Semiahmoo sailing regatta to take place this weekend
The sixth running of the Semiahmoo Bay International Sailing Regatta takes place this weekend, and while the two-day race format is mostly the same as previous years, many changes have been introduced to draw more people and make this one of the premier sailing events of the year for our area.
The most important change for Blaine is that race headquarters have been shifted from White Rock to the Blaine Boating Center, the Port of Bellingham’s facility at 225 Marine Drive. Events set for Blaine include the opening skipper’s meeting tomorrow (Friday) night, a $4 no-host breakfast Saturday and Sunday, the traditional post-race barbecue and the awards ceremony Sunday afternoon following the day’s second race. Other activities were still being planned at press time, such as harbor excursions on the 61-year-old ferry Plover and Buskers - wandering street musicians - singing maritime folksongs and sea shanties (work songs).
Though the racing happens out of Blaine, it remains the centerpiece of the major off-season benefit festival for the White Rock/South Surrey Foundation, and a number of shoreside activities added to the program this year will happen on the White Rock promenade, just minutes from Blaine. Organizers expect 20 to 30 thousand people to show up to tour a trade show and street fair on the White Rock Promenade, participate in an expanded Kitefliers’ Festival, set their kids to painting a picture or building a boat in the family-oriented KidZone, race in a Dragon Boat sprint race or just enjoy the sun on the beach and watch the sailboats racing out on Semiahmoo Bay.
The traditional Saturday evening Regatta Dinner has been moved to the Centennial Arena, White Rock’s hockey stadium at 14600 North Bluff, where the meal will be followed by a concert and dance with the well-known Canadian blues guitarist who plays in the tradition of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Colin James. Race participants each get one free ticket.
The major change in the race itself, and why so many more boats are expected, is the recognition granted this year for the first time by the Vancouver Area Racing Council (VARC), representing serious competitors in state-of-the-art racing machines (worth some serious money) from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club among others.
Five different groups of boats will start sequentially off the White Rock Pier beginning at 10 a.m. in Saturday’s TD Canada Trust Cup. All boats pass the first “mark” or buoy off Kwomais Point, the western “corner” of the White Rock/South Surrey peninsula as seen from Blaine. The three fastest classes, which includes a fleet of mostly tri-maran multi-hulls, will head southwest from there out into the middle of the Strait of Georgia to a mark at the north end of Alden Bank, roughly due west of Sandy Point. They’ll then round a mark off Birch Point enroute to the finish line for all classes back at the White Rock pier.
Class B boats go directly to the Birch Point mark and then will reverse course to a mark off the Drayton Harbor entrance and then go across the bay to the finish. The slowest group is the cruising division where “flying” sails such as spinnakers are prohibited, and their course goes from Kwomais to the Drayton Harbor entrance and then to the finish line.
The courses are designed to keep the boats in view for much of the day despite the long distances sailed. Four of the six classes will parade up the west side of Birch point in a spinnaker parade that will last several hours if the wind is from the south. Other good vantage points are along the north side of Semiahmoo County Park, Semiahmoo Resort and the public pier at the west end of Marine Drive where spectators should get a good view of tactics at the last mark before the finish for two of the classes.
On Sunday there will be three races, two of them raced in sequence for the Bill Van Den Borne Memorial around buoys in the bay where the action is always fast and furious, and one for the Vancouver hot-shots as they race from Blaine out past Point Roberts and north to the finish line off Jericho Beach. The racing again begins at 10 a.m.
The race weekend is conducted by the International Yacht Club of Blaine and White Rock, and is sponsored by a number of marine businesses and groups in the area. Blaine-based businesses and groups who are helping support the proceedings include Blaine Marine Services, the Port of Bellingham and West Marine, who along with the non-profit Drayton Harbor Maritime and the Blaine Sea Scout Ship 4096 is coordinating and cooking the breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday. West Marine has also donated a hand-held VHF marine radio as the door prize in a raffle that’s entered by buying a breakfast.
Free overnight moorage for participants during the race is available in Blaine at the visitor’s dock. To arrange this contact Pam the harbormaster at 647-6176. For more information go to the International Yacht Club’s web site at www.interyachtclub.com.