"Leg 8 - Winter Harbour to Ucluelet"
Entry One: June 11
A formidable storm off the west coast of Vancouver Island has caused a delay in Leg #8 of the Cadillac Van Isle 360 international yacht race.
The race began today just off the Quatsino Lightstation on Kains Island at the entrance to Quatsino Sound. At the 0800h start the wind was out of the northeast at about 15 knots. There was a light southwest swell and a one to two foot chop with the wind. All boats made the decision to start the race, with guarded optimism, given the forecast for moderate to strong southeast winds. Most boats were conservative at the start, opting for clear seas and air.
The wind built rapidly as the boats sailed towards Cape Cook, the northwest tip of the Brooks Peninsula. By the time the lead boats got to Solander Island (just off the southwestern edge of Brooks) at about 1100h, winds were gusting to 44 knots, with steep seas confused by tide against wind. Skipper Wayne Gorrie on Redshift (Nanaimo) saw "the wall" of wind and waves and decided to turn back to shelter in Winter Harbour. As the following boats got out to Solander they, too, decided to come in from the storm.
In all, 20 of the 23 boats returned to the safety of Winter Harbour. Diehler, a Santa Cruz 52 skippered by Bob Diehl of Bellingham tucked into a safe harbour on the southeast corner of Brooks. 3D, a trimaran skippered by Paul & Dave Miller of Seattle turned northward, opting to run with the weather, heading for Gordon Channel. Only Mad Max, skippered by Sid Halls of Comox continued on southward towards Ucluelet.
As of 1900h Sunday all boats are accounted for. Telephone contact with sailors who found refuge in Winter Harbour found them thankful that they had returned and somewhat chastened by their experience. Several boats had gear failure during the high winds, but nothing that cannot be repaired.
For now, all sailors are safe and accounted for. More information will follow, when available. It is not clear whether Leg #8 will be scored in the event. Boats have until 1200h Tuesday June 13th to finish Leg #8 in Ucluelet. Mad Max is predicted to finish sometime early Monday morning.
Entry Two: June 12
Yesterday’s storm off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island has abated and sailors are heading toward Ucluelet, the end point of Leg #8 of the Cadillac Van Isle 360 international yacht race.
As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, Mad Max, a Davidson 40 skippered by Sid Halls of Comox and his crew of nine, including owner Micah Vanderheide was the only boat to complete the leg under sail. The rest of the fleet has until noon Tuesday to finish this leg of the race. On arrival in Ucluelet the crew of Mad Max was in good spirits, although looking wet, tired and bedraggled after their 33 hour ordeal.
Of the 23 boats that started the race on Sunday in Winter Harbour, 20 turned back by about noon Sunday to seek refuge from the storm in Winter Harbour. Mad Max kept sailing towards the finish; 3D (skippers Dave and Paul Miller from Seattle) decided to turn and run with the storm, ending up north of Winter Harbour and then opting to sail on to Port Hardy. 3D has now withdrawn from the event. Diehler, a Santa Cruz 52 skippered by Bob Diehl from Bellingham ripped their mainsail during the storm then sheltered the night in a protected harbour on the south shore of Brooks Peninsula. On Monday Diehler motored to Tofino, then on to Ucluelet, arriving under power.
Of the remaining boats, two others have retired from the event. Tsunami, a Frers 40 skippered by Sean Bethune from Seattle lost its mast in the storm and is heading to Port Hardy in the company of Bellenas, a C&C SR33 skippered by Doug Race from Vancouver. At the time that their rig was lost, Tsunami had assistance from Crossfire (J33 skippered by Wayne Cross of Comox) and a Coast Guard Labrador helicopter that hovered overhead to make sure that all on board were safe.
Tofino Coast Guard is maintaining radio contact with the fleet every three hours as the boats make their way towards Ucluelet.
Entry Three: June 13
Tuesday, evening June 13, sixty hours since the start of Leg #8 of the Cadillac Van Isle 360 in Winter Harbour, and boats are still making their way to Ucluelet. A wicked Pacific storm blew up shortly after the boats started the leg at 0800h Sunday. The early morning forecast for strong winds was upgraded to a storm warning after the boats left the starting area at the entrance to Quatsino Sound. Wind and waves built rapidly, reaching wind speeds of 50 knots with huge, steep waves.
All members of the fleet are accounted for and safe. Three boats have retired from the event: 3D, a trimaran from Seattle (skippers Paul & Dave Miller) ran downwind in an attempt to escape Sunday’s storm and ended up past Triangle Island, north and west of Vancouver Island. They were eventually able to turn east then south and sailed safely to Port Hardy where they have since loaded their trimaran on a trailer for transport home.
