Leg 7
Date: June 20 – 21, 2003
Course: Port Hardy to Winter Harbour
Distance: 69.40 nautical miles

7° of Separation

We said goodbye to Joe in Pt Hardy, what a gentleman. Joe invited us all (crew of the Cheekee Monkee and the crew of the Bad Kitty) out for a farewell dinner. My son Shane flew in to Pt Hardy to take over from Joe on the Cheekee Monkee. At dinner Joe started regaling us with his view of the crewing on the Cheekee Monkee. Relating our adventure on Leg One during our high speed spinnaker run-up to French Creek at 18+ knots, Joe said, “Here we are screaming along, flying off the tops of the waves and driving all three hulls through the waves, occasionally slamming right into a big wave. The skipper drives down the waves right into the steep face of a really big wave as we are surfing along at 20 knots. The Cheekee Monkee slams to a halt as the bows disappear beneath the roiling green sea, here am I thinking we are about to go over, the boat is pointing down with the transom lifting high out of the water, and as the mainsheet trimmer I am trying to ease off the pressure on the mainsail to save our lives, as I am struggling with the sheets, I look over at the skipper and he screams at me: TRAVELLER UP!, TRAVELLER UP!, SHEET IN!, what a maniac. The hulls pop up, the turbo boost kicks in and off we go again! What a wild ride.

Shane has been sailing on the Cheekee Monkee as regular crew since Swiftsure 1996. Shane’s first exposure to the Cheekee Monkee was during a family vacation in the Florida Keys in early ’96. He volunteered for crew for Swiftsure shortly after joining us in Florida. Shane likes to sail fast.

The start is at 0800, off the end of the pier. We run back and forth on the line looking for a clear lane with a good breeze. We choose the far end of the line, the out flushing current seems strong there, we see a good wind lane right up the center to the right-hand side, best of all clear air, few other boats. We unfurl the screecher at 30 seconds to go and charge hard and fast for the line with full main. We are making good progress and are just behind Dragonfly on the race out to Duval Point where we have to hang a left to race down Goletas Channel. As we approached the headland, the wind started to build, so we switched from the Screecher to the small jib. This sail change was not our best and the leading boats over on the left shore started getting lifted up and we gave up half a dozen positions. The wind continued to build as we beat up Goletas Channel and we decided to take in a reef, this slowed us down again until we got the reef in and cranked up the speed. At this point, Dragonfly, Redshift, Flip Flop and Fly, Mystic, Diehler, Bad Kitty, and a couple of other monohulls we ahead of us at this point. This was good for the video that we were taping for the documentary crew. They had mounted a camera on the arch at the back of the boat facing forward. The wind eased up slightly and we shook out the reef. About this time we saw that once again the right side was paying dividends with both a lift and a favourable current.

We passed Dielher and Bad Kitty once we were locked in the right side. Many of the boats seemed to be sailing from side to side, giving up time to those sticking on one side or the other. Now we were nipping at the heels of Flip Flop and Fly, trading tacks back and forth. We hooked into the shore on the right under sheer towering cliffs as Flip Flop headed for the left side we got a huge lift and shot past Flip Flop and had the clear lead on them when they came back over to our side. Seeing what had happened, Flip Flop started chasing us on the right side now. At one point, we were on starboard tack about 100 yards to windward of Flip Flop, they were on port tack right on the shore, we were both on the same heading, maybe separated by 7° in angle, sailing virtually parallel to each other for several minutes. They tacked out and we tacked back in.

Only Mystic, Redshift and Dragonfly remained to be caught and passed. Mystic headed left and we headed right as we transited Bate Passage, another big lift and a healthy shot of wind put us in front of Mystic. Redshift clears the channel, rounding Cape Sutil and heads out across Nahwitti Bar. Surfs up!

We clear the channel in hot pursuit, unfurl the screecher and start slamming of the tops of very steep waves. The shock loading is intense. The load on the screecher was so high that the halyard slipped in the clutch. This is a 2:1 vectran halyard on a 2500 lb clutch which meant that the shock loads exceeded 5000 pounds. The skipper needs to be a little more careful and pick a safe line through the waves. We are charging across the bar at 10 – 12 knots trying to catch Redshift. Sometimes we seem to gain and at others, we seem to fall back. Eventually, we hear them call in on the radio to the Coast Guard in Tofino that they have cleared Scott Channel. They are 2 – 3 miles ahead of us, no one else seems to be in sight. We clear the channel and start following Redshift out into the open Pacific. We furl the screecher and set the spinnaker and take of down wind at 16 knots. As we head out further the boat speed drops to 13 knots and it’s clear that there is more wind on the shore. Over we gybe working our way down the shoreline, gybing back and forth, trying to keep the boat speed up over 16 knots. The wind builds and some places we have flatter water and the boats jumps to 18+ knots in the flat water.

Redshift comes back in towards the shore and it is clear that we have made huge gains on them, we are at least a mile ahead, maybe more. We keep working the shore, sailing in as close as we can. Gybing out for sea room when we have to. Off in the distance, we can see Dragonfly with main and jib up. We are close enough to have them on corrected time, they owe us 2 hours of time on this leg. We now just have to get 17.35 minutes ahead of Redshift by the time we cross the finish line.

It was not to be. About 5 miles up from the finish line we headed in again and sailed into a hole, our speed was down to less than 10 knots. Redshift is making big gains on us now. Back out we go, we just can’t get the wind again, frustration sets it. Finally we drive south, catch the wind and head back in, Redshift is closing in fast, we sheet in and head for the line. Redshift is right behind us. “Blaaaappppp” off goes the horn, we are still ahead of them, but the closed the gap to get a solid lock on first place, the Cheekee Monkee crossed the line second and is second in class. What a great race. We finished just after 4PM, breaking the old elapsed time record.

Sail fast, Sail flat.


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