The first organized yacht race around Vancouver Island was developed in 1986 by some multihull sailors, and the event, co-sponsored by the Coast Hotels and the Anchorage Marina, was known as the “Coast Hotels Around the Island Race”. The race took place over eight legs rather than ten. Yachts were also encouraged to seek sponsorship. Twenty five boats signed up for the event, which had an entry fee of $1,000, but the starting gun was never fired. Unfortunately sponsored yachting was frowned upon in Canada at the time and the event was forced to cancel.
In 1999 the Cadillac Van Isle 360° International Yacht Race was born and the first year the fledgling event, billed as the “Ambassador’s Edition,” attracted 14 boats. The Ambassador’s Edition was intended to be a trial run to test the course and determine if a race around Vancouver Island done in stages and on a timetable was really possible. It was a huge success! The race ran for three consecutive years, each year attracting more and more boats, media attention and supporters. Following the 2001 race, the organizing authority made the decision to run the event every other year on the odd year, offsetting the Vic Maui race running on even years. This biennial schedule worked very well: the next race, 2003, was a banner year, attracting a record number of entries and selling out by early January. The Canadian Navy offered support vessels, new course records were set and television and movie crews followed the entire race.
The economic downturn of 2008 resulted in a precipitous drop in participants for the 2009 race, and the future of the race came into question.
In 2011 Blast Performance Sailing acquired the rights to the Van Isle 360. Enhancements made in 2011 included the addition of the Race Tracker, developed by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club for the Swiftsure Race. The Race Tracker allowed sailors and fans from around the Pacific North West to follow the race in real time. With the economy rebounding, and support from the close knit sailing community the race rebounded with 41 entries.
In 2013 the Organising Authority made certification of the ISAF Safety at Sea Course mandatory for a minimum of 2 crew members on every leg of the race.
It is interesting to note, that in 9 races, only 4 boats have ever sailed, completed and been scored on all of the legs of a single race.
Of the 9 races, no boat was ever scored on every leg in the first 8 races.
In 2013, Icon skippered by Kevin Welch, Dark Star skippered by Jonathan McKee, White Cloud skippered by Steve Johnson and Radical Departure skippered by Andre Wojcieszek were the first boats to ever complete an entire circumnavigation and obtain a score on each leg.
The course record for a complete circumnavigation is presently held by Icon with a time of 93 hours, 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
In 2015, the race will introduce a shortened course point for each leg of the race.
Now in its tenth running, the Van Isle 360° has grown into one of the most respected and exciting yacht races on the entire west coast, with international media coverage, heart-stopping drama and superb racing action. Follow us 6 – 20 June 2015!