We arrived at the hotel around 1:30am after completing our 9th leg of the race. We had agreed that we were certain that we finished 2nd in our division correcting behind Dragonfly which I estimated to be around 13 minutes behind them as I heard their finishing conversations on the radio and estimated their finish time. We raced a solid race and worked extremely hard right up until we heard the finishing horn in Victoria. Another excellent effort and race well sailed by our team.
My family arrived in Victoria earlier in the night, with the expected forecast from the day before, I had hoped that we would have arrived before them at around 7pm beating them to the hotel so when they showed up, we would already be there waiting for them! However, it turned out that when we actually did arrive in Victoria, they were all fast asleep except for my wife who was soon on her way to bed after enjoying a couple of cocktails waiting up for our arrival. It was definitely later that we had hoped to complete, but nonetheless it was really nice to arrive in Victoria with my family here to cheer us on to victory!
After our lay day (Thursday) in Victoria, I awoke Friday morning late, around 9am after a good nights rest and at around 9:30am, I was told that the awards for leg 9 were at 10am… after racing for almost 2 weeks and not being a morning person, needless to say I was not the most cheerful sailor in Victoria (no coffee either) however, we scrambled to get our things together and were on our way late for the awards. On the way we ran into Carl and the shore crew from Bad Kitty and Carl congratulated me on our 1st place finish yesterday… I say’s pardon? It turned out that after calculating the ratings and the distance, Cheekee Monkee corrected in 1st place ahead of Dragonfly by 30 seconds! I was in shock, Kim told me later that during the awards for Leg 9 when they were announcing the finish positions, he starting to walk up to accept the 2nd place flag when they announced that it was Dragonfly finished in 2nd place, not the Cheekee Monkee, he was stunned. We were all pleasantly shocked and it truly goes to show that every second counts when boats are rated so close together. Things were looking very good for the Cheekee Monkee to place first in our division!At 14:00hrs (2pm) June 24th we said our farewells and we cast off for our final leg of the race. The start for the final leg was set for 15:00hrs (3pm) on Friday. This time left us 1 hour until our start, which was located between the breakwater at Ogden Pt and Brotchie Ledge. I would guess that the winds were at least 25kts from the North West making for an extremely fast beginning to our leg and always an exciting start.
We motored into the breakwater behind Ogden Pt to get out of the waves while we completed our final preparations for the leg, there were at any time 7 – 10 boats circling around in the shelter of the breakwater seeking shelter to raise their mainsails and prepare for the start of the race. After holding for around 15 minutes and having 19 minutes until our starting gun, we headed out under main sail tacking 3 or 4 times to align ourselves well behind the fleet ensuring that we would not be blown over the start line early. We discussed our starting strategy and it was determined that we would hoist our spinnaker ASAP and get out to an early lead. The time was ticking down when the horn sounded, the race had begun and we were holding on our positing with Jib & Main, waiting for our opportunity to hoist our spinnaker and begin sailing fast… “Raise the Chute” says Kim, up it went and off we went! Our boat speed quickly reached 23.5kts and we were flying! Full main, Jib and Spinnaker, we were lead boat fully loaded up and shooting rooster tails up behind us as we quickly left the fleet behind heading past Clover PT heading for our first decision, were we to go around Trial Islands or inside navigating through the reef which… don’t forget, we were fully loaded running quickly downwind… it was decided we were going thorough cutting down on the distance sailed making us faster to the finish line.
When sailing fully loaded down wind, in order to best control your speed instead of sheeting out your sails (there comes a point where you just can’t let them out any more, you in effect have “already used up the rest of your insurance policy”- Martin Adams - Cuttle Fish), you need to perform the counter intuitive act of sheeting in your sails (making them tighter) instead of sheeting out (making them looser) which is the more natural thing to do. By the time we reached Chain Islets (the GPS turned off, hence no track) we had found ourselves sheeting in often and that it was time to take down our chute. I believe Tim Knight (Flip Flop and Fly) was in his Boston Whaler chasing us this entire time, I look forward to talking to Tim. The wind was blowing, we were moving very quickly, and we had many obstructions that we needed to maneuver between so the decision was made to drop our chute and sail under Jib and Mainsail alone between Chattam Islands and Victoria out into Haro Straight.
