Words and Music by Dan “Bow Dan” Lundgren
It was on a gray morning in late May that we all assembled for the overnight adventure of the Swiftsure International boat race. Our Skipper Dennis had assembled a crack team of part-timers for the race; inexperienced sailors, world class racers, and various rail meat. Basically, anybody up for a sleepless night. Personally, I have two young children so the prospect of a sleepless night was not daunting in the least. Turns out I’ve been training for this race for three years.
The Swiftsure International boat race is a historic race between Victoria and the Swiftsure Bank just outside the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The race has evolved to include both long and short versions of the traditional course. We would be partaking in the Cape Flattery Race to Neah Bay of 101.9 nautical miles.
Skipper and the Magic Carpet
Dennis Hollingshead is a recent returnee from years away from Victoria. While stationed in Portland, Dennis came to be acquainted with the 42’ purpose-built racing yacht Magic Carpet. The boat has a storied past including several Vic-Maui races and Dennis couldn't resist when given an opportunity to buy it 5 years ago. It has beautiful lines and many casual passers-by make unsolicited comments on how attractive the boat is.
Elly has definitely logged the most hours aboard Magic Carpet, knows were everything is and knows how to do every task. This takes a fair amount of pressure off of Dennis who is less often required to explain where the damn fore guy is located. Elly helped Dennis sail the boat some signifigant distances, back from Seattle one time and in Swiftsure last year.
Dan “Bow Dan” Lundgren
A recent enthusiast to sailing, yours truly started sailing aboard Magic Carpet last year. My goal is "competent crew" for Dennis so that he doesn't have to do everything. I've graduated from Jib Trim and I'm loving it up front as foredeck with the occasional tangle. I'm getting there.
Mark “Vogues” Vogel
Our trusted navigator. With a background in aviation, Mark was on charts. He also knows his way around a boat as he has been sailing since he was a kid. Mark and helped Dennis bring Magic Carpet around the horn from Portland to Victoria in an epic overnight storm so he's a valuable hand to have on board.
Geoffery “Geo” Hewitt
An experienced man of the sea, Geo is a commercial sailor currently employed in Newfoundland. He made a special trip out to crew for Dennis in the Swiftsure race and he was instrumental in preparing the boat for the race last year. Sadly, Geo will be returning east and will not be available for the summer series.
Mark “Mallard” Malleson
An excellent sailor, Mark has raced Thunderbirds and Melges extensively. Mark has a relentlessly positive attitude about making the boat go faster, finding the wind and taking advantage of the current. A real asset on board, Mallard never quits racing.
Dave “Mr. Fishwick” Fishwick
I don't know a damn thing about Dave, but I've found him to be a gentleman at all times and a pleasure to be around. He lent me some sunglasses that I'm sure I lost. Sorry about that Dave, they might be on the nav station. Dennis has been training him up on running the main and helm.
Dan “Mast Dan” Johnston
Mast Dan is a recent addition to the crew and super keen on learning the ropes. Literally, he made quite a study of the ropes that fall under the responsibility of the "mast" job. On recent Wednesday night races, Mast Dan and Bow Dan made a great team foreward of the shrouds.
A total ringer, Manuel is a mechanical engineering grad student with a special interest in turbine efficiency. I'd love to know what he sees when he looks at a sail as he continually wants to tweak the sail into optimum shape.
First off the line! All praise to Mallard and Dennis. Mark’s son Alexander caught the start from the shore, and it sure looks like we pipped everyone at the line. From my potentially terrifying position right out on the pulpit, this all went remarkably smoothly. The guys maneuvered us beautifully through the traffic with very little need for me to scream about impending collision. 64 boats within a couple hundred yards was something I’ve never experienced, I was ready to crap my pants.
The “race” to Race Rocks
With little wind and little current, we gambled that the current near the shore would push us through the gap. We were the highest boat on this tack, it was looking really good for a while. Unfortunately, a bit of wind filled in and everybody squeezed through the Race Rocks channel with few outright leaders and few stragglers.
Mission Creep: Transporting the Chosen One to the Holy Land
Shortly after the start, Mast Dan developed sea sickness. “Mast Dan” had transformed into “Blast Dan” as he repeatedly sullied the side of Magic Carpet with barf. Dennis will have to give the Magic Carpet a steam cleaning before the next race. A long afternoon of light wind and some rain left us struggling on the American side to make headway from the pools of vomit in the strait and left Mast Dan struggling to keep conscious. Things got a lot better for all of us when we stowed his shivering and listless body in the starboard bunk. Many jokes were made at his expense, but we all felt for him and tried to keep him comfortable in his crypt. I swear I saw an aura coming off him late at night as his soul tried to escape to solid ground.
We poked around just off the American coast wondering if their was wind or a hole close to shore. During these slow times, Manuel and Dennis pretty much geeked out on sail shape. We struck a mid course and picked up a bit of wind just as it got dark.
Getting Dark and Windy
Round the mark, spin up, we made for the Canadian shore to avoid a small ebb tide. We put in 3 or 4 jibes with various degrees of success in the middle of the night. I was apprehensive about this whole night sailing thing as I have limited experience on the foredeck. Also, there is some serious responsibility (and danger) to grab a loose pole in the dark and slap a rope on it. I thought it went OK except for the time the jaw of the pole wouldn't close a couple of times.
With Dave on helm and Vogues on spin trim, the rest of us were able to get a little sleep between jibes. The wind stayed strong all night and one by one we all ended up on deck in the early morning cruising into Victoria Harbour at 9 knots. We finished before 8 am and checked in for our inspection and the traditional cup of soup.
The Vogel family was waiting for us at the dock and they joined us for the celebratory cruise around to Oak Bay Marina. Beers were drunk, congratulations made and I did an embarrassing dance in my inflated pfd on the cabin to the tune of "Magic Carpet Ride". I believe there are a bunch of "numbers" that speak to our "rating" in relation to other boats and I've heard tale that there are divisions and classes, but personaly, I just don't care. OK, I did have episodes of competitive spirit during which I wanted us to reel in and crush all the other boats but I went out for the pure enjoyment of sailing with some excellent people. Mission accomplished.
As a life long resident of Victoria, I had seen the race from shore dozens of times and this was the first time for me to participate. All in all, a great race, many thanks to my other crew mates and particularly Dennis for a great time.
- Bow Dan
Random photos below