Six guys, one 41-foot boat & 2,308 nautical miles: Tri-City crew in Vic-Maui yacht race

Port Moody
Port Moody's Gord Penner, Gary McKinnon and skipper Alan Slater get ready for the Vic-Maui International Yacht Race, which starts next week.

Alan Slater isn’t so concerned about winning the Vic-Maui International Yacht Race.

The Port Moody skipper and owner of Bedlam II just wants to see the finish line.

It will be the second time the 41-foot sloop has crossed the Pacific Ocean for the biennial race. (The first time was in 1980, when she sailed 2,308 nautical miles from Victoria, down the coast to around the San Francisco area, and on the high seas and into the harbour at Lahaina, Maui.)

But it will be the first for Slater and his crew: Gordon Penner, Gary McKinnon and Devin Jain of Port Moody, Coquitlam’s Kevin Treharne and John Johnstone of Vancouver.

Together, their average age is 55 and none has sailed such a distance before.

“It’s going to be a tough assignment,”  said Slater, who sails today (Friday) for Victoria.

For a year, the team has been prepping for the adventure, getting ready to check off the bucket-list item.

Slater estimates they’ve spent up to $70,000 to upgrade Bedlam II, a 46-year-old fibreglass Redline boat with the jet black hull he bought three years ago and docks at the Vancouver Rowing Club. They did all the work themselves: rebuilding the masthead and spreaders and replacing some shrouds, the backstay and most of the running rigging, among other things.

As well, their ground crew — Catherine Kluane Larsen and Nancy Scott — have helped with the food. Because they have little storage in their cramped quarters, they’ve had to provision Bedlam II with dried or dehydrated ingredients and mixes. And with no water maker onboard, the drinking fluid will also have to be rationed.

Food and beverage are only one challenge, though.

During the two weeks travelling to Maui, the crew will be sleep deprived, working in shifts of four hours each. They won’t be able to shower during the trip and will face strong winds — up to 50 knots.

They’re also likely to encounter the doldrums as well,  “when there’s nothing to do”  but to wait for the prevailing winds to pick up in low-pressure areas.

And with McKinnon on board — a childhood friend who trekked with Slater to the base camp of Mt. Everest in 2012 — there will be a battery of bad jokes, the skipper said with a laugh.

But they won’t always be alone on the course.

For the 24th edition of the race, Sail #2507 will be joined by 14 other boats from the Vancouver Rowing Club, the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club and the West Vancouver Yacht Club plus, from Washington State, the Anacortes Yacht Club, the Milltown Sailing Association, the Gig Harbor Yacht Club, CYC Tacoma and the Port Madison Yacht Club.

They’ll have a wide audience, too, as they plan to document their experience via satellite/GPS communication devices (follow them on Twitter at @svBedlam2).

Best of all, when they navigate their way into the Lahaina harbour — no matter what hour — Slater said they’ll be greeted Hawaiian-style: With a well-deserved case of cold beer and leis from the Lahaina Yacht Club, which sponsors the race with the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.

“I’ll just be happy if we make it,” Slater said.

The architect is positive Bedlam II will be a stable ride (last year, she was the Vancouver Rowing Club’s boat of the year). They’ve sailed her in pre-qualifying events such as Swiftsure and the Southern Straits — in the latter, they faced winds gusting up to 40 knots — and she handled well despite her age, Slater said. In fact, Bedlam II placed third in the Straits.

For the Vic-Maui race, which launches July 3, the rig will be the eldest in the fleet.

Still, what Slater isn’t so confident about is whether they’ll have everything they need for the expedition. “I’m sure we’ll be missing something. We’ll probably figure it out just as we sail away.”



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