The Van Isle 360 is a biennial, 580 nautical mile point-to-point race circumnavigating wild and rugged Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Sailed in ten legs, the course provides inshore, offshore and overnight sailing through some of the most stunning and challenging waters on the planet.
The next running of the Van Isle 360 is June 8 – 22, 2013.
General Information on the Van Isle 360 International Yacht Race
If ever an island was meant to be raced around it is Vancouver Island. Her dramatic beauty, majestic mountains and natural harbours provide an awesome backdrop for a race that has become “the must do” event on the west coast sailing circuit. The Van Isle 360 runs every other year on the odd year and attracts some of top sailors in the Pacific Northwest. The variety of extremes and conditions challenge even the most seasoned crews. As Canadian Olympic Medallist, Ross MacDonald, observed in SAIL magazine,
“I can’t tell you how many races I sailed in this year, but I can tell you this was the most challenging by a factor of 2 to 1. The current changes every few hundred yards – maybe by 180 degrees – and the wind funnels down off the cliffs….you’d better have your boat sorted out.”
On Saturday June 8, 2013 at 1030 hrs the gun will fire, signalling the start of the eighth running of Van Isle 360 International Yacht Race, in Nanaimo’s beautiful harbour. All boats will start together at the same time, on the same line, providing some exciting moments for sailors and spectators alike.
The timing for the entire race is dictated by the currents through Seymour Narrows (just north of Campbell River). Seymour Narrows has some of the strongest currents in the world, at times reaching 16 knots. A northbound ebb early in the day through this area determines the dates for the race.
The 580 nautical mile course is run in 10 legs of varying length. After racing out of Nanaimo harbour, the fleet proceeds north around Vancouver Island stopping at French Creek, Comox, Campbell River, Hardwicke Island, Telegraph Cove, Port Hardy, Ucluelet, Victoria and finishing back in Nanaimo.
This is a point-to-point race and, other than the start and finish lines, there are no specified routes. Basically, the rules are as follows: keep Vancouver Island to port and get to the next stop the fastest way you can.
Each leg is unique with a new adventure lurking around every corner. Strong currents and narrow passages mark the inside route: the notorious Nahwitti Bar, where fish boats’ windows can be permanently etched by the sand churned up in the waves, and the infamous Brooks Peninsula, where weather stations are frequently blown over, will test boats and crews to the max.
HOST CITIES WELCOME THE FLEET
After a great day of racing the fun continues ashore where sailors can unwind and enjoy the friendly Canadian hospitality and character of each Host City. Awards and special events are organized by each town to welcome the fleet. Noted Matt Wagstaffe in SAIL Magazine, ”Everyone of these little towns puts on a phenomenal welcome, and arriving again and again with your fellow competitors you build a camaraderie you just don’t achieve anywhere else.”
SPECTATORS, SPONSORS AND SUPPORT CREWS
The race was designed with spectators and sponsors in mind. With the exception of Hardwicke Island, all stops are accessible by road, allowing easy access for support vehicles and followers. The number of people following by road has increased substantially each year, adding to the overall festival atmosphere at each stop.
Where possible the start and finish lines occur right in the towns’ harbour off the local fishing pier or dock.
The west coast of Vancouver Island is extremely rugged and remote. This is no place to find out you are afraid of the dark. Boats and crews need to be well prepared for any and all weather.
Mandatory safety equipment is as listed for a PIYA Category 1 Race. In addition the Van Isle 360 requires all boats to carry 406 EPIRBs. (Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon) All mandatory safety gear, including life rafts, must be onboard the boat for every leg of the race.
In addition, each skipper must have competed in at least two overnight races and it is recommended that 50% of the crew have similar experience. It is now mandatory that two crew members on each leg have a valid ISAF Safety at Sea certificate.
SCORING SYSTEM AND PRIZES
The Van Isle 360 is an invitational race open to monohulls and multihulls with a PHRF NW rating of 135 or faster. PHRF is a Performance Handicap assigned to each boat based on a formula which allows slower boats and faster boats to compete on a level field. Additionally, boats are grouped into separate divisions allowing for closer competition.
A unique “high point” scoring system was developed for the event using weighted legs based on the degree of perceived difficulty. The last leg from Victoria to Nanaimo, which is sailed through the Gulf Islands at night, has been assigned one of the highest values. With many different routes, hazards, and strong tidal passes skippers and crews need to develop clever strategies and tactics if they expect to do well on this final leg.
1st, 2nd and 3rd place flags are presented at each leg for each division. Additionally a white flag is awarded to the “line honours” boat in each leg, whether monohull or multihull. A large yellow “Tour de Van Isle 360″ flag is presented to the leading boat in each division which must then be handed over to the next day’s leader. The overall prize giving takes place on Saturday June 22, 2013 where overall winners are presented their awards.
“The Van Isle 360 is hard work, it is fun, it is tiring, it is bloody and bruising, and it is dangerous, it can be very expensive, it is all consuming, and it is the best race available. You get a life time’s worth of sailing wrapped up into 10 legs over 15 days. There is nothing else like it.” Kim Alfreds, skipper, Cheekee Monkee.