The bagpipe is an instrument most Squamish residents are used to hearing at formal ceremonies such as community events and parades.
So it was only fitting that the bagpipes were blasting when a group of Squamoleans set forth on a different type of parade, one that saw the group take on the power of the Pacific Ocean in the 2012 Vic-Maui Yacht Race.
It was the fourth time that the Red Heather, named after the red heather meadows in Garibaldi Provincial Park, took part in the event and skipper John Gugins said it was one of the more memorable trips.
“Probably one of the highlights was that as we left the harbour in Victoria, Devon Biln piped us out of the harbour,” he said, laughing. “He found some weight savings in his gear and was able to bring the pipes along. He did the same for us as we went into Lahaina [Hawaii}.”
The crew was made up of Gugins, Biln, Caitlin Gugins, Scott Shaw-MacLaren, Brian Isaacs, Pam Temple-Hurley, Paul Kindree and Sarah McNally. Gugins credited his crew and favourable wind patterns for the boat’s fifth-place finish. The Red Heather completed the 2,308-nautical-mile journey last month in an elapsed time of 13 days, 10 hours and 57 minutes.
“We were blessed to have some really consistent winds this year,” Gugins said. “In 2008 the winds were good in the first part of the race but then we got some low-pressure winds and it was pretty difficult out there.”
Gugins said the crew is split into two separate watches, with everyone being assigned specific tasks.
“When one watch gets up, the other goes to bed,” he said. “And then four hours later, you swap. You always try to push the boat as hard as you can, especially when it’s light out and everyone has to help preparing meals. Another thing we do is switch up who’s driving the boat every half hour to make sure everyone is sharp.”
He added that the race is mostly about staying safe and having fun but that a goal for the crew is always to stay competitive.
“The boat has always been fairly competitive but I was pleased with our performance this year,” he said. “We sailed the boat as well as we could.”
After completing the race and reaching Hawaii, there’s the challenge of turning around and bringing the boat back to Squamish. The trip back was a little more relaxed, with the Red Heather reaching Squamish in 17 days.
“We aren’t pushing the boat as hard on the way back,” Gugins said. “It’s just another ocean adventure for us. But on the way back we saw some dolphins, killer whales and even saw some humpback whales.”
The Vic-Maui race occurs every two years. Gugins said he’s pretty sure that the Red Heather will be back in 2014. The next big trip for Gugins is the Van Isle 360 next summr, and in the meantime he said he’s going to relax on solid land for the rest of the summer.
For more information on the Vic-Maui race, visit www.vicmaui.org.