The Van Isle 360 Yacht Race starts and finishes each year in Nanaimo, the Harbour City and home to the world famous Nanaimo Bar! (That’s a sweet, not a “BAR”) Nanaimo and Region is a perfect example of a classic West Coast community offering natural beauty at every turn and stunning sailing possibilities. Beautiful passages, numerous routes, strong tides and hazards will challenge even the most skilled skipper and crew. The Nanaimo Harbour Authority welcomes the fleet each year to the visiting vessel pier where in preparation for the starting gun, the local Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers put their knowledge to good use in providing safety checks for each boat. A skipper’s meeting and wine and cheese reception (courtesy of Paradise Island Cheese, Longwood Brewery and Hester Creek Wines) on the pier will stoke rivalries and nerves in anticipation of the next mornings boat parade and starting gun. And once again the Van Isle 360 International Yacht Race, described by one skipper as bloody, bruising, dangerous, all consuming and the best race in the Pacific Northwest is launched.
The K’omoks First Nations who flourished in the Comox area for more than 9000 years meant it when they named it ” the land of plenty “. Comox is a thriving seaside community with a mountainous horizon and the rich farmlands of the Comox Valley. The 500 farms of the valley embrace orchards, nurseries, berry farms, dairy farms, producing incomparable produce. The boats in this year’s race will thoroughly enjoy the breathtaking run up the east coast of south central Vancouver Island with its miles of sandy white beaches to port and mountainous vistas to starboard. For the road crews, a scenic drive up the coastal highway offers plenty of excellent viewing opportunities and photo ops! Don’t forget your folding chair and binoculars! A slight change in this year’s race will challenge the skippers and crews to the very first overnight run into Comox. This shakedown leg will give the competitors an opportunity to utilize all their navigational and sailing skills, as well as see the sun set and perhaps rise before navigating their way over the Comox Bar and into safe anchorage in the Comox Harbour Marina.
Campbell River, long known as the Salmon Capital of the World is the Van Isle 360’s next stop. For thousands of years, from the time of First Nation’s villages to the arrival of European explorers and finally permanent settlers, the rhythm of life in this region has flowed with the movement of the salmon. Our competitors will be part of an amazing visual experience…as B.C.’s coastal mountains light up in the morning sun the coastline of the Island and Discovery Passage come to life. The salmon’s lifecycle attracts and sustains a wide variety of wildlife just waiting to see and be seen…bears, Eagles, whales, otters, seals, Ravens and more. The boats will finish just off the Discovery Fishing Pier , a short distance from the Discovery Harbour Marina…our hosts for the evening. For spectators, the Pier not only offers first class viewing of the fleet as boats struggle to complete the leg battling fierce currents and tide but is famous for it’s ice cream cones! The Riptide Pub will once again welcome the fleet for awards and a fabulous dinner. For boats a little worse for wear the Ocean Pacific Marine Store & Boat Yard is right at the top of the gangway to the right. A little bit of current
Seymour Narrows is a 5 km. section of the Discovery Passage known for its strong tidal currents. For most of its length the channel is 750 metres wide and through this narrow channel the currents can reach 15 knots. Seymour Narrows was described by Captain George Vancouver as ” one of the vilest stretches of water in the world.” In one unforgettable moment in B.C. History, after 27 months of drilling and engineering work, the twin peaks of Ripple Rock which lay 9 feet below the surface in Seymour Narrows, were blown up. This blast marked the largest commercial non nuclear blast in North America. Even after Ripple Rock was removed Seymour Narrows remains a challenging route.
