Copyright 2017 - Woods Designs, Foss Quay, Millbrook, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL10 1EN, UK
  • home built Flica 37

  • plywood Romany 34

  • lightweight 14ft Zeta mainhull

  • Strike 15 trimaran at speed

  • 28ft Skoota in British Columbia

  • 10ft 2 sheet ply Duo dinghy

  • 24ft Strider sailing fast

  • 36ft Mirage open deck catamaran

Although these reports appear in my year review section I have put them all together here for convenience. These are just the major races I have competed in. I don't include the fun local races

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I have often written that designers should sail on other peoples designs as much as they can. I always take any opportunity offered.

The major offshore race in British Columbia is the Van-Isle 360. Held every two years this is a fully crewed race in 10 legs that takes competitors right round Vancouver Island. Although it's not a long race (the longest leg is only 130 miles) the tidal currents, potential gales in the north and remoteness of the west coast make it a challenging event. (Driving north to join my boat we saw a bear by the side of the road.) It is also much colder and wetter than further south, it rained non stop in Winter Harbour.

I was invited to crew on a F31R (an all carbon Farrier 31ft trimaran) "Blue Lightning" to race from Port Hardy in the north down the west coast of Vancouver Island to Victoria in the south. In 2005 we had sailed from Port Hardy to Victoria using the inside passage, so this trip meant that I would circumnavigate Vancouver Island, admittedly in two different boats.

Part of the fleet moored in Winter Harbour

You can see more about the race and the results at www.vanisle360.com. But in brief the race was dogged by light winds (the leg to Victoria was abandoned as only 6 boats finished in the time limit (we were 6th). A 60ft monohull had the shortest elapsed time, while the smallest boat in the fleet, a F25C was third fastest round the island.

Owner Mark at the helm, note small cockpit

That's what I like about these races that are open to monohulls and multihulls. The monohulls learn that some multihulls do sail well. For my part I learnt that although modern trimarans are fast they are very uncomfortable, small and wet to sail compared to a catamaran. I also didn't like the fact that the only dry part of the boat is the windward outrigger, but to get there involved a leap over the aft beam with nothing except sea under one. Potentially very dangerous. Finally, I found that the flat bottomed main hull slammed far more than Eclipse ever did when sailing to windward.

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May was a busy racing month for us. First was the BCMS regatta on the adjacent island of Pender. Last year we had miserable weather, pouring rain and little wind. This year was a complete contrast with bright sun, 15 knots of wind and flat water. Perfect! Close reaching on Tucanu we were recording a steady 14-15 knots on the gps, we sailed faster still once we had borne off and hoisted the spinnaker. And just like last year we won the race. Second to finish was Bad Kitty, see below for more, third a 36ft wing masted Tennant cat and fourth a F9A.

The Swiftsure Race, held at the end of May, (see swiftsure.org) is to the Pacific NW what the Fastnet is to UK racers or the Sydney Hobart to Australians. Although much shorter (only 100 miles or so) it can be a tough race out to Cape Flattery at the west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

For most of this year's race, however, it lived up to it's nickname of the Driftsure. I was invited to crew on Bad Kitty, above, a 25 year old home designed and built 35ft catamaran. Despite appearances it is a well sorted boat and the rest of the crew know how to sail it to its full potential, so usually it will beat the fastest Farrier trimarans.

We had a long slow beat west, and then around midnight the wind slowly built for the run home. Our highest speed was 22 knots when racing through the narrow gap between two sets of unlit rocks only 100 ft apart on a pitch black night. However the best bit was earlier in the day when we overtook the big monohulls to windward in light airs (including a 75ft ULDB, a couple of SC52 etc). We even have a video to prove it!

The photo below shows us finishing just ahead of the F40 Dragonfly to be first boat home. Third to finish was a F25C which beat us on corrected time by 1 minute. But since the race took over 20 hours I reckon that was a dead heat! Then came the monohulls, about 150 of them....

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The Swiftsure Race, held over the last weekend in May is the biggest offshore race in the Pacific North West. Long time readers will recall that I raced on Bad Kitty a few years ago when we were first to finish. This year I was asked to helm Flying Kiwi, a 35ft Banks catamaran, in the inshore race. Flying Kiwi is a 30 year old boat, sailed on a budget. The genoa is original and the only dacron sail in the fleet, so usually it finishes near the back.

The start was postponed for 30 minutes due to lack of wind. When we did eventually start the wind slowly picked up to maybe 5 knots true. We had a 10 mile beat (actually we laid it on one tack, the tide helped) and rounded just behind the consistently best sailed boat in the PNW, "Geneva" a F24.

On the run downwind we passed Geneva, but we only had a small symmetrical spinnaker and an even smaller asymmetric, so we were overtaken, temporarily, by a much modified Viva 27 racing catamaran. However we kept the F31, F27's at bay.

You'll all groan, but I'll write it anyway. By sheer fluke I managed to orcastrate some killer whales to surface just next to the boat

See below for the video. I just wish Tim had used his phone to upload the video as then it would have been a real podcast. Told you you'd groan!

We then had to wait for a couple of impatient ships to barge past us before we could start the close reach in a building wind to the finish. You all know that sailing is often hours of nothing much going on and then it all happens in a rush. That's what it was like on the reach home....

"Sheet in, more downhaul, tighten the foot, what's the mastbend like?" "Quick - more on the runner, where's the Viva cat? "behind us", how deep is it Ian?", "only 12ft", "what's that kelp ahead? how fast are we going, "18 knots", "I can't release the mainsheet, dump the traveller!!!!" "No, I can't luff because of the rocks, what do you mean the furlers jammed!!! where's that kelp now?, s**t the Viva's overtaken us."

And so on to the finish. Here are the results.