More than 80 yachts and hundreds of sailors are taking part in the 48th Annual Southern Straits yacht race in the Salish Sea over the weekend.
The race kicked off from West Vancouver's Dundarave Pier Friday morning, and the first racers will cross the finish line early Saturday morning — if the wind and weather cooperates.
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"It's a pretty competitive scene," said race announcer Len Kelsey from the sidelines. "It does get exciting as the boats get close together, and you'll see on the starting line, when they're jockeying for position, it gets really pretty hot and heavy out there."
Kelsey has taken part in the race several times over the years, and also served as race chair — a position held this year by Sonia Telford.
"We're the first long-distance race in the calendar year and we're always on Good Friday," said Telford.
Southern Straits kicks off the yacht race season in the Vancouver-Seattle region, and features three course lengths this year, ranging from 98 to 138 nautical miles.
"This year is also kind of special for us, because we have the HMCS Oriole racing in the race," said Kelsey.
The Royal Canadian Navy's oldest ship, at 95, is taking part in the medium-length race.
"I think if the wind is strong, she'll do fairly well," said Kelsey, though the HMCS Oriole quickly fell way behind the pack early in the race on Friday.
"She's 102 feet and a little bit heavy, so it takes a little bit to get her going," said Teflord.
Simon Jones, 32, is another racer watching from the sidelines this year. He injured his shoulder while taking part in a Victoria-Maui yacht race in 2014.
Before that, he'd raced the Southern Straits nearly 10 years.
"You see everything out there," he said. "You see the extremes, from no wind — just frustrated spinning around in circles and heading the opposite way than you want to go — to being completely knocked over and tearing sails and just trying to stay on the boat."
Jones says it's the camaraderie and love for the water that keeps people coming back to the sport, which can get pretty dangerous and very expensive.
Kelsey says some of the smaller boats can go for less than $10,000, but for the high-tech bigger boats at the other end of the scale, the cost can run in the millions of dollars.
Of course many of the participants don't have to buy their own yacht, as each vessel needs a crew ranging from four to 15 sailors.
Telford, who's raced the Southern Straits six times, said she's looking forward to getting back onto her boat for next year's competition, after two years as race chair.
"I love sailing Straits. I love overnight sailing. There's something magical about sailing down the Strait of Georgia in the middle of the night under a full moon," she said. "Good Friday is always a full, or near-full moon."
"Last year we had a pod of dolphins on the course."
Even Kelsey, who said he's been a yachtsman for longer than he would like to admit, said his racing days aren't over.
"It's a just a passion for the sport of sailing and a passion for competing," he said.
"I'm happy on the pier this year, but I'll do it again one year."