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Swiftsure races moved to later start in hopes of catching stronger wind

The first race — the Swiftsure Lightship Classic — is set to begin at 10 a.m., on Saturday, an hour later than previously

Spectators who plan to line Clover Point and Dallas Road to watch the start of races in the 79th Swiftsure International Yacht Race on Saturday can sleep in a little later.

The first race — the Swiftsure Lightship Classic — is set to begin at 10 a.m., an hour later than previously, in hopes of catching more wind. Subsequent races begin 10 minutes apart.

Saturday’s start time was changed because “generally the wind doesn’t come up until around 10 a.m.,” said Kirk Palmer, director of the race, which is presented through the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.

Ideally, racers would like “the classic Victoria westerly blowing in fairly quickly,” he said.

Boats began arriving at the Inner Harbour on Thursday for the races. Docks will be open until 5 p.m. today for people to view boats and chat with participants.

The first boats, competing in shorter inshore races, are expected to return late afternoon on Saturday, crossing the final marker running from the tip of the Ogden Point breakwater and across the water to Department of National Defence land on the Esquimalt side.

Boats then head to the Inner Harbour.

The breakwater and Ship Point are good locations to see returning boats on Saturday and Sunday.

A tent will be set up at Clover Point on Saturday morning to offer commentary to spectators for about an hour until the boats are out of sight.

About 135 boats are entered in the races, up by 15 per cent from 117 last year. Swiftsure events were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic and resumed in 2022.

The 118-nautical-mile Hein Bank Race, which only attracted eight boats in 2023, has been dropped this year, with Hein Bank competitors entering the popular 101.9-nautical-mile Cape Flattery race in a specific division.

“What you are going to see is there are some extremely fast boats now in the Cape Flattery Race,” Palmer said.

Also new is a white mooring buoy with a mast and solar-powered light anchored off Swiftsure Bank to serve as a marker and give racers a physical object to sail around.

Previously, boats sailed around an imaginary marker identified by specific co-ordinates.

About 65 per cent of participants in the longer races are from the U.S., Palmer said. Shorter inshore races typically see 80 per cent of participants from local waters.

Swiftsure is an established shot in the arm for tourism as the summer season starts, with up to 900 crew members arriving along with spectators and family members, booking hotel rooms and going to restaurants.

Recently retired couple Owen Thistle and Fiona Curthoys of Calgary, who keep their 40-foot Kerkyra in ­Ladysmith, are racing in the Juan de Fuca race with daughter Cailyn Thistle, friends Wayne and Nora Kushneryk and daughter Katie, and Pat Fenton to form an all-Calgary crew.

This will be Curthoys’ second competition, while Thistle has raced in Swiftsure events about seven times, competing the first time in 2000 as a crew member in the Lightship Classic. “That was part of what sparked my interest in getting a boat.”

Racing provides useful sailing experience, helping sailors become better prepared for any eventuality, such as heavy weather, and is a good way to really get to know a boat, Thistle said.

“We obviously want to do well in the race but it is also largely about having the experience with some family and friends.”

To follow the races and for more information:

• is running a live broadcast starting at 9:55 a.m. Saturday hosted by CHEK anchor Tess van Straaten and Swiftsure commentator Dale Gann from the yacht club.

• Viewers with smartphones can download Kwindoo LiveView from the App Store for iPhones or Play Store via Google. To follow boats, open the app and search for Swiftsure2024.

• To follow on your computer, go to and select “Events,” type in the event name “Swiftsure” and select Swiftsure 2024 International Yacht Race.

• Swiftsure’s Facebook page will provide real-time updates, photos, and essential information for attendees.

• Go to

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