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T-Bird Swiftsure Update July 2011

posted Jul 13, 2011, 4:33 PM by Geoff Morrison   [ updated Dec 7, 2011, 1:28 PM ]

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Thunderbird Fleet #4 at the RVYC.  The Fleet got its start when  Ned Ashe brought the first thunderbird, Mary D II, to the club in 1961.  The Thunderbird design soon caught-on and many more T-birds soon joined the club and the fleet.  The Thunderbird is a solidly design craft, and they are fast. Case in point, Ashe entered Mary D II into the Swiftsure Juan e Fuca race in 1965. He not only won the race, he set a race record that stood for a decade.   George Redzich also won the Swiftsure Juan de Fuca race in 1985 with his T-Bird Sea Jay.


To celebrate the 50th anniversary of fleet#4 everyone thought it would be a great idea to enter a Thunderbird into the Swiftsure Juan de Fuca race. How would the T-bird measured up against the test of time?   The challenge was laid out, and the idea grew into a plan. The seasoned crew of Scooter would bring their sailing credentials and ability and race on Sirocco which conforms to the Swiftsure’s specifications.


The Sirocco, designed in 1958 by Ben Seaborn and built by John Booth in 1978 did incredibly well.  Sirocco, which became known as “The Wonderbird” during the course of the race crossed the finish line at Ogden Point in under 24 hours. Corrected time was 19 hours 13 minutes and this gave The Wonderbird  1st place  in her division and  4th  in her class.  Truly a remarkable showing  which is testimony to not only the design  but her incredible crew.  Duncan Stamper, Keith Provan and Mark Malleson working, its seemed at times, as a single like-mined-being in the cockpit -- sharing observations, strategies, tactics and tasks and reacting seamlessly .  On the foredeck, the hardest working and most tireless crew I’ve ever seen,  Stephen Isbister.   And of course, yours truly rounded out the crew as the best equipment/food & beverage manager a T-bird has ever seen.  It was a blast.  I think we might just have to do it again. 


The race had many highlights, but the crew revelled in their great start and performance on the outbound leg. After four hours of light winds and sailing into the flood, everyone was delighted to reach Race Rock Pass ahead of many of the big boats in Division 1 and 3; boats which started in some cases 40 minutes earlier that the  Juan de Fuca race. Sirocco was the first boat, on corrected time, to round the mark at Clallam Bay.  It was a great day to be on a T-bird.  Be sure to check out videos posted on YouTube of the Wonderbird’s incredible performance in Swiftsure.


Fleet #4 will host the Regional Thunderbird Championship Regatta during the Labour Day long weekend. If you are looking for competitive racing action, the Thunderbird fleet is the place to be.  Come join the fun, there are boats looking for crew, and maybe a few good boats that are looking for a new skipper. Come down to D dock and join the Thunderbird Revolution.


Geoff Morrison

Fleet #4 President