2017 Collingwood Channel Race

17 miles of course, 3 different headsails (plus the drifter), 2 different spinnakers, countless sails up and down, countless holes, countless puffs missed (and a few caught), and a lot of rain.

All in all, one of the more frustrating days of sailing I've had in a while.

Sailor of the Day award goes to Ryan for never complaining about us calling for another sail change before he sat down from the previous one.

Here is Guy's video account of the day.  I think it captures it well.

2017 Southern Straits Race

2017 was the 49th running of the Southern Straits Race, and the 3rd year in a row for the current Long Course route to Sister’s Island, TA buoy, Halibut Bank, and home.  About 130 nm in total.

For Occam’s this race was our first big test in our lead up to Van Isle 360.  We sailed with a crew of 12, the same number we will have on Van Isle, with a full roster of Van Isle people, with Cam stepping in a the last moment to fill in for one person who couldn’t make it.

The weather was predicted to be similar to what we had 2 years ago, with a decent south-easterly for most of the day Saturday, fading off in the late evening, particularly in the northern section of the course.  The forecast was actually pretty spot on, so there was an advantage to the faster boats who were able to get south before the wind shut off around Ballenas.
Pre-start Manoeuvring (photo from WVYC)

Our plan for the start of the race was to try to get south of the start line, to hook up into the ebb river leading out from First Narrows.  Unfortunately for us, we were pinned by a few boats who were determined to head to the West van shore, and we were unable to get into the river.  To make matters worse, we were forced to sail into a hole, and were getting ready to raise the drifter while the rest of our fleet sped off in the wind and the current.
Oh, how I wish we had gybed right then!  (photo from WVYC)

Eventually, we made our way into the breeze, and we were on our way for the sleigh ride to Sister’s.  Even though the wind was not quite as strong as two years ago, it held on longer, and we rounded sisters shortly after 6pm, ahead of our time from 2015. 
Vancouver in the reaview mirror

Rainbows are pretty, but they do come with rain.

Rounding Sister’s, we started upwind (South) with the #3 and full main.  The new #3 is amazing, and we were able to sail significantly higher than the boats we rounded with.  We soon had climbed ½ mile to weather of them, which kept us in better breeze.  As we neared Ballenas, the wind softened, as expected, and we shifted to the #2 and then the #1.  With the height we built with the #3, we were very close to laying Ballenas, but ended up doing a short clearing tack to stay out of the wind shadow to weather of the island.  About this time, the boats who had rounded with us had to make the decision to sail through the lee of Ballenas, or tack and come out to where we were (but well behind us).
On our way South from Sister's

South of Ballenas, the wind continued to soften, leading into the big transition for the race.  Like two years ago, our strategy was to stay out towards the center of the Strait, and not get sucked in to sailing near Nanaimo and the north end of Gabriola.  We kept to that strategy for the most part, but even so, ran out of wind for a little while, and had to hoist the drifter.  However, the wind soon filled, and we were back on our way.  We did do one short tack in towards Entrance Island, which in retrospect was likely extra distance, as after that we were a few degrees cracked off all the way to TA, sailing fully powered up with the #2.

We rounded TA around 2am, at about the same time the TP52’s were rounding Halibut Bank, pour next mark on the course, 30 miles away.  The first stretch north from TA was a tight reach, but it quickly freed up to the point that we were able to hoist the S3 reaching kite.  An hour or two later, we peeled to the S2 runner.

The great thing about the crew that we have lined up for Van Isle is that all of the manoeuvres that we did through the night were done without drama or fuss.  We elected to do the peel from the S3 to S2 bareheaded in order to reduce the possibility of a fouled halyard, and so that we could do it without waking the off-watch.  The switch went perfectly, and we were without a kite for a grand to total of perhaps 90 seconds, with no drama!

We carried the S2 all the way to Halibut Bank, making one gybe on the layline to the mark, from about 2 miles away.  We rounded the mark just before 6am, and headed for home under the #2 and full main.  Our planned route home was the typical one from HB, going well south, and giving the mouth of Collingwood Channel, and the south side of Bowen Island a wide berth.  It is always temping to head into the Bowen shore, in order to be on the inside of the lift.  But doing that can often lift you right into a massive hole on the south-east corner of the island.  And unfortunately, there is no way to know until you get there if the hole will be there.  So the smart money is to sail a little extra distance to stay out of harm’s way.  This year, there was no hole, so we did take a couple of hitches in towards Bowen to get inside on the lift, but we played it conservative, wary of the potential hole south of Passage Island.  We were able to split the difference between staying in the pressure, and taking the lift, and sailed a quick final leg, finishing right at 7:30 Saturday morning.  18 1/5 hours faster than last year!
The final leg home

Overall, our tactics were sound, except that we were not able to execute them as planned at the start.  And our crew work was excellent, and team chemistry was great.