During this first 8 miles of the race I was asked if I could help out Mike to cleat the main sheet because he had to release the main sheet to slow us down because we were digging in hard and being over powered. Mike asked if I could cleat it for him, so I turned around reaching for the sheet when our AKA smashed a wave and at least 5 gallons of sea water blasted me like a fire hose being turned on full, right in the face, I had my mouth open. It was terrible, It felt as though I had almost drowned and yet I was kneeling down in the cock pit of the Monkee. I began throwing up… it was not good timing. Overcoming adversity is what racing is about; this was a minor “hick up” to achieve our goals. I got over it.
We had approximately 9 hours to make up on Dragonfly for the fastest elapse time and we had a strategy to do so, we needed to be in Sansum Narrows before 8:30pm, then to Dodd Narrows and potentially we could be tied up and finished in Nanaimo by approximately 2 – 5am the next day, solid strategy with a good opportunity to make up time for “Fastest Elapsed Time”. In Haro Straight the winds lighted up and we continued with our strategy of making our way towards Sansum Narrows. Dragonfly and Blue Lightning were now close with us up until Hughes Passage where Dragonfly left our twosome and opted for a different route up the inside to Nanaimo whereas we were committed to taking the inside between either Sidney Island or James Island cutting down more sailing distance to Sansum Narrows. We unfurled our screeched and choose to go between Sidney and James Island as there was no wind to the left of James Island. Blue Lightning was behind us and was making up ground on us making good decisions to make longer tacks as the wind filled in behind us.
Now we could have made the decision to go outside Coal Island and Piers Island avoiding Colburn Passage (this is where Swartz Bay BC Ferry terminal is) sailing more distance however the decision was made to sail around Letis Group, between Coal Island into Colburn Passage. Blue Lightning opted to go straight through the Letis Group when we went around where they made up a lot of ground on us and were now in the lead. When we got to Coal Island, there were three ways to enter into Colburne Passage, Blue Lightning chose the route between Coal Island and Goudge Island and we went through Iroquois Pass. There was little to no wind by this time and we found ourselves at the mercy of the currents which were pushing out into the passage at approximately 2kts. With no wind and currents, sometimes crew members find themselves fending off their boats from rocks which was the case here… we were moving in the current with little control over the Monkee, we had to raise the dagger board as we were quickly approaching rocks. I ran to the ama, which was on route to collide with the shore, made my way to the end of the bow and successfully fended off our collision, wet again.
There was no wind in Colburne Passage however after a few puffs of wind and many sail changes, we were starting to make our way through Colburne between Piers Island and Vancouver Island. Blue Lightning was still leading into Satellite Channel. We were in Satellite Channel when Blue Lighting made a run for some wind up the Channel and we were able to maintain a heading which brought us close to Saltspring Island and closer to Samsung Narrows and we saw that Blue Lighting had sailed into a hole which formed giving the Cheekee Monkee the lead again. When we rounded the bottom of Saltspring Island, the wind shifted and we began sailing upwind towards Sansum Narrows. It was a pretty uneventful entry into Sansum however there were with wind veers and gusts rolling down the hills and hitting us from different angles making for some challenging driving for Kim.
When we got into the middle of Sansum we were too late, the wind had let up and the current was now against us so effectively we were sailing up a river that was running against us. The current would not change again until 2:32am which meant we needed more wind that current to make progress or we had to set anchor until the tide changed. As you can see from our tracks, we tried many, many times to succeed until we could not take the defeat any longer and set anchor. In fact our first attempt we made it all the way to bold Bluff, but I guess we just were not bold enough, we started to drift backwards. All the way back past Blue Lightning back into the middle of the Narrows again. This continued for quite some time with leads changing hands many times. Trent from Blue Lightning said he enjoyed this very much!