Slack water is early so skippers and crews will have to be off the dock in Campbell River before sunrise in order to make the start in Deepwater Bay. This predawn cruise promises a spectacular sunrise in an historically rich and astoundingly beautiful passage with time to drink it all in. The start in Brown’s Bay will see the boats continuing on through the Discovery Passage, named for Captain Vancouver’s ship, the HMS Discovery. The Passage is a significant shipping route as it is the preferred channel for vessels entering or leaving the Strait of Georgia. The boats will have not only currents, tides and wind shifts to contend with but also tugs, log booms, cruise ships and fishing vessels. The finish line will bring the competitors to a floating fish farm in one of the most pristine and unspoiled locations on earth. Operated by Marine Harvest Canada and in cooperation with the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association the boats will raft up to a working salmon farm. A spectacular dinner will greet our hungry competitors and they will be able to observe first hand how Marine Harvest Canada is leading the Blue Revolution by farming the ocean in a responsible and efficient way, growing delicious, healthy salmon.
Small, compact and nestled between ocean and rain forest in the northern Vancouver Island wilderness, Telegraph Cove ( population of about 20 ) seems to have jumped through time.
The boardwalk resort with its preserved historic buildings recalls a rustic past in which the cove harboured a lumber mill and salmon saltery. Simplicity is one of Telegraph Coves’s greatest charms. The cove, a long time favourite stopover amongst the Van Isle 360 participants, is a sanctuary in which to unwind at the end of an action packed day.
Watch out for the bears…while you are out looking for a meal, they may be looking for one as well!
Port Hardy’s history and culture begins at Bear Cove…the oldest known site of human habitation on Vancouver Island circa 585 BC. It is also the last bastion of civilization in the remote and wild north end of the Island. The Kwakiutl, a First Nations band within the large Kwakwaka’wakw nation of northern Vancouver Island inhabited villages in Beaver Harbour and Hardy Bay. First contact with Europeans occurred in the early 19th century. The steamship SS Beaver was sent on an exploratory trip by the Hudson Bay Company which established a trading post at Beaver Harbour a dozen years later.
Just 50 families resided in the region by 1950 with boats being the primary means of transportation. Politicians promised construction of an Island highway but it was not until 1979 that the road from Campbell River was finally paved. Saluting this victory, residents erected a large carving of a half chewed root vegetable in Carrot Park with a sign that reads, “This carrot, marking the northern end of the Island Highway, is a symbol of government road building promises, dangled in front of north Island settlers since 1897.” Carrot Park is the setting for the Van Isle 360 Port Hardy awards presentation.
The district of Port Hardy and the Chamber of Commerce will play host to the Van Isle 360 fleet.
Each vessel will be welcomed to the floating docks by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their formal and ceremonial red serge uniforms. A magnificent photo opportunity and an honour to the fleet as this uniform is not worn when an officer is on a normal shift but reserved for special occasions.
This is generally an extremely busy stop as not only is it the last stop for provisioning before Ucluelet but crew members will get changed out for the wild, west coast ride and any and all repairs that need to be addressed are taken on.
The wild west coast adventure begins as the fleet casts off in Port Hardy, not only for those sailing by sea, but for their intrepid shore crews…aka…the Roadies! These hardy souls will travel via a gravel logging road, 75 km from Port Hardy, to support and meet up with the fleet.
Winter Harbour is a sheltered west coast haven from sometimes violent Pacific Ocean weather for sailing ships since the 1800’s and fishing boats over the last 100 years. This historic fishing village sits on North America’s western most point. Winter Harbour offers the only stationary fueling facility in Quatsino Sound and gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean in all of its untamed glory.
Our race committee is privileged to be granted approval to stay at the Quatsino Lightstation on Kains Island, a once in a lifetime experience. Accessed only by boat or helicopter this windswept island is completely exposed to the elements. The Quatsino Lightstation was established in 1907 with the foghorn added in 1923. Captain Cook called Brooks Peninsula the ” Cape of storms” but this area also offers shelter, sandy beaches and a world class wilderness experience to all who venture here.
The population may be small but the hearts of our Winter Harbour hosts are huge. From family owned and operated Qualicum Rivers Winter Harbour Fishing Lodge and Resort to the Outpost and all the families and individuals who help to make our stay in Winter Harbour so very memorable…we thank you.
