The weekend of the 14th and 15th of October saw the second autumn navigation trial in the hills adjacent to Port Alberni, Vancouver Island.
The first event last year was run as a test event for the use of Richta Rally Timing, as applied to motorcycles in mountainous backcountry.
It was held in the second half of November, in snow and ice conditions - immediately before the high level winter set in for good and closed the mountain roads for the year. The picture below shows the conditions:
What a difference a year (or properly eleven months) makes! Bare trees, short days and harsh whites for (just about) 12 hours of daylight if you include the first and last daylight hours, autumn hues and puddles!
The event last year demonstrated the functionality of Richta Rally Timing and established the event format for the GoldRiver300 and this year's Alberni event - three classes of navigation, routes by Gaia, Roadbook and Roadbook with Richta timing, three minute start intervals, a time neutralised lunch stop and the results declared fifteen minutes after the last finisher.
This year's event was a two day affair and accommodation had been arranged for Friday and Saturday night at Char's Landing, a decommissioned church building converted into a concert hall venue upstairs and an Alpine style auberge/hostel downstairs with room for up to 35 people. Charlene is your host and if you are going to be doing anything outdoorsy in the Alberni Valley I strongly advise you to contact Charlene!
For those that don't know, the Alberni Inlet is an 100km long fjord that runs from Cape Beale on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island to Port Alberni, 30km from the Salish Sea coast. The inlet has Crown and First Nation lands to the north and south with highway designated gravel roads running through the forests and mountains. The designation of Crown highway is important for our purposes as they exist as public rights of way and require current vehicle and driver licencing, registration and insurance. Riders participate in these events on their own driving/riding documentation. Makes things straightforward for the organiser...
The two day's events were divided between the mountains to the north of the inlet and the hills to the south. Saturday's route was shorter and more demanding than the Sunday route, the intention was to span the range of conditions that can be expected from Vancouver Island Motosports Events.
Participants arrived at Char's Landing through the evening on Friday and settled in to the "snoring" and "non-snoring" bunk bedrooms. During the evening smartphones running Richta were loaded with the gps timing gate data and route data verified so that everyone at least knew where the start was!
Day One. North of the Alberni Inlet. 123Km
The day one route was a double loop, Starting at the Junction of Trill Pit Rd and Stirling Arm road, westwards past Gracie Lake, steep descent to the north end of Nahmint Lake and the first Passage Control census point before turning south down Nahmint lake and then north up the east shore of Hucuktlis lake another steep climb , then down Nahmint Lake again to the second Passage Control before yet another steep climb up Kanyon Main and returning from the east to the start/finish.
The climbs and descents were unsurprisingly more of an issue for the adventure bikes than the single cyclinder dualsport and rally bikes. Note for future reference...
The major occurrence of day one was the appearance, at speed, from a great height of a 2m x 2m x 2m boulder crashing through the trees within earshot of the roadcrew running the Passage Control. "Sounded like thunder! A big bang!!". Perhaps the likelihood of being killed by a falling boulder is less than being hit by lightning.
One Gaia team lost their bearings and returned to the start/finish by the Gracie Lake climb (avoiding the Kanyon Main climb), but all returned safely and we had results for Day one.
We also had a few folks standing around chewing the fat and shooting bunnies (British English metaphor)...
Saturday night dinner was at the Port Alberni Schnitzel House, I can recommend the liver and onions!
Day Two. South of the Alberni Inlet. 160km
If Day One was a day of steepness, day two was a notable contrast. The backcountry south of the inlet is less mountainous and was probably logged and roaded before the forests to the north.
When the route was set, back in the summer, the Bamfield Main was a rough, potholed gravel road worthy of its reputation as a dangerous road. Ideal conditions!?... over the summer the BC Government and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation have worked together to improve the Main to the level of a Superhighway, the Bamfield Superhighway, also known as the AlberniRing... the speed limit is 60Kph. The event speed limit on this road was set to 50Kph to keep everything legal.
The route headed south from Ship Creek Road to the start of Fauna Main. Fauna Main, while still extant, is another green leafy tunnel. It was partially blocked by a fallen tree that myself and Stuart kicked a path through. In the interim, a forest fire happened on the mountain top above Fauna and as part of the firefighting activities the choc-log was kindly removed!
From this ^ to this below:
The log wasn't ever a difficult barrier but I'd did mark a waypoint on the route.
The riders then continued westwards towards the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island before a lunch stop and return to the finish via the Superhighway.
The field of competitors had been somewhat whittled down by the efforts on Saturday, just four riders were left in contention for the stunning prize. Jon Lane ran up some maximum scores and while finishing strongly was out of the frame, Sasha Sabinin had had a flat on Saturday and took 70 minutes to change the tube, apparently putting himself out of contention overnight but a strong performance on Sunday coupled with a misstep by Patrick Subarski put Sasha into second position.
First prize went to Robin Black who put two solid performances in over the two days and earned him the winner's prize, a Scottish hip flask and a wee (very wee) bottle of Scotch Whisky.
Yes, that's a bottle of whisky in his right hand!
Perspective is everything!
So that was a wrap. Everyone had ridden their fill, all returned safely (if tired and scuffed), everyone went home well and in a state to go to work on Monday morning. We had the best of the weather and conditions.
Next event (that I know about) is the GoldRiver400 - Les Chemins Sauvage
Entry can be found at
I hope to see you next year!