Tsunami, a Frers 40 skippered by Sean Bethune of Seattle lost its mast, mainsail and jib just after noon on Sunday. Fortunately no one was injured when the rig came down. Several boats in the vicinity stood by in heavy seas and more than 40 knots of wind as Tsunami’s crew cut away the rigging and sent the mast and sails to the depths. Ballenas, a C&C SR33 from Vancouver skippered by Doug Race escorted Tsunami back to Winter Harbour on Sunday then on to Port Hardy on Monday.
The only boat to sail the leg completely was Mad Max, a Davidson 40 from Comox, sailed by skipper Sid Halls and a crew of 8. They had a harrowing 12 to 14 hours in seas that owner Micah Vanderheide estimated were taller than their mast (55 feet) and were breaking at the crests. For much of the time Mad Max was sailing with only a short hoist #4 headsail, (described as a "handkerchief" by Vanderheide), after their mainsail pulled out of the mast. Skipper Sid Halls described taking down and securing the mainsail as an experience in "seining" (a type of fishing). A veteran offshore skipper, Halls commended the work of the crew in safely managing the boat through the storm.
Cheekee Monkee, an F9a trimaran skippered by Kim Alfreds from Bellingham was the first boat to turn back on Sunday. Out at the front of the fleet, Alfreds hoped to find the weather less violent further out to sea past Brooks Peninsula. When the wind and waves kept increasing rather than moderating, the crew radioed back to the fleet that things were getting worse and that they were turning back for shelter in Winter Harbour. Eventually, 20 boats turned back to spend Sunday night in Winter Harbour.
Diehler, a Santa Cruz 52 from Bellingham, skippered by Bob Diehl, got past Brooks, but tore their mainsail at the second reef point, rendering it unusable. The main gave way in about 40+ knots of wind from the southeast. Crew on Diehler said that the seas at the time the main gave way were so big that they were climbing the waves at about a 30 degree angle; with all 52 feet of boat length climbing the wave, the stern out of the trough and the bow not yet to the crest. Diehler twice sought anchorage after their mainsail tore; first in Columbia Cove on the south side of Brooks, then at Louis Bay in Nuchatlitz Inlet. They entered Louis Bay totally on instruments, using radar, GPS and autohelm to guide them in almost zero visibility wind and rain at 0400h Monday. Later Monday they proceeded into Ucluelet under motor.
Most boats had some sort of gear failure. A couple of boats broke or bent their stanchions when crashing waves washed crew members against them. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the storm.
The next leg of the race will be delayed by one day, to give sailors a chance to rest. Four boats will be spending Tuesday night away from the fleet – Lordelpus (skipper Matt Wagstaffe, Vancouver) and Endangered Species (John Guzzwell, Seattle) are tied up in Hot Springs Cove for the night; Aeriel (Bill Malone, Nanaimo) and Onnetar (Stan Huston, Vancouver) are tucked in at Tofino.
The community of Ucluelet is a strong supporter of the Cadillac Van Isle 360 race. Each boat is assigned a greeter who personally goes to the dock to welcome the boat and crew and drop off a welcoming package. The packages contain several "goodies" from the community, including personal decorations and letters to the sailors by the local grade 4 class. Skip Rowland and other Ucluelet volunteers have done a great job again of making tired, wet and weary sailors feel very welcome. Unfortunately only half of the fleet was able to make it to the delicious salmon barbecue held in their honour.
Special thanks are due to the Canadian Coast Guard Tofino communications centre. When word came on Sunday that the weather was deteriorating they tried to contact the fleet by radio ahead of the scheduled check-in times. They advised of the severe conditions that were approaching and recommended that the fleet return to harbour. They also dispatched a Labrador helicopter to locate the fleet. The Labrador was onsite when Tsunami’s mast came down, and offered standby assistance. Many sailors stated they felt very supported by the Coast Guard’s radio presence during the storm.
Thanks too to the Ucluelet Coast Guard Auxiliary. These volunteers stood by in radio contact with the fleet then ventured out to the waters off the Amphritite lightstation to escort boats into harbour when they arrived.
This leg will not be scored for the event; only one boat finished under sail within the time frame.
For the next day, rest and relaxation is in order for the fleet. All boats should be in Ucluelet by Wednesday. The weather is forecast to improve. Leg #9 will start Thursday morning, bound for Victoria. No further delays are anticipated at this time, plans are still to leave Victoria Friday evening.
