Nov 9, 2017
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.
Graham made a commitment to participate in all 13 of the regattas that make up the Vancouver Island Racing Series. The season began on April 1 with the Pecos Island race, organized by the Sydney North Saanich Yacht Club and concluded at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club with the Thermopylae race on October 14 and 15th. Graham’s crew was made up of Murray Stocks, SergoMoukminov, Richard Gregory, Elias Skabardonis and Bob Nicoll.
Graham commented that, “All the races are challenging and fun in their own way.”
“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!”
“There was also the spectacular scenery at the Schooner Cove Yacht Club’s Round Lasqueti race. The bright sky and multiple wind patterns made for a great day on the water chasing the Zephyrs, and the northwest breeze that arrived with the sunset just managed get us over the finish before the midnight time limit.”
VIRS Awards from left to right Richard Gregory, Bob Nicoll, Graham Heath, Murray Stocks, Sergo Moukminov
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.
All Photo Credits: Andrew Madding, Bow Shot Productions. email@example.com