On a bright Sunday morning in early-May 35 years ago, Major Cliff Fletcher stood by the boat launch at the Courtenay marina and delivered the opinion that his team of Search and Rescue technicians was the clear favourite to win the initial running of the Comox Valley Snow to Surf race.
Since then, the race has morphed into the Royal LePage Comox Valley Snow to Surf, and now 150 boats instead of the initial 48 crowd the launch area.
But the military presence and support from 19 Wing has been the secret sauce and glue that has kept Canada’s oldest, best and ‘funnest’ multi-sport event in the nation. The SAR Techs came in a credible fourth.
The passing three decades saw entries from units at 19 Wing and others grow to the point where military teams based on Canadian soil are eligible to compete for the Base Commander’s Trophy awarded to the top military finishers.
Teams from across the nation bring a special flavour to the race, and help make it a truly national and international event. Teams like the Jimmy Rum Runners, All Bluff and No Fluff, and Pararescue 42 have been race fixtures, and teams from HMCS Ottawa, the BATUS Bears (from the British army training unit, Suffield) and the Baltic Connection (Fort Lewis, Wash.) showcase the national reach of the event.
19 Wing Canadian Forces Base Comox has been a significant force sustaining the Royal LePage Snow to Surf Relay since 1982, the first year of the event. This support from the participants, volunteers and with the generous loan of equipment has made the race possible year after year.
Force members have been integral to the success of the event since its start. Their contributions have ranged from logistic and communications support to facilitating the use of tents and an ongoing presence as volunteers with an organizing group. In particular, Major John Finn was instrumental in setting the tone and structure of the many meetings that precede the race. The influence that his leadership brought is felt to this day.
The Royal LePage Comox Valley Snow to Surf Relay Salutes CFB Comox and members of the Canadian Armed Forces!