Thirty-eight vessels have set out to circumnavigate Vancouver Island as part of the Van Isle 360 International Yacht Race.
The boats, including a handful of sailboats that recently completed Swiftsure, set out Saturday from Nanaimo for the two-week, 1,150-kilometre journey around the Island — the first since 2019, due to COVID.
This will be the 13th edition of the biennial competition, which alternates each year with the Vic-Maui yacht race.
Organizers Jeff and Sylvia Motley of Chemainus were avid sailors when they took over the Van Isle 360, but now put all their energy into making sure the event runs well.
“What goes on in the water is the simple part,” Jeff Motley said. “It’s the logistics on the land that are hard.”
That’s because the boats stop at eight designated ports as they make their way around the Island, he said, giving the hard-working crews time for some fun ashore after a day on the water.
“Every day they get out there and go as fast as they possibly can from one place to the next,” Motley said.
After their days on the water, the sailors will spend time in Comox, Campbell River, Sayward, Telegraph Cove, Port Hardy, Winter Harbour, Ucluelet and Victoria before finishing in Nanaimo on June 17.
Crew members on the boats plus helpers following on land adds up to about 350 people converging at each community along the way, Motley said.
Motley said the mix of the onshore and offshore experience is a big attraction for competitors. “Some people have referred to it as adult Disneyland.”
This year’s field is about 60 per cent Americans and 40 per cent Canadians, and includes Victoria-based skippers Suze Cumming, Ellery Down, Ben Sproule and Colin Nichols.
The boats will stop at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club once they get past the open ocean on the Island’s west coast, with a barbecue planned for June 15, Motley said.
The following day will see an 11 a.m. start off Clover Point for the final push to Nanaimo.
It could be a spectacular sight, he said, because the racers get going downwind, which means colourful spinnaker sails.
For more on the race and the full list of competitors, go to vanisle360.com.