Crew members Dave Dakin

Local crew set to hoist sail

Northern Lights is first Campbell River entry in VanIsle 360 sailing race, which begins Saturday

Skipper Chris Fletcher and crewman Dave Dakin affixed the name decal to the stern of the Northern Lights Wednesday in Discovery Harbour.

Now Fletcher hopes he can show it to the competition in the VanIsle 360 yacht race around Vancouver Island.

The Northern Lights will become the first Campbell River entry in the bi-annual circumnavigation of the Island when it departs the starting line in Nanaimo Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

The 44-foot sailboat will join a record field of 52 entries in the 10th running of the race.

“I think the start will be exciting,” said Fletcher, who is making his VanIsle 360 debut with a crew of eight sailors from Campbell River and the Comox Valley. “We’re anticipating a downwind start, so that should be great.”

“Fifty-two spinnakers would look pretty impressive,” Dakin added.

The boats will travel north from Nanaimo in a series of legs that will take them around the northern tip of the island at Cape Scott before running south along the west coast. After hooking around Victoria, they will finish back in Nanaimo June 20.

The boats will sail into Campbell River Monday afternoon and spend the night in Discovery Harbour.

The Northern Lights — officially named Northern Lights VI, but racing under the abbreviated name — will stay in its “home” slip near the end of I finger that evening and can be viewed by the public along with the rest of the race entries.

The Northern Lights will carry a crew of seven for the inside run and eight for the west coast, and members have logged more than 100 hours in practice time over the past couple of months preparing for the two-week trek.

“We’ve done a lot of practice sessions in a lot of different wind conditions, so that’s been helpful,” said Fletcher. “We’ve done sail changes, had a man overboard session and done an overnight practice.

“The crew has been getting a lot of work in.”

Even the shore crew, a three-member squad from the Campbell River Yacht Club, has done a prep session preparing food for the sailors. Each boat has a shore crew that “chases” the race, shadowing the boats in a caravan of vehicles while providing meals, supplies and other services as the race progresses.

Fans can follow the race in real time online through the race tracker at www.vanisle360.com. Prime viewing in Campbell River is available anywhere along the beach, but especially at the pier, where the boats slide past the finish line to end the second of the VanIsle 360’s 10 legs.

There is no departure viewing option in the city. The boats will motor early Tuesday morning to Deep Bay for the official sailing start of the third leg.

Fletcher and some of his local crew spent Wednesday afternoon preparing Northern Lights for its run to Nanaimo and the race start, including fueling and adding decals to the boat.

In addition to title sponsor Ocean Pacific Marine, the team has secured additional local sponsorship assistance from Interlocks Paints, Coast Fiber-tek, DKS Industries and Marine Links Tours.

“We’ve got more decals to put on the boat and on our van,” Fletcher said. “Lots more decals.”