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Explore: Swiftsure organizers add some new wrinkles this year

New shore-based events, a change in life-raft requirements and new technology are some of the highlights of this weekend’s 71st Swiftsure International Yacht Race.
Swiftsure racers as seen from the deck of the Prince of Wales Ocean Magic III at last year's Swiftsure. New shore-based events have been organized to make the event more landlubber-friendly.

New shore-based events, a change in life-raft requirements and new technology are some of the highlights of this weekend’s 71st Swiftsure International Yacht Race.

Ships have already begun arriving in Victoria’s Inner Harbour in anticipation of the race. Although the race is a test of sailors’ abilities, landlubbers can share the excitement starting this afternoon as the Swiftsure Centre tent goes up and the public can rub shoulders with skippers.

The Royal Victoria Yacht Club, the host of the race, has added a number of shore-based events to expand the event’s appeal.

“We want it to be more than just a boat race,” said Gary Davis, chairman for media for the race.

“We have built up on-shore activities so that there is more to see and do between the time the ships start and when they return.”

Activities include a night market with about 28 stalls, including food vendors. To acknowledge the event taking place in traditional Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations lands, there will be a Lekwungen Cultural Centre. Entertainment includes a Jack Sparrow impersonator and local bands.

The race on Saturday follows a blessing on the fleet by Songhees and Esquimalt elders, followed by a search-and-rescue demonstration.

Organizers expect to welcome 185 ships, including 71 signed up for the Cape Flattery race and 29 for the 240-kilometre Swiftsure Lightship Classic.

A recategorization of safety requirements has opened the Swiftsure race to smaller boats this year, resulting in almost doubling the number of entries to 29.

“We haven’t seen this number of entries since 2005,” said Davis.

The change in safety requirements this year has meant entries in coastal races don’t have to carry a lifeboat, although the boats still need to adhere to specific safety equipment.

While the boats may be out of sight during the race, a chase boats with photographers on board will follow them, sending back pictures, some in real time. The race’s 800 Twitter followers will get tweets updating them on the progress of the boats.

People can also follow the progress of all the participants in real time with a Race Tracker program online. Every boat is equipped with a GPS transponder, which communicates its position every 10 minutes. People can track individual or multiple boats at any time during the race. By putting the race on the Internet, armchair fans of the competition anywhere in the world can follow the boats.

The new technology is also a safety net, with co-ordinates instantly available in case of an emergency.

There are five races on Saturday and viewing is free. The Swiftsure Lightship Classic starts at 9 a.m., the Unlimited Flattery Race and Cape Flattery Race for Multihulls start at 9:10 a.m., the Cape Flattery Race starts at 9:20 a.m., the Juan de Fuca Race starts at 9:30 a.m., and the Swiftsure Inshore Classic starts at 9:40 a.m. from Clover Point. The finish line for all except the Inshore Classic is the Ogden Point Breakwater. The Inshore Classic finishes in Cadboro Bay.

Official Swiftsure events begin Friday at 2 p.m. at the Swiftsure Centre at Ship Point in the Inner Harbour, but the public is invited to come down to watch the boats arrive starting today.

The centre will be open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday. A pancake breakfast is served at 8 a.m. Saturday at Clover Point. The Swiftsure Centre is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for race tracking and free vessel plotting. Competitors are expected to cross the finish line, at the breakwater at Ogden Point Sunday and Monday.

For information, go to


Public encouraged to seek expert advice

Do you have a question about gardening, travel, fashion, water safety, art, food or fire prevention? There will be an expert who can answer your questions at the Talk to an Expert Day on Saturday. Hosted by Oak Bay Village, the event features more than 30 experts on a range of topics set up in shops or booths throughout the village.

The experts can answer questions and provide personalized advice. Area merchants will also give product demonstrations and deals to connect people to their local experts.

