Canadian sea kayaker Joe O’Blenis is on the home stretch of his bid to reclaim the speed record for circumnavigating British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, and it seems like the race is going to go down to the wire. As of August 31, the 44-year-old speed demon was camped on the island’s outer Pacific Ocean coast, just south of Barkley Sound, about 180 miles from finishing his circle at Nanaimo, on the Inside Passage. He has until 1:00 pm on Sunday, September 5 to break British super paddler Sean Morley’s record of 17 days, four hours and 49 minutes.
According to his blog (http://www.joeoblenis.com/vancouverisland2010.htm), which is being updated regularly by his partner, Diane Hogan, O’Blenis is psyched to wrap up his trip with some epic 50-mile days, and is still hoping to finish by Saturday. “When I spoke with him this morning he was in TERRIFIC spirits and more than ready to paddle as long as it takes to get this record back (which are going to be some VERY long days and nights of paddling),”wrote Hogan on August 31.
So far, O’Blenis’ third attempt at the speed record for sea kayaking around Vancouver Island’s 750-mile perimeter has been eventful. He’s endured the same torturous headwinds that slowed his last trip around the island, in 2007, in which he set the speed record with a time of just over 23 days. And two days ago, the skeg on his 18-foot Nigel Dennis Greenlander Pro malfunctioned-a repeat of his first circumnavigation attempt, also in 2007, which was thwarted by lost hatch covers. Fortunately, O’Blenis got timely assistance from a friend in Nanaimo who raced to the west coast town of Tofino with a replacement boat-this time a Tahe Wind 585. – Conor Mihell
Read more about O’Blenis’ mission to reclaim the Vancouver Island speed record in the June issue of Canoe & Kayak magazine and online ( http://www.canoekayak.com/kayak/lapping-the-island/). Daily updates on O’Blenis’ progress are available at his Spot GPS Messenger web page.