Swiftsure 2013 was a first for West Wind II, but not so for this crew of salty dogs (except Nicola and David) who celebrated 30 years since their last Swiftsure race together.
“For me, the idea to enter Swiftsure 2013 was in part, an incentive to prepare West Wind II to meet the Category 1 safety requirements of the race and, to prepare myself to go offshore, and an opportunity to reunite with my old Swiftsure crew. This year brought together some of the original cast of characters as well as my daughter Nicola who has crewed with me in several races in the past and a new face, David, who we introduced to sailing. It’s been 30 years since the original crew did Swiftsure together and I was looking forward to racing with these men who’ve become lifelong friends. We would of course, share some of the old stories and it was definitely time for some new material.
One story in particular comes to mind. It was on the homeward leg of our race in 1981 as we approached Race Rocks. A 25 – 30 knot westerly had filled in and we were running with a full main and spinnaker working hard to keep the boat under control and avoid the dreaded death roll. We were in thick fog as we approached the narrow channel. The tension was mounting and it was all hands on deck, adrenalin flowing.
MKB was below at the nav station with the old Brooks and Gatehouse headphones on listening for the Morse signal from Race Rocks. When the signal nulled, he’d make the call to jibe. Peter Knox and Peter Brand were on the foredeck ready to execute. James and Hugh were in the cockpit on the sheet winches and I was on the helm. Everything was on the line. The boat, the race and certainly our lives. Everything depended on MKB to make the call, and the crew to execute perfectly. We’e raced all that way, and to now find ourselves in this situation near the finish was extraordinary. I was confident everyone on the crew would do whatever it took to make it happen. And then, in a loud, clear voice that cut through the fog like a knife came, “Jibe now!” and around we came. It was an exhilarating moment and one we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives.
There have been and will be many more bottles of Scotch consumed in the retelling of this story. As time goes by, the wind speed will increase, the fog will get thicker, the Morse code signal more faint, and the passage narrower.
But one thing will never change. The unmistakable feeling of true camaraderie among shipmates.
*Note: In 1984, Sannu Sannu won her division (scroll to pg 152) , after everyone else dropped out AND to this day, we hold the record for the longest elapsed time in a Swiftsure race, ever! After that, the rules changed and a time limit was imposed.
“Swiftsure 2013 was déjà vu for sure! It was so wonderful for us, now a bunch of middle aged dudes, to put our memories into action, and sail this classic race with the same energy burning within. Thank you Glenn, and your motley crew for this memorable experience aboard Westwind II. I wish her a safe return on her west about journey ahead.” James Houston
“When Glenn called and suggested that the old crew get together and sail in Swiftsure aboard West Wind II, the old excitement started immediately. Getting together with everyone in itself would be a lot of fun, but racing again? I reminded Glenn that I was now old and creaky, couldn’t crank a winch like I used to, and doubted my knees would bend enough to get me down off the coach roof without catapulting me over the rail. Glenn’s response was to give me two books – an account of the ’79 Fastnet race, and an equally terrifying one about the Sydney to Hobart race, mildly suggesting that I don’t let my spouse read it before Swiftsure. The result was, unexpectedly, that I was suddenly very keen to race again! A couple of days before the race, Glenn handed me a GPS unit, still in it’s box, and said, ” You’re the navigator, can you figure this thing out?” I did, and what a quantum leap forward it was compared to the old days of wobbly hand bearings and intermittent RDF signals. I think it was fortunate that the race was a drifter, it required more mental effort than physical, and speaking for myself, my brain is a little less creaky than the rest of me! Seriously, the opportunity to sail again with my close friends and to get to know Nicola better and to meet David, and to spend time aboard West Wind II was not to be missed, and will always remain a highlight in my life. I left a little bit of my heart on board. May it ride with Glenn on his solo journey, as I experience that journey vicariously, and follow the sailor and the sailboat that I have an ongoing connection with. Thanks for the opportunity, Glenn. Once again, I have you to thank for another high point in my life! ” Michael King-Brown (MKB)
“I try to be a ‘yes man’ in life and I’m glad I came along for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I have little sailing experience, and being able to partake in a world class race with world class sailors was truly an experience I will remember for the rest of my days. It was great getting to know these gents, especially learning a different side to my step father, Peter Knox. It felt like family onboard. The race involved exciting times and dull times. Thankfully, the latter was filled with interesting conversation and a few sips of Scotch. I wish Glenn the best of luck on his voyage. He will be in many of our thoughts and hearts as we try to fathom such a feat.” David Pennington
The way they were (circa 1983).