“Talk to an Expert Day is an opportunity for people to engage with local businesses and organizations and find out more about whatever they are interested in,” says Elizabeth Smith, president of Oak Bay Business Improvement Association. “We have over 30 shops, services and invited experts who will be in the village that day to talk to people about their individual interests. It’s like an open house with a focus on what people are curious about.”

People can find the experts by the Talk to an Expert Here signs.

Street food will be available from noon to 5 p.m. Choose between gourmet hot dogs by Oak Bay Kiwanis, Indian food by Willows Park Grocery and waffles by Wannawafel.

Live music will play throughout the day.

The event is free. Experts will be on hand during regular business hours, generally 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at various locations in the Oak Bay Village. For information and a complete list of experts and store specials, go to


Walk a Mile helps raise awareness of sexualized violence

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes on Sunday is an opportunity for the community to bring awareness to sexualized violence, which is often clouded in shame and secrecy.

This is the eighth year of the annual international event, hosted by the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.

On this day of action men are encouraged to walk one mile wearing shoes of their own (or fancy shoes with heels if they choose) to raise funds and awareness for the centre. This year, participants are asked to take an extra step to learn bystander intervention skills to stand up and speak out against sexualized violence.

Bystander education teaches people safe and positive ways to speak out against ideas and behaviour that tolerate and sustain sexualized violence. Research shows that bystander education is effective.

“Being more than a bystander is about de-normalizing violence, calling it out and moving past it,” says Jeremy Loveday, a local poet. “I am excited to attend the training and it is encouraging to see young people taking the lead on this issue.”

Registration is free but donations and sponsorships are welcome. The event runs from 2-4 p.m. at Centennial Square. For information, go to


Caribbean, African culture celebrated

Africa Fest is a family-friendly event that showcases African and Caribbean culture and cuisine this weekend.

The festival features two-day filled with dancing as well as performances of classical African and Caribbean music on stage. There is also a fashion show, market and lots of mouth-watering and exotic African, Creole and Caribbean food.

The all-ages event means there will be lots of activities for children, including face-painting and an inflatable bouncer. Admission is free. Activities kick off at noon and run until 6:30 p.m. Friday, and noon to 7:45 p.m. Saturday in Centennial Square. For information, go to


Relive the glory days of the Gorge Waterway

Take a step back in time at the Gorge Historical Walking Tour on Saturday.

The walk, guided by Dennis Minaker, local historian and author of The Gorge of Summers Gone, takes participants down memory lane, reliving the glory days of the waterway.

Saturday also marks the Queen’s birthday.

For almost a century, locals celebrated the day with a naval regatta, with sailors on their heavy cutters and whalers, First Nations paddlers from along the coast in 50-foot war canoes and amateur oarsmen.

The beginning of summer also meant picnics, camping, canoeing, swimming galas, high diving, amusement rides, a Japanese garden, taverns and moonlight cruises in the stretch of water.

The event is free.

It starts at 2 p.m. Meet in the public parking lot at 355 Gorge Rd. W. Caution, there will be some stairs. For information, call Minaker at 250-385-8884.

• People can take part in a four-legged fundraising walk on Sunday as the Lion’s Foundation of Canada presents the Purina Walk for Dog Guides.

The walk raised money to train guide dogs for programs such as Canine Vision, Hearing Ear, Service, Seizure Response, Autism Assistance and Diabetic Alert.

People can participate with their dogs or donate online. Registration is at

9 a.m. and the walk starts at 10 a.m. at Ogden Point on Dallas Road to the bottom of Cook Street and back.

For information, go to

nawalk.html or

Gordon Head Lions Club, 250-595-5537.

For a list of the many other walks and runs this weekend, see the Go Calendar listings.


Bee all you can bee at Swan Lake

Prepare to bee enchanted as the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary presents Bee Day on Sunday. Organizers call it “a honey of a program fit for the royalty of the insect world.” The family-friendly event includes people learning bee songs, bee crafts and tasting some bee spit (honey).

Admission is by donation. This is a drop-in event. The program runs from noon to 3 p.m. at the sanctuary, 3873 Swan Lake Rd. For information, go to

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