The Occam’s Razor Golden Pillow Perpetual Award goes to Nick for this race, for managing to sleep through the finish of the race.

The Player of Game award goes to the new guy, Sebastian, for spending the better part of 2 hours at the top of the mast Thursday evening before the race (in the rain), installing the new windex.  Honourable mention goes to Karen for buying and preparing the food for the crew!

Next up, Collingwood Channel on April 29, the Swiftsure! 

2017 VARC Opener Regatta

Occam’s Razor has a very busy schedule planned for 2017, and as a result, the first ‘round the buoys regatta of the year may very well be the only two day regatta we do this year in Vancouver.  The VARC (www.varc.bc.ca) Opener Regatta, hosted by RVYC (www.royalvan.ca) is the traditional season opener on the Vancouver race calendar.  This year, it coincided with the Patos Island race over on Vancouver Island, which unfortunately split the fleet somewhat.  The meant that Occam’s was the only Division 1 boat participating, and we ended up lining up against a fleet of four Farr 30’s (who did not have the required numbers to earn their own start).  One the one hand, this was less than ideal, as the 30’s are very light and agile, and are more of a sportboat than a true keelboat like Occam’s, so it was something of a mismatch.  On the other hand, it meant that we were racing against some of the best sailors in Vancouver, which is always a good thing, if your goal is to learn and improve.

The literal calm before the storm.
 For better or worse, the weather actually did as predicted, and Saturday morning there was an easterly blowing in the Bay.  We were out early, and were able to get in a bit of practice, but the wind was trending to the North, with typically indicates a dying breeze, which is what it did.  By the time of the 11am scheduled start, the wind had all but evaporated, and it became a waiting game to see if anything would develop to allow us to race.  Finally, around 2pm, the wind started to come in from the West.  Somewhat atypically, it filled into the bay very quickly, and by 2:30, we were set for racing. 

Waiting for the wind Saturday
Race 1 started in 6 knots of westerly, with a dying ebb tide.  Occam’s headed to the right side of the course to find more current, while the 30’s headed south towards the beach.  The fleet converged at the weather mark, and in the light airs, the faster 30’s were able to gain an advantage going downwind.  After an “interesting” leeward mark rounding, with a Farr 30 not playing by the rules, the 2nd lap was more of the same, but we stayed closer to the 30’s.

For the Race 2 start, the wind was up to about 10 knots, so we started with the #2.  We got a good start, and moved ahead of the 30’s on the first upwind leg.  The wind softened from there on, allowing the 30’s to catch up on the downwind, but we still lead at the bottom mark, and managed to hold them off for the 2nd lap as the wind continued to die.

Finishing ahead of two Farr 30's on the 2nd race of Saturday (but they are too close for comfort)
Sunday was a different situation entirely.  The wind was very light coming out from Coal Harbour, but the forecast was for 15 knots, and as we headed south to the race course, the wind filled in with a vengeance.  We hoisted the main, and then put in a reef, as we were seeing consistent winds over 18 knots.  With an 18 to 20 knot westerly, blowing against a strong ebb tide, the Bay was quite a mess of waves, which we hoped would be good for us over the 30’s.  Unfortunately, only two 30’s were out on Sunday, and one did not make it past the first race.

The first race got off on time, and we were lined up on the line with Through just below us, both boats killing speed before the start.  The first leg went well in the strong breeze, but when we reached the weather mark, we had a decision to make.  Under our current set-up, with the mainsail reefed, we are not able to raise the spinnaker pole high enough to allow us to execute a spinnaker jibe.  This meant that we either would hoist early, then douse party way down the leg, jibe, and continue with the #3.  We elected not to hoist the kite, and to see how things progressed.  At about this time, a freighter came into the Bay, and started sounding it’s horn, indicating its intention to drop anchor in the middle of the course.  As we headed downwind, Through rounded the weather mark, hoisted their masthead kite, and came flying downwind.  Fortunately for us, at about the time they passed us, the race committee abandoned the race, due to the freighter.

