We were perfectly set up on the line in front of the entire fleet when we jibed over onto port tack and hoisted the spinnaker just seconds after the gun went off signaling the start of the Van Isle 360 in Nanaimo Harbour. As we hugged the red nun buoy off Gallows Point on the south end of Protection Island and dropped the chute for the beat up to Comox, we were about five boat lengths ahead of our nearest competitor. It was an absolutely phenomenal start.
In sailboat racing, though, it’s not always about how well you start. Of course, getting off the line well is extremely helpful, but you still have to excel throughout the race to really use that start to your advantage.
For the first third of the race, we stayed left and hugged Vancouver Island through several sets of rocks and small islands. The weather was absolutely beautiful. And, even though it was a beat into an ebb, the stiff 15 to 20 knots of northerly breeze had us scooting quickly northward toward the finish. We eventually got passed by bigger boats like the Santa Cruz 70s Westerly and Neptune’s Car, and the ultra-fast Formula 40 catamaran Dragonfly, but held off everyone else. Held them off, that is, until the wind went light and the majority of the fleet went right.
Towards the middle of the race, our strategy of hugging the Vancouver Island side stopped paying dividends and when we parked in light, shifting zephyrs, we watched as the majority of the fleet worked their way northeast in the Strait of Georgia towards Lasqueti Island. We decided to move towards the breeze in the middle but were forced to sit by and witness our lead slowly evaporate and then became a deficit.
The boats that went right moved over the top of those who stayed towards the middle and left and it was like death by a thousand cuts watching it happen in the light, shifty wind.
The last few hours and miles to the finish at the bottom end of Denman Island were a struggle for a lot of boats. Seattle’s own, Neptune’s Car, took line honors and we didn’t finish anywhere near our awesome start – it was quite the opposite. This is how racing goes, and in the end we took the bright spots from the day and moved on to the next race. The Van Isle 360 is long way and with nine legs, there is plenty of time to make up for what couldn’t be salvaged on day one.
The Comox Stopover
Comox is a charming Vancouver Island town that is slightly reminiscent of Poulsbo. The hospitality here has been fantastic and the scenery provided by the mountains, water and drop dead gorgeous weather is nothing short of breathtaking.
Sunday was the Strait Marine Rum Run — an optional buoy race outside Comox Harbour that didn’t count towards the overall VI 360 race results — and we were excited to get out, put the previous day’s result behind us and race around the cans.
The weather was phenomenal again and with a 5 to 10 knot southerly, we were promised a fun and relaxing time to get our feet back under us. We got another perfect start and this time made all the right moves on the course to put us near the front of the pack for the entire race. There was no official scoring, as this was just a fun race, but we performed exceptionally well and probably would have correct out to take first place. So we’ll take it as a moral victory.
With smiles on our faces, we attended the awards ceremony and party for leg one and then grilled out with our road crew before retiring early. We’re primed and ready for today’s 27-mile leg two to Campbell River, and it looks like we’re going to have another beat.
Follow along on the race tracker and check back for an update from Campbell River.