The energy around the dock yesterday in Nanaimo was so thick you could cut it with your rigging knife. Crews worked on final preparations, jested as they passed by each other and turned on music while enjoying cockpit libations — the flavor of the event seems to be part party, part sailboat racing event.

After our crew meeting aboard Double Take, we made our way up to the opening ceremonies gathering and it was a blast to talk to other sailors about the race. Some had done all nine other Van Isle 360’s and come back every time because, as one sailor emphatically put it, “This is simply the best racing event in the Northwest.”

Yet for others — myself included — this will be their first time doing the race and also their first time going around Vancouver Island. A Bainbridge Island sailor that I spoke with mentioned that he’s always wanted to be a part of this, and never even considered just doing half. (Some time-strapped sailors only do the inside legs up to Port Hardy or the outside.) “It was all or nothing for me,” he said with a grin.

As I sit typing this with a clear view of the fleet, battle flags are being kicked up by the morning breeze, the first wisps of sunlight are drawing through the masts and the pancake breakfast is being setup on the pier. The docks aren’t quite bristling with sailors yet, but with the promise of a 20-plus knot northerly to have us beating towards Comox on this first leg, I’m sure they’ll be buzzing soon.

So stay tuned. If you want to follow the fleet around the rock, keep an eye on the race tracker, and look for race updates here and on our Facebook page.

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