After anchoring for a while, Kim couldn’t sleep ( I was on watch as the others rested) so we tried again opting for the left shore after seeing progress made by 3 mono hulls whom joined our party in the Narrows after we had been sitting now for over 3 hours. By the turn (2:32am) we were leading the fleet of 4 (Blue Lightning and 3 monohulls) out of Burgoyne Bay and out to Stuart Channel. It was very close, we were now going down wind with our Code Zero (CZ) and Blue Lightning had their Spinnaker, we were jibing down wind when Blue Lightning went right and we chose the left, which proved to be a deciding decision. We separated ourselves from Blue Lightning, found new wind and began to pull away from them quickly. We were now on route to Porlier Pass because the current was not favorable at Dodd Narrows and we had changed to our screecher as the wind was now on our bow. We could not execute our original plan so we now resorted to our back up plan, Porlier Pass. Porlier Pass is located between Galiano Island and Valdes Island which would have a maximum opposing current of 6kts in less than 3 hours from now. Once through Porlier Pass, we would be in the Straight of Georgia on route to Nanaimo no longer clear of the inside passage to Nanaimo.
When we reached Trincomal Channel, we were looking for competitors East and West… was it, no really is it, it was Dragonfly and Bad Kitty Tacking towards us making their way towards Porlier Pass, we were leading all the multihulls! Later I heard that Dragon was relieved to see us as well as they had calculated that if we succeeded last night that their fastest total elapse time would be in jeopardy if they did not make Porlier Pass prior to the change in tide/current.
When we reached Porlier Pass, we had boat speed of about 7kts upwind and an opposing current of 2.2kts. This opposing current was to climb to 6kts in just a couple of hours and without wind, the door would be shut for hours leaving the remaining boats to wait or head to Dodd Narrows which would be the next closest opening (and the shortest) to Nanaimo. Without any issues we headed out into the Straight of Georgia and around Gabriola Island. We were now on our way to Nanaimo knowing the fleet was behind us.
The waves were short however they were fairly steep and close together causing us to lose boat speed and travel only at about 8-9kts upwind when we were banging like a hobby horse. We were lucky there was plenty of wind. When we came out of Porlier, we couldn’t believe our eyes… there were 5 monohulls ahead of us! It was obvious that the outside had paid for them, Kim knew this was the preferred tactic however we had decided that the shortest, fastest route (with wind, currents etc.) if executed, could bring us closer to reaching the fastest elapsed time as opposed to taking the outside route, it was our only opportunity to make up approximately 9 hours if we had a chance.
We reeled in about 5 monohulls (there were more ahead) on our course to Nanaimo, close to shore the seas flattened out and we were reaching speeds of 12kts upwind which greatly improved the handling of the Monkee.
We rounded Gabriola without incident, reached into the Nanaimo harbor and headed up closed hulled to the finish line. We successfully completed at approximately 10:20am and felt confident that we had won 1st in our division for today’s leg and over all 1st in our division.
It turned out that the first boat back was White Cloud at approx 5:45am. This is a first that I am aware of that a Monohull has taken a first to finish in the Cadillac Van Isle 360! It was awesome to finish to the cheers of the 7-8 already finished competitors and my family on the pier when the horn sounded! We raced a great race and were the 1st multihull to finish for leg 10.
The race is now over and the awards are all that remain from our racing adventures over the past 2 weeks. During this time I have made many friends and have experienced sailing that many will never have the pleasure or opportunity too. Bob from Bad Kitty says “this race will change your life” and it does. Racing against Bad Kitty, Blue Lightning and Dragonfly was terrific; they are all great sailors, fantastic to race against and great people to get to know better.
It brings me great pleasure to have my family present with me for the awards that take place tomorrow and to share in my achievements as if it was their own. If it weren’t for their love and support, my participation in this event would just not have been possible. I have now circumnavigated Vancouver Island 2 times, it looks like we have won our division both times and we are already looking forward to another great experience in 2007.
What a day!