The Swiftsure International Yacht Race had a slow start Saturday morning as light winds made it difficult for boats to push past the start line.
Spectators gathered at Clover Point, despite rainy conditions, to watch 165 boats gather on the water and begin the race.
Swiftsure is the largest yacht race of its kind on the entire west coast of North America in terms of number of boats and racers.
There are four long courses — the Swiftsure Lightship Classic (243.2 kilometres), the Hein Back Race (207.8 km), the Cape Flattery Race (179.3 km) and the Juan de Fuca Race (138.5 km).
The inshore race is a shorter route that is about 40 kilometres.
Hosted by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, the annual race has been going on for 76 years and attracts yachts from B.C., Canada and the world to participate in it.
HMCS Edmonton fired its gun to start the race but it took the first three boats 26 minutes to cross the start line due to light winds.
“It’s been damp and there hasn’t been a lot of breeze but that’s all part of the challenge which of course is the race’s motto — ‘always a challenge,’” said Kelly Larkin, a Swiftsure veteran and retired naval commander. “When it’s slow like this the racers have to do everything they can to squeeze every ounce of speed out of whatever breeze there is.”
However, currents in the water were in favour of the boats, ebbing in the direction of the racecourse.
Larkin said due to the light winds, spectators will probably see many of the racers still out on Sunday and he said it will be easy to spot the boats as well.
Once the sun comes out Larkin said the land will start to heat up differently from the water, creating thermals that will generate more local winds.
“Tactics are important, to watch for opportunities to get yourself ahead,” Larkin said.
Michael Koster, a Victoria resident, made his way to Clover Point with an umbrella in hand to watch several of his friends race. He races himself but did some damage to his boat and couldn’t sail it.
“The forecast is rather sad,” Koster said. “I’m glad I’ve been in a couple of events where it was windier.”
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Koster predicted that some of the boats will finish the short race on Saturday but said he thinks many boats won’t finish the longer race at all.
Boats in the long race have until 6 a.m. Monday to finish the race. The finish line will run across the Victoria Harbour entrance near the Ogden Point Breakwater.
The time limit for the short race is 7.5 hours after the start for the first boat in each division to finish. If at least one boat in a division finishes, the rest of the boats have 9 hours. The finish line will be in Cadboro Bay, near the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.