Ucluelet means “people of the safe harbour” in the indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth language. The longest leg of the Van Isle 360, a hopefully downwind sleigh ride of approximately 138 nm, from Winter Harbour to Ucluelet will bring the fleet into this very welcome safe harbour. The unpretentious, outgoing people who live here call it “Ukee” and so it is also known by the veterans of the race.
The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 38 Long Beach Ucluelet will be on hand as they have been since the inception of the Van Isle 360 in 1999 to offer assistance in any way possible and to escort the fleet safely into the Ucluelet small craft harbour. In calm conditions the shoals in the entrance usually present themselves as the rollers from Japan glide peacefully over the submerged reefs. In a blow, the entrance can take years off of the most veteran skipper and navigator as massive walls of green water and white spray crash against the shore. One only needs to look at the stunted vegetation and limb orientation on the trees to sense the awesome power of the mighty Pacific Ocean.
The fleet will be reporting to MCTS Prince Rupert for their overnight roll calls. We wish to thank the Canadian Coast Guard for their unfailing support to our many sailors. Also, the fleet will honour Mark Livingstone who was instrumental in ensuring the safety of the fleet through his work with MCTS (Tofino Coast Guard Radio, now Prince Rupert Coast Guard Radio) and the Royal Canadian Marine Search And Rescue. A collection is taken up for donation to RCMSAR Station 38 to provide much needed funds for this group of dedicated volunteers.
The Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce will host a fabulous BBQ for the race participants at the Ucluelet Community Centre.
Ucluelet is a welcome respite for the road weary road crews and a recharging stop for the exhilarated but windblown sailors. Boats have been known to regurgitate their contents here for an airing/drying out session just before the Ucluelet Elementary School students descend upon the docks! (Crew have been known to suffer from similar human responses during the leg, some swearing they will never set foot on a boat again). The school’s principal, teachers and students have been following the race since the starting gun in Nanaimo with individual boats assigned to students to research and cheer on. A wonderful opportunity is at hand for our skippers and crews to promote their passion…sailing…to this next generation.
The children will be at Amphitrite Point Lighthouse to assist in the countdown to the start to Victoria. A big thank you to the staff, parents and children of the Ucluelet Elementary School for their enthusiastic involvement as their union of voices are heard over channel 69 on the VHF radio.
Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is a unique blend of old world charm and new world experiences. Boasting the mildest climate in Canada, Victoria is green and beautiful year round. Being rated the #1 destination in Canada makes us very fortunate to have this as one of the stops in the Van Isle 360 International Yacht Race.
Victoria has a very proud history. Established in 1843 as a fort for the Hudson’s Bay Company, Victoria’s British ancestry is readily apparent in the double decker buses, horse drawn carriages, formal gardens and tea rooms.
With over 120 years of rich history, the Royal Victoria Yacht Club is the oldest yacht club in Western Canada. Situated on the protected waters of Cadboro Bay, RVYC will welcome the Van Isle 360 fleet. We are extremely honoured and pleased to call RVYC the new host of the final leg of the race.
Throughout the years, RVYC has conducted many international world championship events. Since 1930 the club has organized the Swiftsure International Yacht Race, the largest annual offshore racing event in the Pacific Northwest. As well as organizing and maintaining local racing events, the club has been well represented in world class events. For more than 60 years the club has fostered an active junior program, teaching the sport of sailing as well as encouraging good sportsmanship.
In addition to calling the Royal Victoria Yacht Club home to the final leg of the Van Isle 360 International Yacht Race, the club will play host to the Gulf Island Nanaimo (GIN) race. The club is hosting a dinner to bring together the skippers and crews for both races, a blending of the some of the best sailors and fastest sailboats in the Pacific Northwest. GIN will be part of the Vancouver Island Racing Series and a feeder race for the SIN regatta in Nanaimo. Moorage prior to GIN is being offered by the Canadian Forces Sailing Association in Esquimalt as well as RVYC. We are looking forward to a spectacular evening!