Jim Innes’ sailboat

South Surrey sailors set course for Hawaiian shores

South Surrey crew gears up for 2,300-mile Vic-Maui Yacht Race.

For serious sailors, there’s nothing quite like the open water.

Good thing, too, because South Surrey residents Keith Martinsen and Ron Tomas are about to see an awful lot of it.

Next month, the pair – along with four other Lower Mainland sailors – will set a course from Victoria to Hawaii on Red Sheilla, a 50-foot sloop owned by another South Surrey sailor, Jim Innes, as part of the bi-annual Vic-Maui Yacht Race, a 2,300-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean.

Innes won’t be making the trip this year – though he has completed the race twice in the past – but is confident that his boat is in good hands. Martinsen, who will serve as skipper, and Tomas, one of the watch captains, both have plenty of experience on the water, and the boat itself has twice before competed in the race, in 2010 and 2012.

“It’s been there and back a couple times, so it kind of knows the way,” Innes said.

The race begins July 9 from Ogden Point near Victoria – with staggered start times between then and July 12 – and for a boat in Red Sheilla’s racer-cruiser class, typically takes 11 or 12 days to reach the Kaanapoli beaches of Maui.

And despite the marathon distance, the directions, Martinsen quipped, are fairly straightforward.

“You go out the (Strait of) Juan de Fuca, then it’s a left turn to Hawaii,” he said. “When you say it quick like that, it sounds easy.”

It’s anything but, of course.

There are myriad preparations to make – Innes, a race committee member, says they advise sailors to start preparing at least 18 months in advance – and through the years, Red Sheilla has undergone quite an overhaul in order to be worthy of such a long journey.

Upgrades include better rigging on the boat, better sails, more training for crew members, as well as additions such as a life raft.

“Getting a boat ready can be difficult. You can’t just take it and go. You have to take an in-shore boat and turn it into an off-shore boat,” Innes explained.

In addition, race participants have to be prepared to fix anything that goes wrong during the course of the trip, so numerous contingency plans need be in place.

“You’ve got to be ready for anything. If something breaks out there, there’s no store and nobody coming to give you a hand,” Tomas said.

Innes – who, years ago, completed just “one-64th of the race” after his boat’s mast broke just off the start line – agreed with his fellow sailor’s take, adding that often the only help available is from fellow racers, if they happen to be in the same vicinity.

“West Marine is a long way away. You’re 1,500 miles from anywhere… the closest land is 25,000 feet below you, and you don’t want anything to do with that,” he said.

The race is staged in July because “it’s when the Pacific Ocean is at its most benign,” Innes said, though racers still need to prepare for all potential obstacles.

“It is still the big ocean and anything can happen,” he said.

And though the race poses an impressive challenge for even the most seasoned captain, it’s also enjoyable and the allure of the open water is strong, Martinsen is quick to point out.

“I remember the first time I did the race, and you kind of forget how big the ocean really is,” he said. “You get out past Juan de Fuca and you lose sight of land then you’re out there for 10 or 11 days before you see land again.

“It’s isolating, but it’s also beautiful. The waves are absolutely spectacular, and unless you’ve been out that far into the ocean, you’ve never seen water so blue in your life. It turns a deeper and deeper blue, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.”

By the third day of the trip, “it’s like looking at the sky,” Innes added.

While Martinsen – who has been sailing since 1956 when he was “13 or 14 years old” – has twice done the Vic-Maui race, it’ll be a first for Tomas, who is accustomed to shorter races in his own catamaran, which is built more for speed than long distances.

“I’m really excited,” said Tomas, whose racing resume includes racing around Vancouver Island, as well as a few events in California. “I’m accustomed to making the boat go as fast as possible.”

Though he will be keeping both feet on dry land this time around, Innes has a personal connection to the Vic-Maui race – it was co-founded by his father in 1965.

“My father started it with four other sailors who he’d convinced to go. In those days, there was really no other race like it. The only other race from the west coast of North America to Hawaii was one out of L.A. – the Trans-Pac, which is still going, in alternate years from (Vic-Maui).”

With the race just two weeks away, the majority of the prep work is already completed, aside from stocking the sloop with supplies and food – though no bananas, as per the longtime sailing superstition that dates back to the 1700s. (They’re thought to bring aboard bad luck.)

Tactical plans have been mapped out, radio frequencies tested and tested again, and all that’s left now is to climb aboard and hope for strong winds and sunny skies.

“You just try to make the boat go as fast as it can, without breaking anything or hurting anybody,” Martinsen said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

White Rock RCMP are searching for Richard John Lewis, who is wanted on warrants for assault and uttering threats. (RCMP handout)
White Rock RCMP searching for wanted man

Richard John Lewis is wanted on warrants for assault, uttering threats

(Photo: Twitter@SurreyRCMP)
Surrey Mounties, pet owners, bracing for Halloween

Last year the Surrey RCMP received 147 fireworks complaints on Diwali and 121 on Halloween

(Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police investigating after another teen girl followed in Tsawwassen

Police say a man in a burgundy car approached teen girls on at least two, possibly three occasions

partial graphic used in "Get Serious" campaign by Surrey business groups.
‘Get Serious’ message about COVID pushed by Surrey business groups fearing ‘economic shutdown’

‘Different social media messages will be sent out daily with significant messaging…’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

The B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch has issued a decision about the actions of an elementary school teacher in Langley. (Langley Advance Times files)
Langley elementary teacher suspended for grabbing, shoving, yelling at kids

Roxann Rojas will lose her legal authority to teach for two weeks from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2020

Most Read