Dragonfly of Victoria is competing in the final leg of the Black Press Van Isle 360° this week

Dragonfly of Victoria is competing in the final leg of the Black Press Van Isle 360° this week

Dragonfly leads Van Isle 360 race into Victoria

Dragonfly crew love Black Press Van Isle 360 experience; race comes through Victoria this week for final leg

Sailing the Dragonfly is not about winning, it’s about racing. The boat, you see, is built for one thing: all-out speed. The fun comes in sailing it, a challenging task on the volatile high seas off Vancouver Island.

A five-time winner of the Black Press Van Isle 360° International Yacht Race, Dragonfly has lived a rich life, and is be passing through town this week as the 42 competing yachts enter Victoria for stage 10 of this year’s 11-stage race that circumnavigates Vancouver Island.

“We love the boat and are fortunate to have won the race, but the Van Isle 360 is about the people on the stops along the way. That’s what makes it worth doing and why we come back,” said owner Richard Ackrill.

To say the boat is fast is an understatement. Dragonfly’s been the fastest overall in the Van Isle 360 all but once in six years. Dragonfly is more than just the fastest catamaran around, it’s also one of the biggest.

At 52 feet long, Ackrill can have a hard time finding a place to keep her.

During the offseason, Dragonfly lives near Everett, Wash., where it’s lovingly tended to by its previous owner in a spot that can accommodate it. But it’s been in Victoria since it participated in the Swiftsure race last month.

This week Dragonfly is off in search of another Van Isle 360 win, as the race which began on June 8 enters its final two days, June 21 to 22, from Victoria to Nanaimo.

“I first joined the crew for the outer legs of this race in 2001 and loved it,” Ackrill said.

The owner at that time, Pat McGarry, sold it to a Florida owner but it soon became available once more and Ackrill jumped at the opportunity to keep it here.

“We all missed (the boat) so much,  I talked to Pat McGarry, who was working at a marine company in Washington, about using the facilities to store it if I bought it back,” Ackrill said. “So I bought it and to this day we actually use a huge forklift to pull the boat out of the water near Everett, where it lives.”

Ackrill handles the helm some of the time, as well as sail trim and tactics. The crew of five includes McGarry handling most of the helm duties, Sandy Dick on mainsail, Nick Banks on navigation and tactics and Gord Irving on the foredeck.

The boat will likely be in the running to win the Van Isle 360 this week but the stories are more often based on the time spent visiting stops along the way, Ackrill said.

The race includes social events during the off days: a stop at a fish farm where 400 people dine on salmon near Hardwick Island, a stop at Telegraph Cove and a day in Winter Harbour where 25 winter residents and summer residents put on a mid-day banquet.

“Everyone in the community lends a hand to put that on. We just love it,” Ackrill said.

Black Press on course

Black Press community newspapers are charting a course alongside the sailing yachts for the Black Press Van Isle 360° 2013 International Yacht Race, which draws competitors from across the Pacific Northwest

Formerly known as the Cadillac Van Isle 360° International Yacht Race, the event, which starts and finishes in Nanaimo, has run since 1999. Visit vanisle360.com to chart the racer’s progress.

– with files from Chris Bush