Sailboats circled the start line as crowds gathered on the rocks along Victoria’s Clover Point to watch the 76th Annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race on Saturday.

“It’s quite a spectacle for sure,” one man told CHEK News. “I’ve never seen this many sailboats in one place!”

“I haven’t seen anything like it before,” adds a woman from Winnipeg. “I’m from the Prairies so to see all this is really quite something.”

Swiftsure is the largest sailboat race of its kind on the west coast of North America.

There are actually six races. The longest is 136 nautical miles, which would be like driving from Victoria to Qualicum Beach and back.

A total of 165 teams from Canada and the United States are taking part this year and the grey and wet day isn’t damping spirits.

“Sailors don’t mind the rain, as long as there’s a little bit of breeze,” says Swiftsure spokesperson Kelly Larkin. “It’s when you’re out there and there’s no wind and it’s pouring down rain, that’s even more of a challenge to keep the motivation up.”

There have been lots of years the race was affectionately called “Driftsure” instead of Swiftsure.

Winds were light for the start of the race and are expected to be light this evening and overnight but race watchers and participants are staying positive.

“I’ve seen situations like this where it’s very calm in the morning and by afternoon they’ve got lots of wind and it’s an exciting race,” a regular race watcher says.

Regardless of weather conditions, organizers expect it will be a fight to the finish.

“The finish can be really exciting,” says Larkin. “Whether it’s high winds or light conditions and you’re just trying to claw your way across the finish line.”

To follow the race online, click on this link.

Tess van Straaten