|Pitoraq, a Greenlandic Inuit word meaning cold wind that blows out of the valley, or Pitoraq the overall winner of the 2017 Vancouver Island Racing Series.
To be clear, both definitions are correct.
The V.I.R.S. (Vancouver Island Racing Series) celebrates and promotes keelboat racing on Vancouver Island. The thirteen existing regattas are combined into a year-long series. The goal is to promote upcoming events, create a buzz about the sport, provide a level playing field for all competitors and finally to share racing stories with fellow sailors.
Pitoraq is a 1979 Windward 30. The hull and deck were built at Windward Marine in Richmond BC, then Graham Heath and his dad Ronald spent the next few years finishing the boat in their driveway. Pitoraq was launched in 1983. Pitoraq spent her early life cruising BC’s West Coast and the Gulf Islands. It was only in the last 10 years that Graham took to racing on Pitoraq.
|“With 13 races spread from Juan de Fuca to the top of Georgia Strait, there is a lot of variety in sailing plus a lot of travel time. The four overnight races, Patos Island, Saltspring, Swiftsure and the GIN race to Nanaimo, provided the added challenge of night racing and navigation through tricky currents, narrow passages and commercial traffic. The multiple short course racing on weekend regattas gives you a more bow to bow competition and sail handling workout.”
Graham went on to say, “Swiftsure was the race that had it all this year, light airs, sun, anchoring at Race Rocks passage and fighting mosquitos while watching boat after boat trying to break through the river of current caused by the tidal flood. For nearly 5 hours we waited for our opportunity to break through the river current. We had lunch and watched the kayakers shoot the tidal river. Finally, we weighed anchor and were the first to break through the elevated river ahead of the pack. A spinnaker run through the shipping channel in the cold morning fog on the way back to Race Rocks followed the overnight calm leading to and from the mark rounding just off Sekiu Washington in Clallam Bay. Finally, the sun broke through as we slipped past Race Rocks, reaching under spinnaker. Under beautiful sunshine we approached Victoria Harbour in almost dead calm at the finish line. The motto for the race is “Always a Challenge”, no kidding!”
|The success of Graham’s and his crew just demonstrates that that it is possible for an older racing cruiser to compete and win in the Vancouver Island Racing Series. As a member of Grahams crew, I would like to thank all of the participating yacht clubs and many volunteers that made this one of the most memorable experiences of my life on the water. Because of the many experiences and challenges, along with meeting many sailors and beginning new lifelong friendships, I would encourage all sailors to set sail and participate in any part or all of the Vancouver Island Racing Series.|
|VIRS Awards from left to right Richard Gregory, Bob Nicoll, Graham Heath, Murray Stocks, Sergo Moukminov|
All Photo Credits: Andrew Madding, Bow Shot Productions. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sailing the waters of the Esquimalt Harbour
Adam Checketts, training officer with the Canadian Forces Sailing Association, his eight-year-old daughter Gwynneth, and Ryan Kaye, junior advisor with the association, show off the boats at the Esquimalt Harbour.
— Image Credit: Kendra Wong/Victoria News
Sitting on a 24-foot sonar sail boat and feeling the power of the wind as it pushes the boat along the waters of the Esquimalt Harbour, it is easy to see why Ryan Kaye and Adam Checketts love sailing.
The ocean is calm on the sunny Friday afternoon as the boat, known as Oi!, travels smoothly over the water with its passengers aboard. Looking across the harbour is Fort Rod Hill and the Fisgard Lighthouse, with CFB Esquimalt to the left. There are no sounds other than the gentle lapping of the water against the boat.
“It is a different world and it is not our usual world,” said Checketts. “It is so peaceful. The boat is quiet and you are not interrupting your scenery, you are joining with it. From the wind in your sails to being quiet and sliding along the water, you are part of the environment.”
About 10 minutes prior to the picturesque scene, Kaye and Checketts, both of whom are with the Canadian Forces Sailing Association, work to catch the wind to sail the boat.
Checketts pulls up the main sail, followed by the jib (another sail that moves the boat forward) while Kaye pulls on the halyards to tighten the lines. Checketts eight-year-old daughter Gwynneth works to find the wind, using the windex (an arrow that sits at the top of the mast and points in the direction the wind it blowing). Slowly she moves the tiller, used to steer the boat and within a couple of minutes, they catch the wind.
The boat floats quietly and effortlessly as it sails out of the harbour towards the Olympic Mountains looming in the distance.
For Kaye, who grew up with grandparents who sailed, the sailboat has become a second home to him. He learned to sail when he was 14 years old with the sailing association, taking courses for two consecutive summers. The following summer he volunteered at the association, and the next year he returned, this time as an instructor, teaching children how to sail and race.
The now 26-year-old has also moved on to sail competitively with much larger boats around Vancouver Island. He has sailed in the VanIsle 360 race — a 14-day race around the Island, as well as around Seattle and Sidney.
“When you get to the start line, there is a serious adrenaline rush. You have two, three seconds to make a decision that could cause two boats a lot of time and effort,” said Kaye, adding he has seen a variety of wildlife including orcas, dolphins, seal lions and porpoises on the water. “I find that really fun.”
For Kaye and Checketts, there is also a social aspect of sailing, where they can hang out with friends for the day. The duo agree sailing is a peaceful and calming experience, and something that more Islanders are picking up on.
According to Checketts, who is the training officer with the association, the number of people enrolled with the sailing association has remained steady over the past few years, with more people taking it on as a life-long passion, instead of taking a course and not continuing on with it. The same children often return year after year, he added.
Optimist wet feet and basic are the beginner courses, and teach children safety on the water, starting with life jackets, capsizing and man overboard drills. From there, sailors can take four more courses at various levels for kids aged four to adults.
“Sailing is like learning how to ride a bike. Once you learn how to sail, you can sail anything,” said Checketts, noting there were roughly 98 students who took courses between July and August this year.
“The physics of how a boat moves through the water is the same as any boat . . . things just get bigger.”
Checketts was quick to note the association is not just for families of people in the Canadian Forces, but for everyone as well.
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