Is racing at night through channels common? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 45 Old 09-19-2016 Thread Starter
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Is racing at night through channels common?

After a near collision with a race boat Friday night, I'm a bit perplexed as to how night racing is allowed in crowded harbours. I am speaking of darkness, not sunset.

A 40 ft vessel with dark hull and dark sails, (not helping matters), crossed our bow within 15 feet. We we're on starboard tack, they were on port.

We were navigating a channel into the main harbour of Toronto. I did not see him until his bow crossed, and made an evasive turn to port to avoid collision. We were lit with bicolour on bow and white light on stern. Some boats in the race had a mixture of steaming and anchor lights on as well as bicolour lights.

I managed to spot the other 20 or so boats in the race, but that one eluded me. Yes, I had the right of way, but I still bear some responsibilty.

Light polution in the area is extreme - with an airport and freeway in my sight lines. Also it is a channel with tour boats.

Is this common? I hailed the race committee on the radio, but it went silent after they acknowledged my initial call.

If we I had trimmed my jib 30 seconds earlier, it would have been a collision for sure. And Most likely there would have been fatalities.

Perhaps he thought he could safely pass my bow?

Edit to clarify, the race was outside the channel, but across the approach to it, (within 1/2 mile)

Last edited by Ninefingers; 09-19-2016 at 04:21 PM. Reason: Clarify
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Re: Is racing at night through channels common?

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Originally Posted by Ninefingers View Post
Perhaps he thought he could safely pass my bow?
Sounds like he did safely cross your bow. As a non racer you may not be comfortable with a boat 15 feet in front of you but that is plenty of room to the boat racing. You mention your lights but not the boat racing's lights. If he did not have lights, he was in the wrong, but only for the lack of lights.

I apologize in advance for all sailboat racers. It is the nature of sailboat racing that people doing it will be aggressive, possibly extremely so. The boat you had a close call with probably did not even think twice for your "near miss."

If you are uncomfortable with boats passing within feet of you or bearing down on the center of your boat only to crack off and pass within 2 feet of your stern, pay attention and stay away from any group of boats that look to be racing.

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post #3 of 45 Old 09-19-2016 Thread Starter
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Re: Is racing at night through channels common?

Thanks, I do give racers room out of courtesy, but it never occurred to me that they also race at night near shore.

It was unnerving to say the least, but perhaps it was not as dangerous as I thought.

But still, there's no need to scare people for sake of a trophy.
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Re: Is racing at night through channels common?

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Sounds like he did safely cross your bow. As a non racer you may not be comfortable with a boat 15 feet in front of you but that is plenty of room to the boat racing
Yes, plenty of room for racers-- with other racers. Just because a boat is racing this doesn't put every sailboat in the vicinity in racing mode where clearing "civilians" by 15 feet is OK. Just reading about it ticks me off.

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post #5 of 45 Old 09-19-2016
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Re: Is racing at night through channels common?

He scared you because you didn't see him. Depth perception at night is not very good. His sudden appearance may have alarmed you but he may have been passing at a quite safe distance. Yes boats will sail at night and races do happen at night whether they are overnighters or day races that run into darkness. With the onslaught of winter and shorter days was probably a Friday Beer Can race that lasted until after it was dark.

Unfortuately racers tend to care more about winning races than other boats. I try and stay out of there way but have had some obnoxious yell 'Racing' as an excuse not to follow right of way rules.
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None fingers, it is very common in Toronto. Passing 15 feet off your bow at night is ignorant and inexcusable but is common practice in Toronto.

I ran Yacht Club tenders and some good size tour boats in Toronto for a number of years, and they are even more aggressive with tour boats because they know we'll stop for them.

The worse I have seen is in, I think it was 2009 I took a 140 ft Scientific Research vessel into Toronto, we were properly displaying Restricted in our Ability to Maneuver day shapes as we had science gear over the side and were making securite calls every 5 minutes and they still refused to yield to us. Ignorant.

I don't give them an ounce in my sailboat, my boat would crush nearly any race boat, bring em on.
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Re: Is racing at night through channels common?

Thanks Arcb,

It's hard to describe the light pollution in the area until you've seen it. Approaching a huge city with an airport on the lake is really, really tough at night. There are multi coloured lights everywhere.

I probably won't do the Western gap in the future under darkness. I didn't expect it to be used as a race course, because it made no sense. But apparently it is.

The racers were heading away from the city lights, easier for them to discern the colours I suppose.
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This was in the Western Gap? I didn't think sailing was even permitted in the Western Gap any more.

At least with the new tunnel to the airport you don't have to worry about being run down by the Marylin Bell ferry as much any more.
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Re: Is racing at night through channels common?

Before the Western Gap, 1/4 mile off Ontario place approximately. Race was from Humber to Gibralter Point and back. They were tacking close to the airport exclusion zone for some reason.

And no you can't sail through the Western Gap, but if you are a 50' SunDancer you can go through at 10 knots, (speed limit is 5), and smash smaller boats against the break wall with your wake. Seen it a month ago. Luckily no one hurt.
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Re: Is racing at night through channels common?

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Originally Posted by roverhi View Post
Unfortuately racers tend to care more about winning races than other boats. I try and stay out of there way but have had some obnoxious yell 'Racing' as an excuse not to follow right of way rules.
Under most club rules if a racer breaks the Nav Rules (COLREGS or Inland Rules) anyone has standing to protest. It's awkward to track down the race committee and the protest committee but if you're really ticked off it can make you feel better. One DSQ can knock a boat way down in the listings at least. It would certainly send a message to the club and probably the entire racing community.

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