West Vancouver Yacht Club’s annual two-weekend dinghy racing extravaganza, Pumpkin Bowl, was a smash hit as the event celebrated its 25th year!

Opti Youth Weekend October 14-15

25 years on from the first ever Pumpkin Bowl at West Vancouver Yacht Club (WVYC) and there are definitely no signs of slowing down! This was clearly evident at this year’s Opti Youth weekend with 89 Opti sailors of varying ages between 7 and 15 years old, enjoying both on and off water action. This was the largest Opti fleet ever at Pumpkin Bowl.

Saturday morning dawned clear with no rain as excited Opti sailors, their parents, and coaches set up in the Club’s parking lot. Registration was buzzing while the vast majority of sailors checked in and obtained their dolly tags that morning, plus the usual swag with Halloween candy. Under the masterful supervision of Charles Le Clerk, the Opti Champ fleet launched efficiently, followed a little later by one of the largest Opti Green fleets Pumpkin Bowl has ever had with 36 sailors.

Race Officer, Harry Coleman, set the Opti Champ course west of Point Atkinson to optimize the forecast easterly, while Race Officer Kathy Parslow set the Green course not far from the Basin just off Eagle Island. Both fleets enjoyed east to southeasterly breezes of 4 to 6 knots, with the Green fleet experiencing an early outflow with a 180 degree wind shift fairly early on, keeping Green fleeters on their toes and sailing uphill on both legs. The northerly outflow reached the Champ fleet later in the day, which proved no problem at all for Harry’s team, including Kerry Phillips, who operated three robotic marks to swiftly reset the course. 

After three short races and some Pied-Piper-style sailing where the Green fleet all followed a coach, it was time for the Green fleet to head in for activities ashore. Many Green fleeters couldn’t wait to find the witch, carve pumpkins, and play with some incredible balloon sculptures produced by “Twistin’ Sam” — think lightsabers, bows and arrows, mini Optis, pumpkins, flowers and hearts, to name just a few of Twistin’ Sam’s creations.  

The Champ fleet completed four races before joining the Green fleet later in the afternoon to take part in the fun and games. In addition to the competitive racing, the Champ fleet were also privileged to see a number of humpback whales cruising by, followed not long after (but quite separately) by a pod of orcas. What a show!

On Sunday morning, the rain cleared yet again and both fleets enjoyed a consistent breeze of 8 to 15 knots with only minor wind shifts. The Champ fleet raced just north of Passage Island and the Green fleet set up in a similar position to the day before in clear view of the Champ fleet. Enjoying a bit of friendly rivalry, Kathy managed to outdo Harry with six races on the Green course, with the Champ course reaching their maximum of five races for the day by 2:00 p.m. 

The time out buoys on the Green course proved very handy for the coaches, who tied up a string of Optis belonging to sailors who found Sunday’s conditions a bit challenging. This allowed the majority of the Green fleeters to stay out on the course to watch the racing and still participate in the event. 

Behind the scenes as usual, a large number of volunteers worked magic on land and water to make this such a memorable event — thank you! Nicky da Costa in particular, worked tirelessly on Information Desk and Volunteer Assignments, while also training to take over as Regatta Chair next year. 

Laser and Doublehanded Weekend October 21-22

Having only just recovered from a busy Opti Youth weekend, Pumpkin Bowl 2.0 for Lasers and Doublehanded dinghies sure did not disappoint! In total, the participation was fabulous, only six boats short of the largest Pumpkin Bowl ever. The parking lot was packed with Lasers and Fevas, while the outer and inner docks bulged under the weight of countless 420s, 29ers, and FJs. 

On Saturday morning, blessed with clear skies and moderate fall temperatures (unheard of for Pumpkin Bowl), the Laser fleet headed to Jericho and raced off Spanish Banks near the Jericho Bell Buoy, taking advantage of the building westerly. Earlier, coaches and support boats towed the Doublehanded fleet some way off Point Atkinson past Passage Island to find the wind. As predicted, the wind brought massive seas with up to 6 foot waves. For many competitors, this was the first time they had raced in a dinghy so far offshore and in such enormous swell — both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time! 

On the Doublehanded course, setting marks in up to 500 feet of water in huge swell proved challenging — WVYC’s signal boat Silver Shadow even dragged its anchor! All fleets enjoyed fantastic racing with most fleets completing four races well in time to be towed back to the Club in daylight. 

After dinner on Saturday night, Ant “The Quiz Master” Gillard ran a highly engaging quiz for sailors, volunteers, and parents alike. Questions ranged from nautical to pop culture themes such as “Of the four wind gods, who is the exalted ruler of the North Wind?” and “Who is the most followed person on Instagram?” The room was completely silent while teams pondered a question, only to be followed with screams and shouts when Ant provided the answers. A great way to let off steam after a day of full-on racing! 

Sunday proved more of the same on water. This time the Doublehanded boats competed east of the Jericho Bell Buoy and the Lasers competed south of the Doublehanded course directly west of Spanish Banks. The swell was just as fierce, but by this time many competitors had learned to harness the waves to their advantage downwind, making for some pretty fun and fast racing. Racing in an FJ, I learned to steer well clear of the 29ers as they flew downwind in fairly consistent 15 to 18 knots. All fleets enjoyed terrific racing with most fleets completing another four intense races.

Heading in for a hot shower, hot chocolate, hot chili, and Halloween inspired cupcakes, most sailors appeared pretty exhausted but elated. In addition to the usual awards, for the first time, Pumpkin Bowl organizers awarded the “Vlad Plavsic Award for Outstanding Sailor” to Andre Deseau, as well as PB necklaces to the top five ILCA six female identifying sailors. 

What a fantastic pair of dinghy racing weekends! The weather held out, we found the wind, racing was awesome and, most importantly, the community of sailors and volunteers is stronger than ever. What more can a regatta celebrating its 25th anniversary hope to achieve? 

Full results from West Vancouver Yacht Club. 

All photos courtesy of Douglas Hampton.