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RACING SHEET

Van Isle 2019: The Debrief Words: Doug Hansen // Photos: Norris Comer & Suzanne Travis A group of sailors with the right mix of can-do attitude and foolishness wrapped up the biennial Van Isle 360 race around Vancouver Island, known in the sailing community simply as Van Isle. Van Isle takes racers on a semi-guided tour of Vancouver Island, stopping each night in a different port along the east side, and sending the fleet on long offshore treks down the west. This year’s event was one for the books, with 36 boats taking part and an awesome mix of competition ranging from the carbon fiber Transpac 52 (TP52) ORC 0 fleet to gorgeously outfitted Swan 441s and a very comfortable Catalina 38 bring up the rear. The start out of Nanaimo Harbour was full of eager racers ready

to jump right into the adventure. While the leg started off with a ruckus getting out of the harbor, things quickly settled down as the fleet sailed along the shore heading north. Several hours of no wind eventually gave way to a steady northerly that continued to build into the high teens as the fleet reached the finish at Comox. Out of Comox for Leg 2, things were a bit more subdued with sails hanging limp as the start horn sounded. Things finally got going with a light northerly filling in, but it wasn’t meant to last and brought the fleet just about halfway to the finish before evaporating. An afternoon of drifting in the currents with some breaks for whale watching followed. While the fast boats finished just before dinner, it was

well into the evening before the final boats came into the marina, many retiring due to the impossibility of completing the race within the time limit. The following morning, crews awoke early to motor their boats through the legendary Seymour Narrows in a favorable tide for the start in Deepwater Bay. The race got going in light air, but quickly picked up into the high teens that combined with the current push up Johnstone Strait made for some blistering speeds on the GPS. The new TP52 Sonic was off to a commanding lead but ran into light air near the finish, while the rest of the fleet closed in. Sonic held the lead and took line honors for the day, accompanied across the finish by a pod of dolphins.

Top: The Van Isle 2019 fleet saw just about every kind of condition imaginable, including low-winds and overcast. Bottom, left to right: Tight quarters gybing duels were a part of the game. Remember, port to port! The fleet picks up the pace, tacking upwind with a seaplane passing overhead. 84 NORTHWEST YACHTING || JULY 2019

The evening was a special treat; the fleet was a guest of BC Salmon Farmers at the Hardwick Island Fish Farm, but there were no options for moorage anywhere close to land. The leg adds a special challenge as stripped out race boats found themselves out in the cold, sleeping on air mattresses under tarps while the furniture factory cruising boats were well taken care of in warm dry bunks. The following morning a groggy bunch of sailors awoke and set off for the start without much ceremony as there was a long 41-mile day in store. Higher than average winds got the fleet going and impressive current compressions along the shore made things interesting as boats found themselves overpowered and needing to change down sails in the choppy waves. As quickly as the heavy weather sails were raised, the wind began to settle back into its normal phase and tacticians called for another sail change, much to the frustration of the bow teams who actually do the work. The wind became fickle again as the fleet neared the finish at Telegraph Cove, eventually drifting to the finish under spinnakers. A quick stopover at the bar in Telegraph for the evening, then the fleet was off again towards Port Hardy bright and early.

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