Ocean racers from the Maritimes, Newfoundland, the U.S.A. and France are heading out on another edition of Route Halifax Saint-Pierre on Tues., July 8th. The starting gun fires at noon and sends the fleet from Halifax harbour racing up the Atlantic Coast.
Hurricane Arthur added a last-minute worry for race organizers, arriving in Nova Scotia on Saturday. 'Initially I was very worried,' race chairman Scott MacLeod told the Canadian Press, adding he was shocked when he heard a major storm was brewing so early in the season. 'It looked like it was going to smack us right on the nose.
'It was quite tense a few days ago when we thought it was coming right up here but with all the right preparation, we should be fine, hopefully.'
The post-tropical storm is forecast to be gone from the region long before the race starts.
This year’s entries include the ‘round the world sailor, Derek Hatfield who will skipper the largest vessel – a Volvo 60 'Spirit of Adventure'. Sailors on board are mainly from the Halifax area and are paying to learn how to sail the grand prix racer from Hatfield, who is well-known for his two solo trips around the world.
Other notable entries include Dawn Treader, a Swan 48 MKII owned and skippered by Lawrence Cohen, a Virginian lawyer who is attracted to the race because of its international flavour. His crew this year will include three Americans, four Newfoundlanders, two from Saint-Pierre and one Nova Scotian. Those relationships are one of the reasons he keeps coming back to do the race.
Michel Urdanabia on board Ososoy - Route Halifax Saint-Pierre
'I get to see pictures of their new babies and watch their kids go off to university. I’ve gone to weddings in St. John’s. It is a rare and precious thing to me to come back here for the relationships I have made over the years.' Dawn Treader has won two first place finishes in previous races.
Michel Urdanabia, sailor from Saint-Pierre, usually finds himself at the other end of the fleet. His 'Ososoy' is a 1984 Attalia 32, is typically the smallest boat entered. 'I used to say that I have the same value in my boat that the winner will have in his sails!' But over the years with the help of his crew and with sponsors in Saint-Pierre, he has improved Ososoy.
Urdanabia says he and his team 'faire de la voile sérieusement sans se prendre au sérieux' – in other words they sail the best they can, but don’t take themselves too seriously.
'Ososoy' won’t be the smallest boat this year. That claim goes to Rodolphe Victorri, also of Saint-Pierre who skippers a Nacira 6.50 with the unusual name of 'Shanawdithit', named for the last Beothuk who lived in Newfoundland. The vessel is just 21-feet in length but is designed and built for ocean racing especially the Mini-Transat. 'Shanawdithit' is entered in the double-handed competition.
Race chair Scott MacLeod says RHSP is now firmly entrenched in the sailing community’s calendar.
'We’ve helped spawn other sailing events at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron and in the province. ‘Race the Cape’ in Cape Breton is ramping up for their second annual regatta after their hugely successful inaugural event last summer. Many of us who are participating in RHSP are stopping off on the way home to enjoy some more competition in Cape Breton. Sailing’s where it’s at this year in Nova Scotia! Let’s keep it coming.'
Larry Cohen in Saint-Pierre - Route Halifax Saint-Pierre
Ososoy with spinnaker flying - Route Halifax Saint-Pierre