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Leg 7: A litte bit of this, a little bit of that...

By: Shane Alfreds

Date: June 17

Course: Port Hardy to Winter Harbour

Distance: 69.40 nautical miles

Back to familiar territory. In 2003 this was the leg where I started my first experience with the Van Isle 360. It was a little disappointing not finishing the leg yesterday as we felt we were positioned to get 1st in our division. But thats how it goes in sailing.

The morning started out at 7am packing my gear. With the weather patterns we had been getting and the forecasts, it looked like it could be a long day and possibly night of sailing. So I packed an extra set of base layer, full fleece and my wet weather gear. Then I headed over to the motel restaurant for a quick breakfast. Vaugn came to pick us up at 8:30 to head down to the harbour for our 10am start.

The start in Port Hardy is right off the government dock, not a lot of space to maneuver at the end of the harbour. The conditions didn't look too promising, the wind was light but looked liked it was picking up further out. The left side of the course looked favoured while we were scoping out the start line. We went to either end of the line to mark it on our GPS and decided to start towards the left side and head up the shore on port tack.

The crowded start line in Port Hardy.

The gun goes and off we are, heading up the shore with Evolution and some of the other monohulls. At first it looks like we've got the best start of the multi's, but as we're tacking up the left shore we see the wind filling in on the right. Blue Lightning hits the wind first and off they go in the lead with their chute up. Time to head over to the right. Flash hits the wind next, then Dieler, then we get it with some of the other monohulls. Bad Kitty and Dragonfly haven't hit it yet and we're leaving them behind.

Blue Lightning off to a great start out in front!

We've now got our chute up and we're chasing down Blue Lightning. We pass Flash as they don't have their chute up yet as they can't clear the point with it. We pull up on Blue Lighting's port stern and try to heat it up to take them to windward but Mark decides to make it hard on us and starts to push us up. We gybe away and Blue Lightning soon follows, we gybe back to starboard tack and we've got them. Now we're out in front heading up Goletas Channel at 12kts downwind. The conditions are now looking pretty good for the Monkee but we see Bad Kitty now has big blue up and Dragonfly is starting to fly.

Left: Passing Flash. Right: Blue Lightning pushing us up just before we gybe.

We stay out in front until 11:24 when Dragonfly finally passes us. This weather is just the opposite of 2003 where we were beating up Goletas in strong winds. Unfortunately the further up the channel we go, the lighter it gets. We see Bad Kitty is gaining on us and Flash and Cassiopeia have broken away from the rest of the pack. Its a beautiful site behind us, over 30 colourful spinnakers flying up Goletas. Up ahead its looking worse. We're thinking its going to be the same as earlier legs, the fast boats scoot up ahead, hit the end of the wind, the slow boats catch up then the wind fills in behind us.

Dragonfly taking the lead.

The fleet of spinnakers heading into Goletas Channel, what a sight!

As we're nearing the end of Goletas we see Dragonfly has hit the no wind zone, and it looks like some rough water and possibly a different wind pattern on the other side. Bad Kitty has now caught up, with Flash and Cassiopeia not far behind. There is no wind at the end of the channel and we hit the rough water. Bad Kitty stays close to the left side where it looks like there is no wind. We decide to take it right and try to go around the rough water, Flash and Cassie follow. There is a 2kt current here and no wind, so we drift out over the Nahwitti Bar sideways. We start to get a bit of breeze and we're able to sail again. After we cross the rough stuff we're able to get the chute up again. We come together with Bad Kitty and Flash on the other side of the bar all within a few hundred meters.

Up ahead we see the Dragonfly has gone way to the right and we decide to go inshore on the left to look for better winds. Bad Kitty, Flash and Cassie all decide to follow Dragonfly over on the right. Looking back we see that the no wind zone has gotten smaller and the next monohull and Blue Lighting seem to have gotten over the bar faster than we did. We are making good gains on the shore and Flash gybes over to follow, Bad Kitty and Cassie continue heading out.

Heading towards Cape Scott we're continuing to get better pressure along the shore and we're definitely leaving Bad Kitty and Cassie behind. Flash is following us and further back it looks like Blue Lightning is as well. We can't go in too tight though as the bottom is rocky with many rocks not far below the surface. We can see that Dragonfly has now hit a different wind pattern ahead of us. They're on starboard tack with their jib, looks like they've got a south-westerly and we're still on an easterly. Time to get the big jib up on deck, small jib below and ready to drop the chute. Shortly after that we hit the transition, drop the chute and only spend a few minutes floundering in it before we are in the new wind. This wind is blowing strong (30kts true according to Flash we find out later) and we are screaming along at 14+ to windward. We take a long tack out to round Cape Scott before we tack back down the coast. The waves have built here and its really sloppy. Normal weather patterns bring seas out of the northwest, but these are hitting with waves out of the south/southeast. Its really sloppy, waves stacked together, 4 to 5 feet high with some doubling up now and then.

