Victoria’s biggest yachting event is this weekend, taking place between May 27th and 28th with several categories allowing different types of vessels from all over the world to partake in the action.
The Swiftsure lightship race is put on by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and has been since 1930. Historically, Cadboro Bay has been the launchpoint with the ships racing westward down the Juan de Fuca Strait, to Swiftsure Bank, which is around 30 kilometres off Cape Flattery at the mouth of the Strait.
At Swiftsure Bank, there would traditionally be a lightship stationed which sailors knew about and it gave them a decently long distance race to compete in from Victoria. Lightships were essentially mobile lighthouses that were positioned near shoals to warn large vessels which may run aground in the shallows.
Present day, the race begins at Clover Point and finishes at the Ogden Point’s breakwater with the mid-way point still being at Swiftsure Bank.
Typically, since the last Swiftsure vessel that used to be used is now moored at Seattle’s National Historic Landmark at Historic Ships Wharf in Lake Union Park, an off-duty Royal Canadian Navy vessel is utilized for the race as the mid-way point.
This year, the Navy is unable to provide a ship, so the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) will be supplying the Swiftsure ship.
In 1930, just six ships participated in that first year. Now, the race attracts hundreds of yachts and enthusiasts from across the globe. This year, 120 vessels are signed up to race in five different classes based on the type of vessel — 22 of those ships are RVYC vessels.
The first group of vessels will begin racing at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 27th from Clover Point with the other four groups launching in 10 minute intervals afterward, so the last batch will be off by 10 a.m.
Spectators will be able to watch the 120 yachts of all shapes and sizes sail from Clover Point all along Dallas Road and along Greater Victoria’s southwestern shores until they disappear into the distance.
The ships should start to come back around midnight on Sunday, May 28th and they will continue to come in through the morning and afternoon.
Those wishing to watch the yachts return can gather at Ogden Point which is the finish line for the Swiftsure event.
For those wishing to follow the racers’ progress online, there is a ship tracker on the Swiftsure website which will have every ship’s location tagged along with their names.
- Where: Clover Point, Ogden Point and online
- When: Saturday, May 27th at 9 a.m. to Sunday, May 28th at 11:59 p.m.