Double Take’s blue and white spinnaker filled just seconds before the starting horn for Leg 9 from Victoria to Nanaimo sounded off Clover Point. Off the line we were one of four boats sprinting ahead towards narrow Enterprise Channel in 20 knots of breeze, with several others trailing close behind.
Neck and neck as we neared this winding pass separating the Trial Islands and Vancouver Island, all four of us pulled off several successful jibes within feet of each other before continuing our gallop eastward towards Haro Strait.
It was the ninth and final start of the 2015 Van Isle 360 and was, by far, the most exhilarating.
In many ways, Leg 9 was a microcosm of the overall race. The fleet of 52 boats battled upwind and downwind in big breezes, suffered through transitions of little to no wind, and played the currents to the best of their advantage. The IRC, PHRF and ORC divisions were all competitive, hotly contested and filled with an immense amount of sailing talent.
Aboard Double Take we were laser focused, as we knew the only way to grab a potential podium spot was to take first in this final contest.
Racing northward toward Nanaimo, we stayed inside of Saturna, Prevost and Galiano Islands where we found breeze and calms and yet more breeze, before sailing with the flood through Porlier Pass. We were the third boat shot out into the Strait of George and smack into a windless hole. Fortunately, the favorable current carried us northward toward Nanaimo, and just when the tide turned, the wind filled in from the northwest and began to build.
It was a fitting beat to the finish line in Nanaimo Harbor and with only one boat ahead in our division — who owed us time — we knew that if we could hang on we’d come out with a victory.
We did. And grabbing the final podium spot was a sweet way to end possibly the most amazing race experience a sailor could have.
A sailing event like no other
The Van Isle 360 is no ordinary regatta. No ordinary yacht race. The average yacht race or regatta is done in one setting or over one course, sometimes two. Not the Van Isle 360. Each leg of the nine presented unique challenges, scenery and a place to stop, gather as a fleet and cheers to the fruits of our sailing labor.
Nanaimo, Comox, Campbell River, Hardwicke Island, Telegraph Cove, Port Hardy, Winter Harbour, Ucluelet and Victoria. Each of these venues flashed their own flavor and welcomed us as part of their community. And each is memorable for a different reason.
It was also the waters and adjacent landscapes in which we sailed that made each race its own. The Strait of Georgia, Seymour Narrows, Johnstone Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait and Sound, the Nahwitti Bar, Cape Scott, the Brooks Peninsula and Cape Cook, the Pacific Ocean, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait and the Gulf Islands. The immeasurable beauty of these wild backdrops will forever be etched in the memory of the sailors who battled through them upwind and down.
When it comes down to it, though, the most immeasurable yet special aspect of this event was the sailors, and the relationships between them. You were known by your boat’s name first, which is the only icebreaker you needed to introduce yourself, and friendships were formed from there.
And even though the racing action was serious, it was also fun and kept mostly lighthearted. Sailors helped each other fix sails and splice halyards, and sea stories flowed as easily as the after racing libations.
Spending two-weeks together on the racecourse and docks, at awards parties, and in hotels, campgrounds, bars and restaurants was unlike races where you only see other racers in passing or at a single after party. By the end of the Van Isle 360, you were saying, “Have a great race!” during the pre-start and then stopping by a boat to have a beer and chat about how it went afterwards. The atmosphere was incredible, and incomparable.
And as one well traveled sailor perfectly exuded to me on the dock in Nanaimo with a smile after finishing the final leg, “This is the best sailing event I have ever done. There is simply nothing like it.”
He was absolutely right. And it happens every other year in the Pacific Northwest.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the massive amount of work put in by the road crews and race committee. Teams that were fortunate enough to have a road crew follow them from stop to stop gained an invaluable team member that in many ways kept the race going for their team. Lugging sails, food and gear around the island was no easy task, and the amount of organization it took is commendable.
The race committee’s task of running nine races in all these venues around a very big, wilderness-laden island was spectacular. They started and finished us from lighthouses, piers and boats, and without their creativity and commitment, none of this would have been possible. Overall they did a fantastic, first-rate job.
Here are the final podium results for all of the divisions (for the full results go here):
1st — Westerly, Santa Cruz 70, Stuart & Joy Dahlgren
2nd — Dark Star, Bieker 44, Jonathan McKee
3rd — Double Take, J/145, Tom Huseby
1st — Terremoto, Riptide 35, William Weinstein
2nd — While Cloud, Cookson 12m, Steve Johnson
3rd — Ace, Farr 395, Peter Shorett/Zig Burzycki
1st — Zulu, Jespersen 42, Findlay Gibbons
2nd — Kiva, Finngulf, Julien Sellgren
3rd — Different Drummer, Wauquiez Centurion 40s, Charles Hill
1st — Rubato, Hanse 400e, Steve Blaine
2nd — Alegria X, Dufour 45e, Eberhard Heinzemann
3rd — Cantina, Catalina 42, Garry Sagert
1st — Anduril, Farr 395, Greg Harms
2nd — White Cloud, Cookson 12m, Steve Johnson
3rd — Strait Marine, Modified Farr 40, Jim Allan
1st — Rouges Roost, C&C 372 WK, Theodore Arsenault
2nd — Rubato, Hanse 400, Steve Blaine
3rd — Buck’aneer, CS 40, Hart Buck
1st — Dragonfly, Formula 40, Richard Ackrill
2nd — Bad Kitty, One Off Uthoff, Ron Tomas/Bob Davis
3rd — Dream Chaser, Farrier F9RX ,Cam McCannel