacks the jib across, sets the mast rotator and is responsible
for the radio. When we're going fast he is usually at the back of
the cockpit with me. I am responsible for the mainsail trim. I also
have the mainsheet in my hands at all times, ready to blow the sail
off if there is any problem. I spend most of the time standing at
the very back of the cockpit because I'm the heaviest and we need
my weight at the back to help keep the bows up..... Fortunately
there is a metal arch back there that is perfect to lean against
while standing back there. Since there is nothing else keeping you
on the boat, Colin and I always clipped on our safety harnesses
when we were back there.
around and its time for the scheduled roll call and Colin heads
below. This is a safety procedure where the Canadian Coast Guard
in Tofino does a radio check in with every boat in the fleet. Each
boat will report its position based on a grid set up by the race
committee. As Colin comes up from below I glance something out of
the corner of my eye, directly to starboard. I turn and see a dark
shape entering the water. At first my mind thinks it's a sea bird
diving to catch a fish. But the massive splash that follows tells
me that it's a large whale breaching probably half a kilometer from
the boat. Wow, is that ever cool!
The waves are
building with the winds sustaining at 20+ knots. We're starting
to see waves getting up towards 10' now, some of them quite steep.
Waves are constantly blasting off the stern leeward aka, sending
huge spray into the cockpit. Sometimes this spray goes 20' in the
air. Usually it lands right where I'm standing. It's like taking
a cold salt water shower where I'm standing. We're flying along
at over 17 knots when suddenly we fly off one of these steep waves
and right into the back of the next wave. We suddenly go from very
fast to almost not moving. The leeward ama is buried up to the aka,
the pulpit on the bow is fully submerged and the main hull is in
this wave up to hatch on the fore deck. I'm feeling very high in
the air now as the boat is pointed down at about 30 degrees. Jason
and I both blow our sails and the bows finally lift up through the
wave and we start move again. We sheet in to get some speed back
and I look around at everyone else, we all have the same big wide
grin on our faces.
Jason goes below
and notices that the furnace is out because water has been pouring
down the chimney when we hit these waves. He starts to bail, I see
him lift up a full bucket of water. Usually we just sponge out the
water that happens to splash into the main cabin. Seven bucketfuls
later and Jason is done. About 2:00pm we see Dragonfly coming back
in towards the island as we're heading out. We manage to keep them
in view for over an hour until the gybe back out away from the island
and disappear over to the south-west of us. During this time we've
stuffed the bow a few more times, but none as bad as the first time.
below to take a turn at bailing out. Shortly after we hit another
one of those steep, nasty waves. We're going close to 20 this time
and we hit hard. Somehow I manage to un-cleat the mainsail in the
fraction of a second before I get launched forward. Luckily my safety
line catches and stops me from flying through the plexiglass and
into the cabin. I'm just lying across the tiller and main traveler.
I scramble up off the tiller so Kim can steer the boat. Jason and
Kim are both fine, but Colin took a nasty fall in the cabin. He
was just about to lift out a bucket of water and fell backwards
into the heater and twisted his knee. His ribs were hurting and
he could barely move his knee, he'd have to stay below the rest
of this leg we didn't want him risking further injury.
We can no longer
see any boat in any direction. Over the next couple hours we had
several interesting incidents. At one point we passed a deadhead
about 2' in diameter under the windward ama. It appeared out of
nowhere, Jason and Kim saw it just before we would've hit it and
fortunately it was on course to pass under the ama. For those of
you that don't know, a deadhead is a log that doesn't float on the
surface. One end of it has sunk, so just an end of it bobs up and
down on the surface. These can be extremely dangerous and have been
known to pop up into the bottom of boats. I also remember hitting
one particularly short trough, the bow of the leeward ama was about
3' under water and I looked over to Kim and the wave behind us was
just picking up the stern of the windward ama. I thought if we turned
parallel to the waves we could be sailing on two amas with the main
hull out of the water, hanging in the trough between these two waves.
