Yacht races: what could possibly be more glamorous, luxurious, and filthy rich-sounding?
If you answered “nothing”, you would be correct! After all, Nothing sounds more rich and high-rolling than a yacht race.
Whenever the Memorial Day weekend hits the United States, we– the citizens of Victoria BC– are hit with a yacht race: the Swiftsure International Yacht Race, to be more specific. At the end of May each year, hundreds of luxury yachts cruise into the Inner Harbour and prepare to race up to 140 nautical miles in the Juan de Fuca Strait. Visitors pour into our humble city in the hopes of snapping some impressive photos of the yachts in action, and the locals are whipped into a frenzy as well, either because they love a good yacht race, too, or because they can’t freaking find a solitary parking space downtown, for the love of god!!!
Anyway. My dear husband– artist, entrepreneur, and general Man of Mystery– created a new, yacht-themed painting just in time for this year’s Swiftsure Race. It featured the race’s most prominent, recognizable, and well-decorated catamaran: the Dragonfly. We had it on display at our booth this weekend, and guess who scored an invitation to be an honorary crew member on a yacht because of it?
Marty was invited to grace the Legend 45 with his handsome, interesting, and hopefully-not-seasick-prone self for the shorter of the Swiftsure races– not the full 140 nautical mile race (obviously), because that would involve suspending his better judgment for 24+ hours. The Legend 45 needed an extra crew member for the inland race, and what better crew member to recruit than a man who had never been sailing in his entire life before?
“Do you have any boating experience?”, the skipper asked my dear husband.
“Nope” came Marty’s honest answer.
“Well, do you know how to handle ropes or tie any nautical knots?”
Again, “Nope” was the answer, offered with utmost sincerity.
“No matter– we’ll see you at the docks tomorrow morning at 8:30 am!”
I was pretty excited about Marty’s upcoming sojourn on the sea. How glamorous! How exotic! How luxurious! I pictured my suave partner donning a gold suit and ultramarine dress shirt for the race, his (rather short) hair whipping in the wind to the delight of his fellow
80s band crew members. There would possibly be suggestive hip-juttings and sultry poses on board as the yacht sliced through choppy waves at blistering speeds, but these questionable antics would all be in the name of High Fashion, Glamour, and Princess Diana’s Pop Music. (Hey– the only mental image I have of yacht races comes courtesy of the iconic Duran Duran video, Rio– what can I say?):
Marty was a lot more nervous about the Swiftsure Race, however. His mental images of boats at sea were drawn more from disaster movies like A Perfect Storm and perhaps also Jaws, so he worried about getting tossed overboard into dark and churning waters or having his hands get mangled by ropes as he furiously attempted to secure something-nautical-or-other on deck:
Both of us agreed on one thing, though: the Swiftsure Race would be fast and the winds would be furious— our opinions only differed on the degrees to which we assumed (or even hoped?) that expensive gold suits and ultramarine-saturated dress shirts would be involved. 😉
Imagine Marty’s utter deflation, then, when this year’s race turned into a dreaded “Driftsure”– a weekend of little to no winds. The starting gun fired, and instead of hurtling forward in a dazzling display of coloured sails and skilled seamanship, the Legend 45 drifted backwards. Verrrrrry slooooooooowly. The entire inland (short) race was expected to take between 4 and 5 hours to complete, but the Legend 45 required a full 4 hours to make it back to the starting buoy— so much was it struggling against tides, currents, and a decided lack of breeze!
(Clearly, the whole point of the race is to sail, not to use any motors to power the yachts forward. The sails were up, but the wind was definitely down.)
I was at the Harbour this whole time, daydreaming about Marty’s unexpected promotion into the upper echelons of class and wealth. Marty! Sailing! Yacht race! Richness!! (I chose not to dwell on the skippers’ professed love of beer swilling in these fantasies and mentally substituted any real-life crassness or crudeness with Simon Le Bon hair and velvet 80s vocals, respectively. Her name is Rio…) I was quite surprised– nay, shocked– to get a phone call from my dearest a full hour after he was expected to return to the Harbour, confirming that the real racing was just getting underway. Driftsure, indeed! He ended up docking at 8 pm, which meant a full 10 hours were spent at sea.
Luckily, the experience was not entirely for naught– Marty captured some great photos of the race and the colourful sails that he would never have been able to get from our station at the Harbour (when all the sails are down). He also got to cross “Race a Yacht” and “Re-Enact a Classic 80s Music Video” off of his Bucket List. And as for me? I had that stupid What do you do with a drunken sailor? song stuck in my head all day, and it miraculously ceased when my dizzy but victorious sailor set his sea-legs back on dry land. Thank goodness! 🙂