The great oceans of this planet invite us to sail great ocean races, with most having long and storied histories. In the Atlantic these include the Transatlantic, the Newport- Bermuda, the Route du Rhum and the Cape Town-Rio Race, among others. In the Pacific there are several, including the Transpac, Pacific Cup, the LA-Tahiti Race and various races to Mexico. Most of these are biennial and start or end in the southern half of North America. Yet there two other great offshore races in the Pacific that start (and one ends) in the northern half of this continent: the Vic-Maui Race and the Van Isle 360.
These are two very different races yet they both celebrate a rich heritage of Canadian yachting in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. The Van Isle 360 is the younger of the two, in its 20th year this year, and has a fascinating format that is driving its growing popularity. Rather than being a point-to-point ocean race, this race is actually a tour and has its roots in a clever idea developed in 1986 among some adventure-seeking multihull sailors who planned to race around Vancouver Island in eight legs.
That event had a title sponsor, an entry fee of $1,000 and encouragement for teams to find sponsors to support them on this odyssey. The problem was that Corinthian attitudes prevalent in the hierarchies of the sport in this era were not yet ready to support sponsored sailing, so the event died despite having a respectable count of 25 entries. Read on.