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Vic-Maui 2016 — Celebrating a half-century of sailing

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Aug 4, 2016

Valkyrie, a TP-52 owned by Jason Rhodes, a former Olympic sailor, and skippered by Gavin Brackett, smashed a 16-year record in the 2016 Vic-maui race. Seen here from Hawea Point, the boat completed the course in eight days, nine hours, 17 minutes. Valkyrie also won Line Honours and Second Overall. PHOTO BY DAN O’HANION

LAHAINA – The Lahaina Yacht Club (LYC) and Royal Vancouver Yacht Club (RVYC) recently co-hosted the 2016 Victoria to Maui (Vic-Maui) International Yacht Race, celebrating the 50th year of the event. The race has sailed every second year since 1968 and is the pinnacle of Pacific Northwest ocean racing. In a thrilling, 2,308-mile marathon, 22 boats set sail from Victoria, British Columbia to Lahaina on July 9-12. The Vic-Maui race has the distinction of being the only trans-Pacific international yacht race that starts in a foreign country but finishes in the USA – right here in Lahaina!

The boats began to arrive on Maui on July 19, with the last one finishing just before midnight on July 26. Two of the starters had mechanical failures in the early part of the race and were forced to return to port on the West Coast.

“This year’s race added challenges because Tropical Storm Darby significantly complicated the strong trade winds across the Pacific,” said Rich Ballantyne, Vic-Maui race officer. “In this race, a good navigator and weather strategist was as vital as a fast boat.”

Valkyrie, a TP-52 owned by Jason Rhodes, a former Olympic sailor, and skippered by Gavin Brackett, smashed a 16-year record. The boat, sailing for co-host RVYC, completed the course in eight days, nine hours, 17 minutes. Valkyrie won Line Honours and Second Overall.

Kinetic V, another TP-52 from RVYC, won the Overall Championship on corrected time. Owned and skippered by David Sutcliffe, Kinetic V completed the course with an elapsed time of eight days, 14 hours, 16 minutes, about five hours behind Valkyrie. After the application of handicap calculations, Kinetic V had a corrected time of eight days, three hours, 57 minutes, about 2.5 hours ahead of Valkyrie.

David Sutcliffe, owner and skipper of Kinetic V, accepts the award for winner of the Overall Championship on corrected time after the application of handicap calculations. PHOTO BY CINDY SCHUMACHER.

Sutcliffe, a six-time Vic-Maui veteran who previously won the Vic-Maui overall prize in 2010 on Kinetic II, noted that race results are recognized by sailors in different ways.

“The handicapping calculation takes into account boat size, weight, sail area and other factors,” he said. “Although Kinetic V crossed the finish line five hours behind Valkyrie, the handicap calculations put Kinetic V ahead. This means that Kinetic V overcame having an inherently slower boat by a combination of picking a better route and sailing better. To win based on handicap is a high honor, as it speaks to being a superior sailor, not just fastest boat.”

“This was our sixth Vic-Maui race and our first on such a high-performance boat,” Sutcliffe said. “We sailed our first day on the boat in January and started the race in July – a very short time to get ready. Teamwork was the secret to having such a great adventure and to winning the race!”

“Vic-Maui challenges sailors to demonstrate their ocean sailing, navigational skills and weather routing skills,” he explained. “Success depends on the navigator’s skill in predicting where the Pacific high pressure zone and trade winds will be, nearly a week into the future. The adventure includes sailing around the Pacific High and surfing downwind in the trades. Collaboration gets the boats to the finish line near Lahaina.”

Founded in 1965 by a small group of sailors, LYC occupies a clubhouse located on Front Street in Lahaina. Soon after, a fleet of Sunfish dinghies was purchased and races were taking place. Currently, the club holds the annual Lahaina Jackpot Fishing Tournament as well as the Dinsmoor Trophy Regatta, an event of the LYC Junior Race Team. Bi-annually, it hosts the finish of the Vic-Maui Race.

The RVYC, established in 1903, has 4,400 members and is known as the sailing capital of Western Canada. It has a long history of hosting regattas, excellent cruising outstations, and on-shore activities at its classic clubhouse overlooking English Bay in Vancouver.

“The first Vic-Maui was a dream of RVYC member Jim Innes, who at that time was a captain for Canadian Pacific Airlines,” said Sutcliffe. “Innes talked for years about the idea of such a race originating in Victoria and ending some 2,308 nautical miles away in Maui. He convinced three other skippers to start with him off Brotchie Ledge, a submerged reef in the Strait of Juan de Fuca one-half-mile south of the entrance to Victoria Harbor.”

“It is a great honor to the race that his son, also Jim Innes, continues his legacy by racing in the 2016 Vic-Maui aboard his Beneteau 49 Red Sheilla,” he added.

The first 1965 race and weather were typical: westerlies in the Juan de Fuca Strait, a left turn down the coast to about the latitude of San Francisco, followed by a right turn under the North Pacific High and a gybe with the northeasterly trade winds filling spinnakers for the sun run to Maui.

Sutcliffe mentioned that this year’s race was much the same. “The fleet started just outside the scenic Inner Harbor in Victoria, sailed out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, left Cape Flattery on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to port, and headed across the Northeast Pacific Ocean.”

As each boat crosses the finish line, the boat and crew are warmly welcomed in the Hawaiian tradition, after which the crew, their family and friends enjoy vacationing on Maui and attending the awards banquet at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa.

“We are really proud to be a longtime sponsor of the Vic-Maui event,” said Mark Guerrera, manager of the Pioneer Inn in Lahaina. “We enjoyed partnering with the LYC in welcoming each crew to Maui at the Pioneer Inn. With this year’s record-breaking performances, we look forward with great enthusiasm to the 2018 event.”