I purchased a new chart last week. Although the regulations state that my boat should have a chart for all areas likely to be sailed this chart is a little outside my immediate plans for my Halman 20 “Ebony” – at least for this year.
The chart was purchased in anticipation of sailing as navigator on another boat because 2014 is the year for the 150 Sailing Challenge. The one-time-only race is part of the celebrations surrounding the 150th anniversary of the meetings in Charlottetown which first discussed the union of the British North American Colonies leading to the creation of Canada as a nation. And what, you may well ask, does a yacht race have to do with a meeting of politicians to discuss planning priorities? Well the Delegates did come to P.E.I. by boat and other than that…. nothing really – but that stands true for most of the 2014 celebrations and since when did one have to have a rational explanation for going sailing.
The race will start in Charlottetown on 28 July 2014 and the Charlottetown Yacht Club will be the start venue. The course then is out the harbour mouth leaving Point Prim to port, around Pictou Island (to get a Nova Scotia component), north-east to round East Point and then across 60 nautical miles of the Gulph of St. Lawrence, outside of Entry Island with the end of the first leg at Harve-Aubert in the Magdalene Islands. The second and final leg of the race is from the “Maggies” to Souris leaving on 31 July.
The 150 nautical mile first leg starts on a Monday morning. At an average speed of 6 knots that means a passage of about 24 hours. Many a skipper and crew have been seduced by the simple math. In reality it could be much more. How about the notorious “hole”, totally devoid of wind, usually found somewhere near Point Prim, or in some years, near Gull Rocks? How about the combination of wind and current around Pictou Island described in “Where the Wind Blows” thusly Westerlies funnel between Caribou Point and Pictou Island, strengthening the wind, while the shallow water causes steep, confused seas, further complicated by tidal currents around the Island. Currents generally flow from the west and split into two branches along either side of the island. And how about the cornering effect and wind against current at East Point or refracted waves near the Magdalen Islands?. Combine all that with winds that may not always cooperate and the 24 hour run looks somewhat unlikely. The ninety-mile return leg back to Souris P.E.I. also has a good chance of having to deal with the prevailing S-W wind and may have its own issues.
On the plus side one is rarely out of sight of land, fogs are rare (ask someone who has been on the Halifax- St. Pierre Race about the fog), and the prevailing SW winds are in your favour. In addition the water (and the air temperatures) in mid-summer are much more pleasant than the North Atlantic. With banquets and celebrations at both Harve-Aubert and Souris the social elements of the race have not been ignored.
For me a race is simply a number of boats sailing in the same general direction, and whenever two boats are heading in the same direction the skipper’s blood quickens and the crew is aware that there is potential for excitement. For others this will be simply an excuse to go cruising to the Maggies which is an ideal destination from P.E.I.
The Magdalene Islands is truly a magical place. My last visit was more than 25 years ago and I can’t wait to get back. I could take the ferry any day of the week but to be able to combine a visit with a yacht race is an opportunity one could hardly miss. It is now the end of February. At the end of July the race will be on!