First Choose a Design
My comments, below, were published in Small Craft Advisor, one of the main race sponsors.
Although I am British I have sailed the whole course (admittedly in the reverse direction) and also sailed the PNW for the last 10 years, indeed just this summer we cruised to the north end of Vancouver Island.
Because it is so slow a rowboat will not want to deviate from the shortest route, which means the tides will dominate the strategy. Rowing for 6 hours and only getting 5 miles will sap morale at the very least. Hitting the tidal gates at the right time will rely on a lot of luck, but also careful planning.
Obviously Seymour Narrows is the big one (15 knot tide), but even rowing east out of Victoria on Day 1 will be hard work until the tide changes. So before each gate there may be time to stop and rest, or maybe you will need a 1am start or maybe you have to row for 18 hours non stop.
It is generally a lightwind area with flat seas; storm or survival conditions are unlikely. However sailing boats must be able to row for long periods - maybe "motorsailing", and huge lightweather sails are essential. Sailing into Victoria could be tricky, depending on where the check point (presumably the customs dock) is. It may not even be legal, in which case human power is essential.
Once north of Seymour Narrows there are few anchorages or beaches, never mind convenient places to resupply. Even getting drinking water may be a problem. Walking to stores wastes time furthermore, although crews will carry lightweight freeze-dried food, that uses a lot of water, so it may be worth taking a hand-held desalinator, and certainly worth installing a rain catchment system. Rowing uses a lot of energy and you drink a lot of water, so a rowboat will need far more stores than a sailboat.
The biggest danger will be sailing fast at night and hitting a log. Anyone serious about winning should cruise the course first, picking out anchorages and stopping places, as well as checking for back eddies and problem areas. If the wind is favourable then going “outside” will be fastest but it implies having a good seaworthy boat, not an open boat or daysailer!
The human power choice is between conventional oars, a “bicycle-powered” propeller, or the Hobie Mirage drive. The latter two can be used in waves, are easier to stow, and may be more efficient for casual rowers; furthermore, you can see where you are going.
Staying dry and warm will be a challenge, water temperatures are under 50F for much of the course, while there is often persistant drizzle/fog for the last 500 miles, so rain protection is essential.
The winner will obviously go nonstop, so singlehanders won't win. It will be very hard for two crew, so three is probably the optimum, two to row/sail, one to rest/steer
A 25-30ft catamaran will be ideal. It is large enough for speed and some comfort, yet small enough to row. A catamaran is preferable to a trimaran because it's easier to row, as the trimaran will tend to flop from outrigger to outrigger making oars difficult to use.
Finishing time depends on the wind, and luck on getting tidal gates right. 7 days is a sensible minimum, 10 is more likely.
The easy bit getting to Victoria, the second stage to Seymour Narrows is also straightforward. The challenge won't really start until boats are in Johnstone Strait. Only the best will get north of Vancouver Island. Few will finish.
The Salish 28 was the first purpose designed boat entered. It is also, on paper, a likely winner.
It is built using 6mm ply. The two main aluminium crossbeams are well spaced to make a stiff structure. A bowsprit takes not just the forestay load but also a screecher and asymmetric spinnaker. A bowsprit is prefered to a netting beam as it is lighter and is more efficient at reducing forestay sag than a crossbeam. The mastbeam is supported on the inner gunwales to allow access forward in the hulls and is stiffened with a dolphin striker.
A large trampoline forms the main cockpit area with netting forward, as netting doesn't catch water and allows sailbags etc to be tied off and gives a better grip when bouncing to windward. Genoa sheet leads are wires allowing infinite adjustment. Daggerboards are offset to the inner side of the hull for easy adjustment, while the kick up rudders use a simple, well proven design. The rig size can vary depending on local conditions and owners requirements.
Of course, with a few modifications (eg no rowing positions) it would be a great choice for those planning a coastal racing multihull on a budget. It can be easily trailed on a flat bed trailer (thanks to the flat bottomed hulls) and assembled by the crew in a couple of hours. The Salish is too big to trail every weekend, but does allow one to store the boat at home in the winter to or enter races that take too long to sail to
To help you compare different, yet similar, designs here are the cross sections for Sango, Eagle, Saturn and Salish 28
Basic Materials List
26 sheets 6mm plywood
4 sheets 9mm plywood
2in x 1in 150m
11/2in x 1in 120m
3in x 1in 10m
3in x 11/2in 2m
45kgs min epoxy
1kg wood flour or similar filler
20kgs min 200g glass cloth (biaxial +/-45deg recommended)
2000 stainless steel countersunk screws 3/4in x 6
filler/paint as required
Please contact me if you are interested in this design and I will email you more details