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Round Bowen sailing race bragging rights go to...

Annual sailing race captures the imagination with its mass start and spinnaker-raising journey down Collingwood Channel

When it comes to bragging rights in the sailing world, being able to say you beat an America’s Cup boat in a race is pretty darn sweet.

This year, those bragging rights go to a six-year-old girl.

Listed on the Bowen Island Yacht Club’s official results of the 2015 Martin Marine Round Bowen race is Rebecca Rhodes as the skipper of Valkyrie. The TP52 was the first to cross the finish line with a time of 2:35:37, and the young girl was helping her father, Jason.

Ten minutes later, the Il Moro, which once carried the Italian team in the 1992 America’s Cup, completed its circumnavigation of the island, skippered by Steve Crowe.

However, the race’s results are handicapped to ensure that whether you’re a couple on a small sailboat or have a team of full-fledged sailors on a racing boat, everyone gets an equal chance to win.

When the boats’ handicaps were factored in, neither the Valkyrie nor the Il Moro wound up with a top three placing. Instead, the winners of the race were:

• 1st: Mad Max, a Davidson 40 skippered by Micah Vanderheide, with a finishing time of 3:10:10 and a corrected time of 3:34:14

• 2nd: Ferdinand, a Melges 24 skippered by Rob Mulder, with a finishing time of 3:33:30 and a corrected time of 3:44:12

• 3rd: Excalibur, a Schock 35 skippered by Jason Vandergaag, with a finishing time of 3:25:52 and a corrected time of 3:44:31.

The Valkyrie’s corrected time was 3:48:51 and Il Moro’s was 4:04:00. The only other boat to cross the finish line in less than three hours was Strum, a Riptide 50 skippered by Randy Vogel with a time of 2:58:11, corrected to 4:06:25. The last boat of the almost 100 boats that finished the race came in at 44 seconds shy of seven hours.

While there is consensus that winds and all the ancillary activities made this one of the best Round Bowen races, there were a few unfortunate aspects to the beginning of the race. Some of the boats registered to race were not able to make it to Bowen because of Friday’s 40-knot winds. A boat that had tied up on a mooring buoy in Tunstall Bay was washed ashore in the winds, which was devastating news for everyone, says Maria Steernberg of Sea Snaps.

The race itself was supposed to start at 10 but confusion over which boat was the committee boat demarcating the start line caused delayed. Although winds were slight an hour before the race, winds picked up to seven knots to create a moving sight of the 100 or so boats setting off en masse.

High winds and choppy seas in the Georgia Strait made it tough sailing for several of the smaller boats who dropped out of the race before they got to Cape Roger Curtis but, says Steernberg, “the big ones had a hoot.” 

The 10-knot winds in Collingwood Channel were, however, perfect for a spectacular penultimate leg of the race. An armada of brightly coloured spinnakers billowed gloriously to reach Finnisterre Island first.

“It was too good to be true,” says Steernberg, who took some stunning shots of the line of racers. “I haven’t seen that for 10 years.”

First-year Commodore Geoff Jarvis was very pleased with the race. The BIYC made a concerted effort to let everyone know that 100 per cent of the proceeds were going towards the Learn to Sail program and everyone from sponsors, racers and USSC Marina responded with enthusiasm. 

Tourism Bowen Island filled sailors’ bellies with a by-donation pancake breakfast and the party after the race was one of the best ever. Each captain was given a wristband for drinks provided by Tito’s Vodka and Steam Whistle Brewing while crew members and guests could buy a wristband for $10. Ginger 66 had everyone up and dancing at the post-race party at Doc Morgan’s.

Having everything well organized for the arrival of 129 boats and 1,000 crew members is never easy, Jarvis says, and he gives a huge shout-out to USSC Marina which went “above and beyond” accommodating everyone’s needs.

BIYC would like to thank Martin Marine, Navis, First Credit Union, Union Steamship Marina, Thunderbird Marine, Pacific Yachting, Pro-Tech, North Sails, Evolution Sails, Yachtworks, Tito’s Vodka, Steam Whistle Brewing, SeaSnaps and Bowen Island Golf Club for their sponsorship.