Bay Challenge

Race Information

With great disappointment, the VOWSA Bay Challenge 2018 race event is cancelled.

Due to high levels of bacteria in the water, swimming and wading are not recommended at Sunset Beach and Kitsilano Beach, including Kitsilano Point in Vancouver, as well as Sandy Cove in West Vancouver.

While VOWSA tried to access alternate solutions, with the news that Sandy Cove is now also closed for swimming we must cancel the race.

The safety of our swimmers is our first priority.

More info here – Vancouver Coastal Health / West Vancouver

Race Date: Cancelled

Race Start Location:  Sandy Cove Beach, West Vancouver BC

Race Finish Location: Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver BC

Distance: 9.6 km (Solo and Relay option) – Course Map / Prior Track

For questions about the race please contact bayrace “at”

Check out this video from the 2017 Bay Challenge to get a sense of it all!

Thank you to Randy Mennie for creating the video.


  • All Bay Challenge solo swimmers and relay teams are required to have their own support boat.
  • The Bay Challenge is a wetsuit mandatory race.

Pre-Race Preparation

Crossing English Bay is a significant physical and mental challenge! All race participants must abide by the 2018 safety policy in full (see below).

Tidal and weather activity within the bay can significantly increase the distance and time you are required to swim. Water temperature can vary over the course depending on the season; swimmers should expect and be prepared for temperatures between 12 °C in the channel and up to 22 °C near the finish.

Swimmers are required to stay within the bounds of the course path for swift support response (Link). Note the 2 hour cut-off point to clear the ingress zone is past the shipping channel marker (See Safety Policy) at ~3km into the race ideally swum to swimmers left.

Swimmers will be required to submit proof of swimming ability to VOWSA* prior to registration cut-off. All records must be from 2017 or 2018. 

This must include at least one of:

  1.  A completed 1 hour distance trial (Link)
  2.  A timed completion of 2 laps of the Kitsilano course at a designated VOWSA practice swim
  3.  Results from a 3 km+ open water swim race.

To adequately prepare yourself for the challenge of completing this race you should be comfortable swimming 1 hour continuously for a MINIMUM of: 3.3 km in a pool (approx. 1:50 min/100m pace) or 3.0 km in open water (a 2:00 min/100m pace).**

If you have any questions regarding these or any of the policies governing this race contact the race director.

* The distance trial log may be submitted digitally to BayRace “at”, physically to one of the practice swims, or via snail mail PO Box 5063 Stn Terminal, Vancouver, BC V6B 4A9

** These minimums are in no way a guarantee of completing the course prior to the race cut-off deadline. As stated, changes to meteorological conditions on the day of the race can significantly increase the ~9.6km total distance in 4h30m (at minimum a 2:49 min/100m pace). Pace times from the race have been on average 22-60% slower than submitted.

Pre-Race Meeting Information

All swimmers and support crew MUST attend the pre-race meeting. Boat pilots will be required to produce a Canadian Boating License, as required by Transport Canada. Check here for more information.

Date: Friday August 3, 2018

Time: 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM

Location: Kitsilano Beach – Map

  • We will review the course and safety/emergency procedures in detail, and you will receive your race package and race numbers.
  • All swimmers will sign a waiver and a $700.00 indemnification for the VHF radios VOWSA is providing.
  • Remember to bring your dry bag  to the pre-race meeting. Your dry bag will be securely stored overnight at Kitsilano Beach (if we do not have it, you will not have a warm change of clothes at the finish line!)


For an overview of the event details, please review the Bay Challenge – Safety Policy 2018.

NOTE: Every boat operator MUST have a on board a VHF radio, boater’s licence (PCOL) and Transport Canada approved Equipment. Failure to comply with any of these safety requirements will result in a disqualification from the race.

If you unsure about any of these requirements, please review the Bay Challenge Safety Policy prior to emailing BayRace “at” with the subject line: Bay Challenge Safety Requirements

Cut-off Times

There are 3 safety cut-off points marked on the map in the 2018 Safety Policy Appendix I. If a swimmer fails to achieve any of these, they will have to abort their race.

  • The first is a 1.5 hour limit: From the time the race starts to pass the mid-ingress zone yellow marker buoy line as it extends from the tip of Stanley Park. The distance to this mark is ~3km; to achieve the 4.5 hour limit you should expect to reach this mark in less than 1h15m however an additional buffer is added to account for the tidal inflow conditions aiding swimmers past this mark.
  • The second is a 2 hour limit: From the time the race begins we are permitted this length of time by harbour authorities to clear the ingress path for deep water vessels illustrated on the Safety Policy map. At the 2 hour limit if the swimmer has failed to pass the marker buoy they will be instructed to pull their swimmer and transport them to the race finish to be reviewed by VOWSA medical staff.
  • The third is a 4.5 hour limit: From the time the race starts to make it inside the white markers at Kits Beach. When this time elapses any swimmers remaining outside the white markers must exit the water and return immediately to the race finish to be reviewed by VOWSA medical staff.


Register Here

Registration closes 1 week in advance of the race date (Saturday, July 28 at 11:55 pm PDT)

Only 25 swimmers may enter (relay teams are considered 1 swimmer).

For technical problems with registration please contact president “at”


2018 Registration Fees

Category Entry Fee
Bay Challenge SOLO $120.00 (includes radio rental)
Bay Challenge RELAY (2-4 people) $170.00 (per team, includes radio rental)
Only the team captain registers – other team members will register at pre-race briefing

Please note a 2.9% surcharge for credit card processing will be added at the time of registration.

Refund policy

Race Schedule

Check in times

  • 6:30 am — Check-in begins for Solo & Relay participants
  • 6:50 am — Check-in closes for Solo & Relay participants

Failure to check-in during the appropriate check-in period will result in entry cancellation.

Race Start Times

  • 7:00 am — Solo men’s start
  • 7:03 am — Solo women’s start
  • 7:06 am — Relay start

Start times are approximate and may be delayed.


The Bay Challenge is a wetsuit mandatory race.

Don’t have a wetsuit? Talk to Team Aquatic Supplies about trying out or buying an Aquasphere wetsuit. They are located at 107 – 2120 Dollarton Highway in North Vancouver. You can also visit them to find a great selection of swim caps, goggles, swim suits and other swimming accessories. You can contact them at (604) 770-3641. Please mention you heard of them through VOWSA.


A signed waiver is required for entry into each VOWSA event.

Please bring a completed VOWSA WAIVER 2018 – Bay Challenge to Check In

Boat Rental

Need a support boat for the Bay Challenge? Granville Island Boat Rentals has been renting boats to Bay Challenge swimmers for years. You can reserve your boat today by calling their office at 604.682.6287. Let them know that you will be participating in the Bay Challenge with VOWSA and they will make sure you are ready to go for race day. They will be opening at 5:00am on race day to accommodate our swimmers. More info here.


Additional Information

Sandy Cove Weather Link

Kitsilano Beach Weather Link

Sandy Cove and Kitsilano Beach Water Quality Report

VOWSA reserves the right to reschedule or cancel events if water conditions are unsafe. VOWSA reserves the right to refuse entry based on safety or health concerns or previous violations of official rules.

If you have any photos of the race and would like to share them on VOWSA’s FacebookFlickr page, please email President “at”</a with the subject line: VOWSA Photos – Bay Challenge

Still have questions? Visit our FAQ page.

Thank you to our 2018 sponsors, who have provided prizes, food & drinks for this event