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Swiftsure yachts kept racing despite U.S. submarine, online glitch

A U.S. military submarine unexpectedly came into the path of the racing yachts.
Competitors in the 2024 Swiftsure International Yacht Race. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Swiftsure yacht-race director Kirk Palmer had to deal with everything from a passing submarine to a possible cyberattack during the weekend’s races.

“Should have waited until I was retired,” the first-time race director joked.

“Had I known what I know now, I might have put it off a few years.”

At one point during the race, the U.S. Coast Guard advised race officials that a military asset was heading past Port Townsend and into the path of the racing yachts.

Palmer said one of the yachts caught sight of a periscope passing by.

“Turns out it was a submarine,” he said.

“That made for an interesting few minutes, some interesting phone calls.”

When Palmer suggested the submarine could dive under or slow down for the race, the request was quickly turned down.

“Apparently they don’t take instructions from anybody,” he said.

Racers were alerted to the submarine and “all were able to stay clear.”

Another issue arose Saturday around 3 p.m., when those following the races on the official online race-tracker, Kwindoo, were greeted with a “gateway server error.”

It was initially reported as a server error possibly caused by overload, but the Hungary-based race-tracking software company told Swiftsure organizers its servers were down due to “an attack from a foreign country.”

Race organizers were later told by Kwindoo the issue was resolved around 5:30 a.m Sunday.

A member of Kwindoo’s support team told the Times ­Colonist they could not confirm there was a cyberattack, only that the system received “extra load” as the Swiftsure races started.

Palmer said the race-tracker outage only affected online spectators and no race operations were affected. “It isn’t what we wanted to happen, but it really didn’t have an effect on the event.”

There was also an incident where the Swiftsure Facebook page erroneously reported that two vessels had withdrawn from the race on Saturday due to a technical problem, he said.

Official results, including winners, will be released in the next few days, Palmer said.

Organizers said Makika, skippered by Nigel Oswald of Friday Harbor, Washington, and competing in the Juan de Fuca multihull race, was the first boat to return to Ship Point, making it back just before 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Makika and second-finisher Mahana were the only multihull boats to complete their races this year after the three other entrants withdrew early due to overwhelming conditions, including winds of up to 30 knots.

Zvi, skippered by Alan Lubner of the Seattle Yacht Club, was the first boat to complete the Cape Flattery race, returning shortly before 11 p.m.

A total of four boats managed to finish their courses before Saturday midnight, organizers said.

Palmer said the complex handicap system they use to calculate race winners means it’s not necessarily a guaranteed win for Zvi’s crew.

Results published on Monday show that Mist, skippered by Steve Johnson of the Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle, won first place in the Cape Flattery race in the monohull ORC division with a corrected time of 12 hours, 16 minutes and 15 seconds.

Victora-area crews made a strong showing this year.

Skipper Jeff Eckard of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club won first in the Swiftsure ­Lightship Classic on the boat Will O The Wisp, with a ­corrected time of 30 hours, 23 minutes, and 57 seconds.

Skipper Mark Insley of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club won the Juan de Fuca race in the monohull PHRF division on the boat Zulu, with a corrected time of 12 hours, 24 minutes, and 16 seconds.

A total of 126 boats sailed in the 2024 Swiftsure International Yacht Race, up from 117 last year.

Palmer estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of participants turn around early every year — due to sailing conditions, broken gear, or the need to get back to shore in time for work on Monday morning.

American participants tend to fully see out the course, he said, noting Memorial Day likely plays a role.

“They have Monday as a holiday, so they probably hang in there more so than a lot of the Canadian competitors.”

With the average age of crews now close to 60, Swiftsure race weekends at the Inner Harbour are no longer as rowdy as they have been in the past, Palmer said.

“The crew members, they need their sleep. So it gets pretty quiet around here about 10 p.m. on Friday night.

“Probably the only noise violation you’re going to hear is the sound of snoring at 10:30 p.m. down on the docks.”

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