All this time
I'm standing at the stern of the boat with both hands on the mainsheet.
I start to get into the groove and anticipate the troublesome waves.
As soon as I feel it hit, I hear the rudder starting to cavitate,
I start to release the mainsheet, the boat bears off and steerage
returns. Then I'm reeling the mainsail back in to keep our speed
up. Jason said it sounded like I was fishing; when the mainsheet
is being pulled in, it sounds like a big fishing reel.
close to the 6:00pm check in. We're getting close to shore, its
time to gybe but the lazy spinnaker sheet is under the boat. We
have to let it go into the water and try to run it around the outside
of the screecher. Its too late, Kim gives the order to drop the
spinnaker. Jason takes it down and its getting pounded by the waves
on the leeward side. We quickly get it in the bag and make our gybe.
Colin does the radio check in, sounds like Redshift is just one
grid behind us. That's closer than we'd like. Kim says pull out
the screecher; we need to keep our speed up. Out it goes and we're
back up to 17 - 18 knots. Jason has to go out on the bowsprit in
these pounding waves to get the spinnaker sheet run again. We get
it set and its time to gybe and set the spinnaker again. This it
not the fastest set, my hands are aching from working the mainsheet
all day long. The halyard is a small rope that gets pretty slippery
when it's wet too. Jason is lifting the heavy wet sail with each
pull I give to halyard, and then he runs over to pull on the foreguy.
We get the spinnaker up and we're flying again.
We can now see
where the entrance to Tofino is, we know we're getting close. We'll
be in before dark for sure. We start keeping an eye out for Dragonfly,
maybe they got less wind outside? Maybe we've been speeding down
the coast inside them? Colin radios in that we're about an hour
from finishing. Getting so close now, we've probably covered 130
miles by now. Just a few more gybes and we are there. We can see
the white water breaking on the rocky shore now. There is the lighthouse
that marks the finish line. We're still too high, two more gybes
and we can make it. We make the final gybe and we're crossing the
line at 17 knots around 8:40pm. We can see flashes of cameras up
on the hill by the light house; it must have made one hell of a
shot. Hopefully someone will send us one of those pictures.
The Coast Guard
Auxiliary comes out to escort each Van Isle 360 vessel in to Ucluelet.
It would be a nasty entrance to make during the night and its fantastic
that they come out to help the weary fleet in. They tell us that
Dragonfly finished about an hour before us. Good news, they needed
to beat us by over 3 hours. When will the rest of the multi-hulls
finish? We need to beat Redshift by 38 minutes by rough calculation
in my head. While we're motoring in to our moorage we hear Redshift
notifying the race committee they'll be finishing within the hour.
Its going to be close. We get to the dock and the VILand TV camera
is in my face, I do a quick interview and she says I'll be on the
11pm news as she rushes off. The documentary guys are there, they
interview Kim. Then they get a shot of me pouring the water out
of my boots. That water got there from running down the color of
my jacket. Our road crew isn't anywhere to be seen, have we beaten
them here? Kim calls them, and they'll be here within the hour with
our dry clothes. We get to our room and I try calling the only pizza
place in town and they just closed. After only eating power bars
during the day I'm just famished. Rhonda comes to our rescue though
and makes Jason and I bagels with tuna, celery, lettuce and tomato,
just what we needed after that long day.
Colin went up to the hospital in Tofino. Unfortunately he broke
three ribs, bruised a kidney, tore a lung and twisted his knee.
He won't be on the boat, but he is going to continue on to Victoria
in the truck while Rhonda comes aboard for the leg to Victoria.
We're going to miss him on the boat and we all hope he heals up
PS - sorry there
are no photos, the new camera Kim picked up in Campbell River was
water resistant, it was not designed for underwater submarining
and therefore it is no longer part of us.
BTW - Jason
saw the official race results last night and we finished approximately
1.5 hours before Redshift and we arrived approximately 1 hour and
10 minutes behind Dragon Fly! Another Silver Bullet for the Cheekee