There are many more stories to come about Leg #8. Watch this site for personal accounts by skippers, to be posted in the next couple of days.
That’s sailboat racing for you – and we’ve had it all this year – we go fast if the winds are good, we drift if the winds are light and some of us seek shelter if the are winds fierce.
This year's Cadillac Van Isle 360 was anything but a "cake walk" with the weather serving up everything from light air spinnaker reaches in glorious sunshine to storm force south easters off Brooks Peninsula. Each leg presented the fleet with new conditions and new challenges and many blown out sails. Contrary to traditional weather patterns up the inside, the fleet was treated to many great spinnaker runs. Just ask any local float plane operator about the emergency calls they received to pick up and deliver new spinnakers to yet another remote location.
In a two week race around wild and rugged Vancouver Island, it's not a question of "if" a storm hits, but "when" a storm hits. And hit it did - with winds reported from 40 - 50 knots and gusting. Tsunami a beautiful Frers 41 owned by Sean Bethune from Seattle Wa., was dismasted off Cape Cook during the storm and 3D an F9A trimaran was forced to turn and run with it after a problem with their reefing system, spending a nasty night off Triangle Island. In all 22 of the 23 boats retired from that leg most returning to Winter Harbour, and the leg was cancelled. Mad Max, skippered by Sid Halls, spent a harrowing night on the sea and was the only boat to finish in Ucluelet under sail.
The westerly winds finally filled in on the leg from Ucluelet to Victoria rewarding the fleet with 25 knot winds and some great ocean swells to surf on. Everyone got sunburned teeth. Unfortunately the winds slowly petered out once in Juan de Fuca Strait, but it was a warm night with a beautiful full moon, not too hard to take.
At the end of each day, sailors were treated to some friendly "Island" hospitality at each of the stops. Welcome receptions, music, native and highland dancing and excellent BBQ'd salmon. The hospitality was both genuine and generous. The camaraderie and sportsmanship experienced both on and off the race course is unsurpassed. As Tony Solis of the Ross 930 "Hobbes" wrote..."Seldom in life does such mixed company come together, cruisers, racers, multi's and mono's, Americans and Canadians. To convert strangers in to friends, and friends in to family. A family known as the fleet of the Van Isle 360."
The racing was tight with former Olympic and World Champion Star Boat sailor, Eric Jespersen of Sydney, B.C. winning Div. 1 in his 30 footer "Myrrh". The Davidson 40,"Mad Max", of Comox, B.C. took second owned by Micah Vanderheide and skippered by Sid Halls. Third place went to another Comox based boat, "Crossfire", a J33 owned by Wayne Cross. In Division 2, Ron Jewula's Dash 34, "Ockham's Racer" from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club was the winner. (Jewula was second in last year's race). Sandy Huntingford of West Vancouver won second in his new boat "Hakuna Matata" a Peterson 35. Huntingford won first overall in the event last year in his former boat General Hospital. Hard Drive" a C & C 38 owned by Roger Lawton of Maple Bay, B.C. took third place. In the multihull Division "Redshift" an F9a trimaran owned by Wayne Gorrie of Nanaimo, B.C. took first place (Redshift won their Division and also won the fastest elapsed time around this island last year), with Dave Millers F9A Tri "3D " from Seattle Wa. winning second. "Diehler" a Santa Cruz 52 owned by Bob Diehl of Bellingham, Wa. walked away with the (hotly contested) Fastest Elasped Time around the island.
Upon receiving his trophy, Eric Jespersen said coming into the race he didn't like his rating and was hoping to compile evidence to support a change, but won't be pursuing that anytime soon.
1. Myrrh - Jespersen 30 - Eric jespersen - Royal Vancouver Yacht Club
(lives in Sydney, B.C.)
2. Mad Max - Davidson 40 - Micah Vanderheide - Comox, B.C.
3. Crossfire - J33 - Wayne Cross - Comox, B.C.
4. General Hospital - Farr 40 - Andrew Verhoeven - Vancouver, B.C.
(Tiddley Cove Yacht Club)
5. Karina - Cayenne 41- Jorgen Bysse - Vancouver, B.C.
6. Time Bandit - J120 - Bob and Barb Brunius - Orcas Island, Wa.
7. Diehler - Santa Cruz 52 - Bob Diehl - Bellingham Wa.
8. Tsunmai - Frers 41 - Sean Bethune - Seattle Wa.
9. Ballenas - C&C SR33 - Doug Race - Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.
10. Persuasion - Wylie 52 - Larry Bughi - Anacortes, B.C.