Race the Cape

The Race

Race the Cape  is an event, a sailing regatta, for boaters, their families, and friends that unfolds over a week each July on Cape Breton Island. Race the Cape is seven days of challenging point-to-point sail racing, both inland and coastal ocean, broken into five legs of up to 40 nautical miles through the island’s amazing Bras d’Or Lake and along Cape Breton Island’s rugged Atlantic coast leading to the Cape Breton Highlands. Race the Cape is an International Sailing Federation – Off Shore Special Regulations (OSR) Category 4 Race, sailed during daylight hours.  There are both Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker Divisions.


The inaugural Race the Cape was held in 2013. Since then, it has become a signature annual sailing event in Cape Breton. In November, Race the Cape was honoured with the Regatta of The Year 2015 award by Sail Nova Scotia.


New to Race the Cape in 2015 was a Cruising Class to include non-competitive cruisers looking to get in on the action. Sailboats and powerboats are welcome to follow along and watch the fierce, but friendly, competition unfold before them while taking in the beauty of the Bras d’Or Lake.

The Location: The Bras d’Or is a 450 square mile inland sea; connected to the Atlantic Ocean through natural channels, with deep salt water, virtually no fog, little tide influence, and few navigational hazards.  Prevailing July winds are SW at 10 – 15 knots, typically rising to 15 – 20 knots in the afternoons with gusts to 20 to 25 knots as the waters narrow between the long ridges of hills and low mountains (600 to 1000 feet high) that define the channels.  An exceptionally windy July day will see gusts to 30 or even 35 knots in these channels.  In July, Bras d’Or water temperatures are usually in the 70’s.

The Legs: Race the Cape 2016’s first leg, The Red Islands Cup, about 30 nautical miles overall, will start on the morning of Tuesday, July 19th, 2016 in the Bras d’Or Lake at the mouth of the St. Peters Inlet.  After a start off of Cape George Lighthouse the fleet will reach past MacRaes Point and Morrison Head up into the 5 mile wide, island dotted West Bay, the bay bounded both sides by high hills reaching an elevation of over 750 feet.  The fleet will then round a mark at Paddle Shoal off of Clarks Cove, Marble Mountain to turn downwind into the open lake for what is in typical winds a long spinnaker run past Malagawatch, Militia Point and the Red Islands down into East Bay to finish off of the Ben Eoin Yacht Club & Marina.


Leg Two:  The Barra Strait Cup, about 30 nautical miles, starts on Wednesday, July 20th just offshore of the Ben Eoin Yacht Club in East Bay.  Prevailing south-west winds will first find the fleet beating to windward up East Bay past the MacPhee Islands and the community of Eskasoni into the open Bras d’Or Lake to round the headland at Benacadie Point, reaching across Pipers Cove to gain Derby Point, entering the Barra Strait.  After transiting the Strait the fleet will be able to crack their spinnakers to the building afternoon winds for an 8 nm run down St Andrews Channel, past Gillis Point and Maskells Harbour (birthplace of the Cruising Club of America),  rounding the Washabuck Peninsula at MacKay Point, crossing St. Patricks Channel to enter Baddeck Bay to round Kidston Island for a finish in front of the Bras d’Or Yacht Club on the waterfront of the village of Baddeck.


Leg Three: The Great Bras d’Or Cup is Race the Cape’s longest leg, at about 40 nm, and starts on the morning of Thursday, July 21st.  After an upwind start the fleet will cross Baddeck Bay, reaching past Beinn Bhreagh to round Red Head to hoist their spinnakers and enter the 18 nautical mile Great Bras d’Or Channel, running between the 1000 foot hills lining the bold shorelines.  Yachts will race under the Great Bras d’Or Crossing (the Seal Island Bridge) toward the narrows at Carey & Noir Points (outgoing and incoming currents may reach 5 to 6 knots here, we will time the yachts’ arrivals for favourable outgoing current in the Great Bras d’Or before slack water and well before the current turns to re-enter the Bras d’Or).  The yachts will now enter the Atlantic Ocean at the Cabot Strait and will then reach for 10 nautical miles along the rugged ocean coast of Cape Breton Island, passing Table Head, rounding Point Aconi to enter Spanish Bay, reaching past High Cape, Alder & Merritt Points, Bonar Head, Oxford and Black Points, gaining Cranberry Point to enter Sydney Harbour. The fleet will sail past the old lighthouse at Low Point to round South Bar for a reach up the South Arm past Point Edward and the communities of Whitney Pier and downtown Sydney to a finish off of the Dobson Yacht Club at Dobson’s Point in Westmount.

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Leg Four: The Aspy Cup, about 30 nm, follows a layover day in Sydney Harbour so will start on the morning of Saturday, July 23rd off of Dobson Yacht Club.  After the start the fleet will turn downwind for a 7 nautical mile run past the communities of Westmount and Point Edward, past the North and South Bars, the old Chapel Point Gun Battery and Swivel Point, to round a mark off of  Cranberry Head, reentering the Atlantic Ocean and the Cabot Strait for a run over 22 nm “Down North” along the coast of Cape Breton.  The fleet will then be following the route of the historic “Aspy” coastal ferries/freighters past St Annes Harbour, the Bird Islands, the North Shore, Little River and Breton Cove, Skir Dhu and Wreck Cove toward the bold 1200 foot high headland of Cape Smoky and the Cape Breton Highlands in the distance.  On rounding the Cape the fleet will turn to the west to enter South Bay Ingonish for a finish off the entrance to Ingonish Harbour.

Leg Five: The historic Cibou Cup, about 35 nm, starts on the morning of Sunday, July 24th in South Bay Ingonish.  After the start, the fleet will turn to run out again past Cape Smoky into the Cabot Strait and make their course for Spanish Bay and Sydney Harbour to the south.  On entering the harbour the fleet will sheet in for a close reach 6 nm up into the Northwest Arm passing Swivel Point, the communities of Sydney Mines, North Sydney at Indian Beach to a finish in front of the historic Northern Yacht Club at North Sydney.

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See the Notice of Race for further information.