Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Fleet of J/109s Sailing
(Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)- Officially known as the TELUS Van Isle 360, this biennial 580 nm point-to-point race circumnavigating the wild and rugged Vancouver Island is an extraordinary experience. Starting next weekend, the race is sailed in multiple legs and the course provides inshore, offshore and overnight legs (10 of them!) through some of the most stunning and challenging waters on the planet. If ever an island was meant to be raced around it is Vancouver Island. Her dramatic beauty, majestic mountains and natural harbors provide an awesome backdrop for a race that has become "the must do" event on the West Coast sailing circuit.
The event 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, quoted 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."
A fascinating piece of "Johnstone family" history is attached to the race, in perhaps a rather unusual way. One of the most challenging parts of Vancouver's circumnavigation takes the fleet through the infamous "Johnstone Straits"- it's a 68.0 nm channel along the north east coast of Vancouver Island that is up to 3 nm wide. It is a major navigation channel on the west coast of North America and is the preferred channel for vessels from the Georgia Strait leaving to the north of Vancouver Island through the Queen Charlotte Strait bound for Prince Rupert, Queen Charlotte Islands, Alaska, and the North Pacific Ocean, and for southbound vessels from those areas bound for the Port of Vancouver. The strait is named after Commander James Johnstone, a British naval officer and explorer in the late 1700s. He was master of the HMS Chatham, which accompanied George Vancouver on the HMS Discovery on their famous Vancouver expedition to chart the Northwest coast of the Americas. Johnstone established the fact that Vancouver Island was, indeed, an island (named after his friend George, along with the city, too). Today, perhaps most significantly, the Johnstone Strait is home to approximately 150 orca whales during the summer months, which are often seen by kayakers and boaters packed with tourists. Scientists including Michael Bigg and Paul Spong have been researching the orcas in the Strait since 1970. Spong established the ORCALab, based on studying the Orcas in their natural habitat.
Enjoying the breath-taking Straits will be a number of highly competitive J's that have a hard time resisting the "call of the wild". If it isn't the extraordinarily fun times, camaraderie with other sailors, it must be the singularly spectacular experience of sailing one of the world's pre-eminent "round island" races. Amongst the fleet will be some familiar faces to J sailors worldwide. Tom Kelly's gorgeous blue J/122 ANAM CARA is a repeat participant. So are a fleet of J/109s sailing this year, including Stuart Brunell's TANTIVY, Adam Corbin's ASTRAL PLANE, Jim Prentice's DIVA and Pierre Martin's MOJO. Good luck to all on your fortnight long adventures! For you armchair sailors dreaming about putting this event on your "bucket list", this one's a fabulous one to consider! They have tracking this year so you can follow the fleet as they drift past orca's and sea otters, pound upwind in vicious current induced chop in the Straits, or plane offshore down mountainous seas on the Pacific side of the island. Finally, all of the sailors efforts go to a great cause- the event is providing an amazing $25,000 donation for the Queen Alexandra Foundation in support of "Jeneece Place", a home away from home for children requiring medical treatment and their families in Vancouver. For more Van Isle 360 sailing information