Spyware and Submarines: Odd plot twists add up to a memorable running of Swiftsure International Yacht Race


The 2024 edition of the Swiftsure International Yacht Race is in the books, and as is often the case in sailing, the weather stole the show.

Saturday’s start at Clover Point was anything but smooth.

“It was really lumpy out in the straits,” says principal race officer Dugald Smith. “Some people commented it’s the lumpiest they’ve ever seen.”

The choppy start caused damage to several boats, and in a typical year, a large percentage of the vessels withdraw. This year was no different, but it had more to do with conditions as the race wore on.

“At one point we were going backwards at four-and-a-half knots. It took us nine hours to get from Race Rocks to the finish line,” says Wade Major of Campbell River.

Little to no wind meant technical and tactical sailing and a close study of the currents. For many the crawling pace was too much.

“Half the fleet bailed out and started their motors,” says Portland’s Robert Hodson, sailing aboard “Jugo.”

While those calm conditions didn’t provide white-knuckle excitement, several storylines developed.

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At one point Saturday, the radio crackled to life with a coast guard message that a U.S. military asset was in the water, and that vessels needed to steer clear.

“Of course, they use that circumspect language,” said Smith.

That asset proved to be a submarine.

Seattle’s Greg Davenport and Andy Webber sailed aboard “Bardo,” and while they didn’t hear the radio message they spotted the sub.

“At first we weren’t sure what it was, but then we figured it out, and one of the people on our boat was like, ‘That’s a submarine,’ so I was like, ‘Holy crap, we gotta get away from that,'” said Davenport.

The next plot twist was a cyber attack on the software used to track the ships from shore. The Kwindoo app was used but went offline Saturday afternoon before returning to full use several hours later.

“It’s unfortunate, but certainly makes for exciting espionage stuff,” says Smith.

Despite sidebar stories, Smith calls the event a success.

“From an organizational standpoint it was smooth,” he says.

Rewatch the race here.

Jordan Cunningham

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