Upwind in a breeze.  The crew has their game faces on!
The re-start of race 1 played out similar to the first time.  We made it to the weather mark first, and started downwind under #3 only.  On the way downwind. We re-set the spinnaker gear so that we would be able to hoist on the 2nd downwind leg.  In the meantime, Through hoisted their masthead kite again, and were doing well, until they broached spectacularly halfway down the leg.  We continued on in front of the 30’s, and held position for the upwind leg.  Once around the weather mark for the 2nd time, we stayed on starboard jibe for just under half the leg, then jibed, and hoisted the kite.  Unfortunately, we called the layline just a few boat lengths early, and we ended up sailing high of the (quite short) finish line.  Since we could not jibe the kite, this meant that we had to douse it before we could jibe for the finish.  However, we were not able to complete the manoeuvre in time, so we sailed past the line, and had to tack back upwind to be able to finish.  By the time we made it through the line, Idiopathic had made up enough distance to us, so they corrected out for the win, with us 2nd, and Through 3rd.

In the 2nd race of the day, Idiopathic retired, so it was just Through and us.  Both crews opted not to hoist spinnakers on the downwind legs, and with the wind going more south, the downwind legs became a fetch on wing and wing.  We sailed most of the race covering Through from ahead, and in the end, the tactic worked out for us, as we corrected out for the win.

Fabio demonstrating whisker pole technique
The third race was quite similar to the 2nd, although Through had regained their courage, and hoisted their fractional kite on the downwind legs, while we stuck with the #3.  Through’s courage was rewarded, as they corrected over us for the win in the race.

After 4 starts, and 3 completed races in 18 knots plus, the whole crew was happy to see the “no more races today” flags hoisted, and we headed home.  Particularly Karen, who got stuck on the leeward side during a tack on the last upwind leg, and ended up getting a good dunking!  It wasn’t until later that we found out that we had beat Through in two races on the day.  Given the talent on that boat, that is a result that the whole crew can be proud of!

Results of the regatta are here:  http://www.royalvan.com/files/RVYC%20Opener%20Results%202017.pdf

Karen, after her attempt to sight the seafloor below us.
The “Sailor of the weekend” award had to go to Fabio for performing admirably on bow for his first regatta in a variety of conditions, including acting as a human whisker pole while we sailed wing on wing.

Sailor of the Weekend, Fabio.  Working hard on the foredeck.
We now have less than two weeks to get the boat converted into offshore set-up as we head out for Southern Straits on April 14 / 15.

Occam’s Spring Training Weekend

The weekend of February 18/19 saw a crew of 14 set out on Occam’s for a weekend of long distance sailing practice.  The primary goal of the weekend was to allow team members the opportunity to practice in their alternate positions that they will be assigned to during the longer legs of Van Isle.

The plan for the weekend was to sail over to Silva Bay on Gabriola Island on Saturday, and return to Vancouver on Sunday.  The exact route each day was to be determined by the wind strength and direction in the Strait of Georgia.

Saturday was a light to medium air day.  There was little wind inside English Bay, where we met up with Raven who were out for sea trials with a potential buyer.  Together, we motored out to the Pt. Grey Bell Buoy where there was a decent 6 knot breeze.  We hoisted our sailed and set out into the Strait, with Raven keeping us company for the first hour.  The wind built to about 10 knots, which gave our rookie foredeck crew the opportunity to practice a headsail change to the #2.  With the wind out of the northwest, we sailed a close hauled course towards Entrance Island for over half way across the Strait, until we could bear away and hoist the S3 reaching kite (more practice for the foredeck!).  As we neared Gabriola, the wind lightened, and we hoisted the Code 0 (more practice!), and eventually the #1 (still more practice!).

Heading out into the Strait with the #2

Leaving the gloom of Vancouver behind, heading for sunny Gabriola!

Shortly after 4pm, we motored in to Silva Bay, and tied up at Page’s Resort and Marina (www.pagesresort.com) in bright sunshine, where we were greeted by the resident Golden Retriever, Morgan (and her owners).
Pulling in to Page's

There were a lot of sailed to be packed up once we got to Page's!

 The crew enjoyed a dinner of pizza from Woodfire Restaurant (www.woodfirerestaurant.ca/), in two of the cabins at Page’s Resort.

Sunday morning, we awoke to a strong wind from the South-East.  We headed out, eager to see what the Strait had in store for us.  With the wind hovering at around 15knots, we hoisted the new #3, and beat our way South past Thrasher Rock, towards Porlier Pass.  The original plan was to get far enough South to allow us to hoist a kite into the Bay, but the wind was more easterly the further East we went, so we ended up on a close reach under the #3 and reefed main (even more practice for the foredeck!).  The sun was not out like it had been on Sunday, but the good wind made up for that.  As we entered English Bay, the rain intensified, and the wind moderated, so thoughts of sailing a few laps of the Bay diminished, and we headed for the barn.

The trip home was pretty windy, which made Alyosha happy, but Cambie took a nap.

 All in all, it was a successful weekend of training, practice, and crew bonding.  The biggest lesson for me was probably that hungry sailors need more than 3 pieces of pizza each for dinner!