Rounding Cape Scott.

Everyone else has got their dry suits on and its time for me to go below and get my rain gear on before I get cold. I don't like going below in these kinds of seas, its the only time I get seasick, but I gotta do it as we're still several hours from finishing. I change as quick as I can, fleece over my base layer, rain gear, safety harness and my white water rafting helmet (after the cut I got on my forehead in Campbell River). I come up on deck and I'm definitely feeling queasy. We can still see Dragonfly although they are getting smaller. The seas are flatter closer to shore, but every time we head in we get headed and the wind seems lighter. Flash is still behind us, but its a long time before we see any other boat round the Cape. Its probably Cassie that makes it around next, but we're too far down the coast to tell.

Heading down the North coast, sun nearly setting.

Our generator is low on oil and we can't run it, and the instruments and laptop have drained the Monkee's battery so we're using the handheld GPS and charts to figure out where we're going. We keep seeing another point after the one ahead of us and we're starting to wonder when this leg is going to end? Morgan gets the position of the finishing line programmed into the handheld and we finally discover we are 14 miles from the finish line. At our current speed of 8ish kts we're probably 2 hours from the finish. We can't see Dragonfly ahead of us so we figure they've got this leg in the bag. We can't see the other multis behind us so we've got 2nd locked. I'm still feeling queasy. and I start to get that salty taste in my mouth. Time to stop fighting it and just get it over with. I'm out on the windward ama and just turn outboard and over the side goes the contents of my stomach, which isn't much as I've only had a cliff bar and a bit of beef jerky in the last couple of hours. After this I'm feeling just fine again.

We can see the point we need to round now and the wind is starting to lighten. We're down to about 7 miles to go as we tack back in for the final time. We're a little high of the point and the seas are now calmer as we're in the lee shadow of Brookes Peninsula. Time to get the screacher out. Only problem is that the lee foil is set to the 10kt setting and we'll be going a lot faster than that on a reach. Thats how we broke the starboard foil going into Comox. Jason raises concern about the foil and the Skipper is heard to say, "Thats ok, we'll take it slow." We all look around at each other to make sure we hear right. Did he just say we'll take it slow??? Well slow, according to the skipper, is still in the 14 to 16kt range.

Finally nearing the finish, its the next point.

The sun is starting to set now and we can tell its going to be a beauty. We can see the lighthouse and Jason spots a rainbow ahead of us. As we're nearing the finish the rainbow just gets brighter. We bear off and head East around the point and towards the finish line. We have to make a final gybe to make it in to the line and we hear the horn sound at 21:16 (9:16pm for you non-sailor types). We're second boat in, all-in-all a great day of sailing.

The rainbow at the finish line.

We now have to motor up into Winter Harbour and as we're taking the sails down and preparing the boat the rainbow is now a full arch behind us, what an amazing site. Its like we had to pass under the rainbow to hit the finish line. We radio ahead to find out where to moor and find out that Dick is going to have some hot food ready for us. Dick is the proprietor of Dick's Last Resort, a great B&B we stayed at last year. Dick is a great host and this is the place I enjoyed staying at the most during the 2003 VanIsle360. We motor up to the dock and find out from the local fishermen that Dragonfly arrived at the dock only an hour or so ahead of us. They had to give us nearly 73 minutes on this leg, it looks like we were closer to them than we thought. We run into a couple of the Dragonfly guys as we get the the end of the wharf and they inform us that they finished at 20:08, not enough to beat us on corrected. Woohoo, it looks like we'll finally get a first in division. We're too hungry, wet and tired to celebrate too much.

Winter Harbour.

Dick has prepared a great spread for us, lasagne (meat and veggie versions), ham, baked potato and salad. This is very much appreciated by our crew. After dinner we sit around chatting with Wayne and Janine and a couple from Flash, swapping stories and listening for finishings and 1 hour out reports on the VHF. It looks like most of the boats will be in sometime during the night.

At about 1am it was time to hit the sack and sleep in a bit tomorrow as we have a lay day here in Winter Harbour.