Highly Competitive Inaugural Women’s Invitational Regatta

Royal Vancouver Yacht Club’s Women’s Racing Committee had the honor of hosting the inaugural Women’s Invitational Regatta, held September 23-24, 2023. Thanks to the Club’s new fleet of Elliott Sixes, we were able to host 12 all-women teams from across British Columbia.

The weekend was filled with highly competitive racing in a wide variety of conditions. After a skill-testing medal race, in gusts of nearly 25 knots, RVicYC Commodore Stephanie Bacon and her crew, Sarah Turpie and Joy Dahlgren, took top honors. Alexa Edgar led RVYC’s top team, crewed by Hannah Ker and Paula Levy, to second place.

The event began on Friday afternoon with an attempted practice race. The wind sadly didn’t fill in, and the race was canceled. However, enthusiasm and positive energy were maintained thanks to an informal barbeque and social gathering at the dinghy dock as the sun set over English Bay.

The high level of skill and competition amongst the fleet was immediately apparent as racing began on Saturday morning. With 12 boats on the line, starts were incredibly close, particularly around the sought-after committee boat. Light and shifty conditions tested sailors’ strategic and tactical decision-making. These tricky conditions meant that the racecourse was full of passing lanes—no finishing place was assured until the race was done. With many sailors coming from larger boats or boats with asymmetrical kites, the downwind legs challenged sailors to find the right angles to keep the Elliotts going fast and in clear air.

Sunday’s racing began with warm sunny weather, but no wind. The fleet left the dock early in hopes the breeze would fill in, however, after several hours of drifting, it was time to accept defeat and come back to the dock. Thanks to a determined Race Committee, the sailors weren’t left waiting on land for long (although a shared charcuterie board didn’t make the wait so bad!). The easterly filled in and built throughout the afternoon, forcing sailors to hike hard and push through the physical demands of the boats.

After eight races across both days, the top five teams qualified for the final, winner-take-all medal race. It was a tight, competitive race with little room for error. After a final downwind leg with 23-knot gusts, Stephanie Bacon’s team crossed the line in a definitive first place, followed by a photo-finish which saw Alexa Edgar defend her second place narrowly against Kate Sargent and her team from RVicYC.

This event wouldn’t have been possible without the Club’s One Design fleet of Elliotts, as well as the Club’s staff who worked hard to get them in top racing shape. While some sailors were able to practice at least once before the event, for many, it was their first time sailing Elliotts. As the day progressed, races became increasingly competitive as sailors very quickly picked up Elliott boat handling and sail trim quirks. Those with dinghy sailing experience found them to be a particularly quick study. As was well put by Nigel Cochrane at his Saturday evening debrief: “Elliotts can be easy to sail but can be very difficult to sail fast.”

All in all, the enthusiasm and support for this inaugural event was overwhelming. Beyond the 12 teams who participated, we had another five on a waiting list. Volunteer participation was also beyond expectations—we actually could not utilize everyone who wanted to help out! We saw great sponsorship from the business community as well, with Steveston Marine, Mustang Survival, North Sails, and Vancouver Fish Company donating fantastic prizes to celebrate the racers.