Introducing the Southern Straits Sailing Race

ePACT is proud to sponsor the Southern Straits sailing race for 2015
ePACT is a proud sponsor of the Southern Straits sailing race for 2015

ePACT is proud to sponsor the Southern Straits sailing race for 2015! Hosted from April 3rd to 5th by the West Vancouver Yacht Club, the race is a true community event that hundreds of sailors look forward to each and every year.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Sonia Telford, the Southern Straits Race Chair, to talk about the history of the event, how it works, and what we can expect to see this year. Read on to learn more about their festivities, newest partnership, and how they are using ePACT to enhance safety!

This year is the 47th Southern Straits race – can you tell us about the history of the event?

As it has for almost half a century, the Easter weekend will see one of the largest events for Pacific Northwest sailing.

Over the years, the West Vancouver Yacht Club Southern Straits Race has grown into one of the premiere long distance overnight races, and is proud to be a qualifying event for both the VanIsle 360 Race (round Vancouver Island) and the Victoria-Maui International Yacht Race.

2015 will mark the 47th consecutive start and we are expecting northward of 100 boats to be on the start line. That’s over 700 sailors in attendance!

 How does the race work?

The Race begins on Good Friday at 10:30am off the Dundarave Pier in West Vancouver. Southern Straits offers 4 different courses that vary in distance to suit the wide variety of boats and crews that are attracted to this unique event.

We are extremely lucky in Vancouver to have an active year round sailboat racing schedule, and the result is some really fantastic boats on our local waters. From Peter Salusbury’s “Longboard” who races out of the West Vancouver Yacht Club and won the 2014 International Victoria-Maui Yacht Race, to David Sutcliffe’s “Kinetic” from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, who has not only sailed to Maui 5 times but also 17,500 nautical miles to Australia and back to sail in the extremely challenging Sydney Hobart race!

Of course, Straits is not all about “racing sleds” as they are lovingly known. Straits also attracts day sailors on our Inshore Course option at 20 nautical miles. In 2014, the Inshore Course was won on a Melges 24 that was crewed by 2 sets of brothers, the Wood & Coleman boys, aged 13-16!

On our Short Course option, which is an overnight course covering 64 nautical miles, Kate Mackay and Adam Ferguson will double hand their Catalina 27 that they lovingly describe as “older than we are and worth less than our mountain bikes, but it has already taken us on some fantastic adventures”.

Clearly, our sailors range in age and experience, but they all share the same passion for the sport. I invite you to take a look at our “Boat Bio” feature available on our Southern Straits Facebook page or our Current Registrants page for more of these great stories about our competitors.

Evidently, the race has risks for the crews on board. How do you ensure the safety of the participants?

Like any sport, recreational boating has risks involved and sailboat racing is no different. Southern Straits offers some additional challenges in that it is the first overnight distance race in the calendar year in March or April, which affects the number of daylight hours available as well as the weather conditions.

It is important to recognize that the majority of the competitors are long time, very experienced Skipper’s and Crew. For example, 2015 will mark WVYC’s Sandy Huntingford’s 44th Straits Race! These are boats that are actively raced year round and therefore are extremely well prepared and equipped.

In order to qualify to race in Southern Straits, each boat must meet certain Safety Equipment Requirements and Offshore Sailing Regulations. In addition to the recommended “Safety at Sea” training, each boat carries a unique SPOT Tracker unit that transmits the boats position, speed and direction every 10 minutes. Competitors must contact the West Vancouver Yacht Club Race Committee at several Mandatory Check-In points located on each Course. Upon finishing the race, each boat must complete and pass a Safety Check by our Race Officers. The West Vancouver Yacht Club takes safety on the water extremely seriously and new for 2015, we have taken this another step further.

This year “Straits” is partnering with Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue to bring an extra element of safety to the race.  RCM-SAR will provide three of its newest rescue vessels to patrol the race and be available should any participants need emergency assistance.  The volunteer rescue crews from RCM-SAR stations in West Vancouver, North Vancouver and Nanaimo will also use the opportunity to train for extended missions.  There are more than 40 RCM-SAR stations on the west coast which respond to more than 800 marine emergencies a year.  This is just another step in the promotion of safe boating practices and we are thrilled to welcome RCM-SAR onboard!

Why did you choose ePACT to support your crews?

With over 700 sailors on the water during the Race, it is imperative that in the case of an emergency, crew lists and emergency contacts can be made available to first responders in a timely fashion.

In the past, we have relied on paper Crew Lists being submitted for each boat, often last minute with potentially illegible and inaccurate information. Obviously a binder full of paper that has personal contact information has its own security issues, so this year we decided to adopt ePACT’s services to make Crew List information more accurate and secure.

How can people in the community get involved in the race?

In addition to being able to watch the live SPOT Trackers to view the race from the comfort of your living room, our new website ( is full of information on how to get involved. From a dedicated Crew Bank that allows people to post their sailing resume and join a Crew, to Volunteer Opportunities, there are lots of ways to get involved.

As a note of caution, I will give you a heads up that the SPOT Trackers on the website are HIGHLY addictive and you will find yourself checking the site every 10 minutes to see where the Fleet is. The Vic-Maui race uses a similar system and by the time the Fleet got to Maui, we were all exhausted! It is a great way to join in on the fun while staying dry and warm.

Tell us about the festivities at Dundarave Pier

On April 3rd (Good Friday), we turn the Dundarave Pier into a festival-type event, celebrating the very best of Southern Straits. Beginning at 9:30am, we typically see a crowd of several hundred people gather on the Pier and along the shore to see the Fleet off. Our “Parade of Boats” feature allows the competitors to come close to the Pier, often under sail, for an up close and personal viewing.  In addition to WVYC Pier Ambassadors being on hand to answer questions about the sport of sailing, the Easter Bunny, West Vancouver Pops Band and our Sponsors will be in attendance adding to the fun. Full details can be found on our website We look forward to seeing you there!

A huge thank you to the West Vancouver Yacht Club and Southern Straits Race for putting on such an incredible event, and having ePACT as a sponsor for your sailors. We look forward to cheering you all on at the race!

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