Swiftsure International Yacht Race introducing new elements for 75th anniversary

The 75th annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race will have a few new additions for the anniversary.

The race is the largest international sailboat race in western North America, and will have racers from all over the world. The race first started in 1930.

Vern Burkhardt, chair of Swiftsure, said the changes have resulted in more boats participating this year.

“We introduced another course for the multi-hulls,” Burkhardt said. “These are the boats with more than one hull; catamarans and trimarans. They used to do the Cape Flattery we now also give the opportunity for Juan de Fuca race for multi-hulls. It resulted in a significant increase in the number of boats. 17 multi-hulls compared to six from last year. They’re coming from all over, one as far away as California.”

Another change to the event will be a dedication to a long-time boat designer, Ian Farrier, who passed away suddenly Dec. 2017.

John Green, long-time friend of Farrier, and a competitor in Swiftsure said they reached out to people who have boats built by Farrier to come to the race.

“Of the boats that are coming, I mentioned that 11 of them are Farrier boats,” Green said. “We got out to them personal letters and said, ‘look it guys. Come on up here and help remember Ian Farrier and we’ll have a dinner on the Friday night. 70 people getting together and we’ll have slideshows and things like that.”

Green, who built his own boat, said Farrier was always available for help when he built the boat, and whenever repairs were required.

“When I wanted to build this boat I contacted him at his home,” Green said. “During my construction process I could phone him up day or night. Fax machines weren’t working, internet wasn’t invented. It had to be phone calls or long hand-written letters. He would hold your hand all the way through the building process.

Even up until about three years ago, I broke something. I hit a log in the water and broke a rudder. I phoned Ian up in New Zealand and said, ‘Ian, I need a new rudder.’ Five days later I had a new rudder.”

One boat will have half the regular crew sitting out, to make room for members of the ‘Soldier On’ program, which helps veterans overcome physical or mental health issues through sport.

Christopher Maier, commodore of the Canadian Forces Sailing Association said he got involved with the program when he became head coach for the Invictus Games sailing team.

“We usually race with a crew of eight people, so we’ll have four of the regular crew who know the boat really well,” Maier said. “They’ll be able to pair up with our Soldier On partners that will be coming in and learning to sail – some of them – so that we can do this amazing race.”

HMCS Nanaimo and HMCS Malahat will be part of the races as well. They will act as starting boat, and rounding point for the racers.

Shane Denney, HMCS Nanaimo commanding officer said the navy gets requested for this race, and accepts each year.

“It’s always great as a member of the forces to have the opportunity to interact with the public especially on a really positive note that Swiftsure is,” Denney said. “A lot of times when the Canadian Forces comes to interact with the public it’s to respond to an emergency management nexus or there’s a request for assistance and we’re coming to help with something.

Here we’re coming to help with something too, but it has an entirely different positive spin on it. All of our interactions are positive, but this gives us a chance to participate in a festival style environment.”

The races will run from May 26-28, with the first race starting on Saturday at 9 a.m.

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