Island yacht race sets sail from Nanaimo in June

NANAIMO – Black Press takes new tack with sponsorship of Vancouver Island's largest sailing competition.

Black Press community newspapers will chart a course alongside sailing yachts from across the Pacific Northwest for the Black Press Van Isle 360° 2013 International Yacht Race.

With a race organizer in place, Black Press announced its sponsorship of the event Monday.

Formerly known as the Cadillac Van Isle 360° International Yacht Race, the event, which starts and finishes in Nanaimo, has run since 1999 when Nanaimo yachters Wayne Gorrie and Janine Bell organized the competition and attracted 14 boats to circumnavigate Vancouver Island. The race has run every other year on the odd year since 2001 and has become the most challenging yachting event in the region.

In 2011 Blast Performance Sailing acquired the rights to the event with Jeffrey Motley, owner of the Vancouver-based company, and his wife Sylvia, becoming the race’s lead organizers.

“They were looking for someone to take it over and it was one of those things where the sailing community really didn’t want to see the race disappear,” Motley said. “The long and the short is we decided to take it on and keep it going.”

Black Press, the News Bulletin’s parent company, was asked to sponsor this year’s race because of the news agency’s ability to provide in-depth coverage both regionally and at a community level.

Mark Warner, president of Black Press Vancouver Island operations, said he considers being given the opportunity to become title sponsor of the event an honour.

“As our staff, readers and customers are residents throughout western Canada and the U.S.A., we feel it is important to invest and participate in the activities and organizations that make our communities a better place to live and play,” Warner said. “Many of us grew up on or near the ocean, and we respect the beauty and incredible experiences it has to offer.”

Motley and Black Press share the same goals to promote the race and the communities taking part, and enhance Island tourism.

“What we want to do, if we can, is build the race to the same level as the (Rolex) Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in Australia where people wake up on Boxing Day and watch a sailboat race,” Motley said.

The Van Isle 360° is truly an international event with two-thirds of entrants drawn from the Island and Lower Mainland, and one-third of contenders from the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Motley is also trying to make people aware of the world-class levels of competition happening in local waters, hoping they aspire to race one day. The big races are the drivers of the industry.

“In the Pacific Northwest this is the race,” Motley said. “Where else can you have two weeks of summer adult camp, chasing everybody around the rock and just having a great time?”

It can be a dangerous venture, too. In 2011, crews were hit with 100 km/h winds Georgia Strait and one craft struck a whale, shattering its rudder.

For 2013, race organizers are providing a safety at sea course and at least two crew members certified through the course must be on each craft for each leg of the race. More than 350 sailors have been put through the course for this year’s event.

The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 could be a factor on the west coast of the Island this year. An estimated 1.5 million to 3 million tonnes of debris is drifting across the Pacific Ocean that could land on North American shores. Heavier items are expected to arrive with higher frequency throughout the spring and summer of 2013.

“One of the most interesting aspects – and we don’t know how big it’s going to be – is the potential for tsunami debris off the West Coast,” Motley said.

The Black Press Van Isle 360° 2013 International Yacht Race runs June 8-22. The dates are determined by the timing of slack tides during daylight hours in Seymour Narrows near Campbell River.

“All the planning revolves around when there are slack tides so the boats can get through,” Motley said.

Black Press reporters will be there regardless of weather, time and tide to record the competitive seamanship of more than 20 crews registered to take on this year’s challenge and showcase the communities supporting the race.

“Good luck and fair weather to all the entrants this year. We look forward to following and describing on our pages your adventures around our beautiful Vancouver Island and the warm hospitality you will find in each port,” Warner said. “It truly reflects what we find in each and every one of the beautiful communities we are established in – a group of rugged and adventurous souls from the beautiful Pacific Northwest that test their endurance every day and have a lot of fun doing so.”

For more information about the Black Press Van Isle 360° 2013 International Yacht Race, please visit the event website at www.vanisle360.com.

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