Since leaving Campbell River, the Van Isle 360 fleet has worked its way through Seymour Narrows and Johnstone Strait to Telegraph Cove during legs three, four and five of the race. The weather forecast suggested 25 to 30 knots of northwesterly breeze, with higher gusts. We have seen every bit of that and more as we raced our way towards the top of Vancouver Island.
The wind and current have made for intense upwind racing action that has been grueling at times and a heck of a lot of fun for the 52-boat fleet. But in mind, and many other sailors here, the extreme beauty of the venue has overshadowed all of that.
Stretching north and northwest along the northeasterly side of Vancouver Island, Seymour Narrows, Discover Passage and Johnstone Strait are relatively narrow, windswept channels with massive amounts of current that mariners have to account for. Mountains line each side and depths drop straight down at the edge of the water. The resulting affect is one of sailing inside of a mountain range — which is actually quite true as we’ve navigated between the Halifax and Prince of Wales ranges on Vancouver Island and peaks on the adjacent islands and the mainland.
Leg three took the fleet from Deepwater Bay just past Seymour Narrows to fish pens that are located 28 miles up Discover Passage and Johnstone Strait near Hardwicke Island. Race organizer Jeff Motely told me, “The fish pens are literally the only place for us to stop.” It’s that remote, that wild. Mountain peaks were everywhere as the fleet rafted to the fish pens and each other, and a party atmosphere ensued for some as racers fixed sails, nursed wounds and swapped stories from the day.
And it’s this that makes the Van Isle 360 so special — the incredible camaraderie coupled with the sheer beauty of the racing venue.