It's an impressive sight when the Van Isle 360 fleet starts out from Nanaimo on a 580 nautical mile circumnavigation of the Island.

Van Isle 360 makes two-day stop in Comox this year

Record 52 racing yachts set to circumnavigate 580 nautical miles around Vancouver Island

Comox is once again a featured port of call for this year’s Van Isle 360 International Yacht Race.

Vancouver Island’s marathon yachting race will mark its 10th edition with a record number of competitors and the inaugural Gulf Islands Nanaimo (GIN) Regatta, set to sail this June.

Van Isle 360 happens once every two years and has become “the race” to sail in on the west coast of North America, says Blast Sailing owner Jeffrey Motley, who will welcome boats from as far as California and New Mexico at this year’s event, including one once owned by America’s Cup competitor Dennis Conner.

The Van Isle 360 got its start in 1999 with the Ambassador’s Edition, with 14 yachts looping the Island. This year, from June 6-20, there will be a record 52 boats and around 500 sailors participating in the 10-leg contest which starts and ends in Nanaimo.

Racers will make stops on the Island along the way, and new this year is a two-day stay in Comox on June 6-7 as the usual stop-over at French Creek has been eliminated. The Comox Bay Sailing Club is hosting the local stop, and notes it is a great opportunity to see thoroughbred ocean racing machines up close.

Boats will start arriving early July 6 afternoon and will dock at the Government Wharf at the east end of the Comox Bay Marina. The CBSC is looking for volunteers to greet the fleet. Contact them at cbscsailing@gmail.com

“The race is just one of those amazing events that it’s on the bucket list of everybody,” said Motley, who attributes the success to host communities and volunteers.

The public can follow the 580 nautical mile circumnavigation of the Island on Van Isle 360’s online race tracker (http://goo.gl/HnMZ9D).

It’s an “exceptionally challenging” competition, says Motley, who notes it tests the preparation of boats and crew communications and relations. Racers go from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. day after day. “It’s a real marathon of competition,” he said, adding sailors also face currents along the inside passage and it’s not uncommon to have gale-force winds on the outside.

New to the event this year is the participation of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, which will host sailors and launch the inaugural GIN Regatta.

More than 200 sailors are expected to make the June 19-20 dash from Victoria to Nanaimo.

Motley said the international race limits participants and it can be hard for some skippers to get a hall pass – this new event allows them to finish with the fleet.

GIN will happen every year, alternating as part of Van Isle 360 and a standalone race.

– with a file by Tamara Cunningham

 

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