In the beginning, the Savary Island Fun Triathlon was a fundraising event for the Savary Island Volunteer Fire Department (SIVFD), started by race director Carol Rogers in the year 2000.
Now in its 21st year (no triathlon took place in 2014 or 2020), the three-part endurance test is expected to be back to pre-pandemic numbers, and is set to take place on Sunday, July 23. 2019 featured the largest turnout: 110 people.
“The race has always been called a fun event,” said Louise Harding, race director since 2015. “Back when the race started, the Savary Island Volunteer Fire Department did not receive any funding from [qathet] Regional District; it was completely donation based.”
According to Harding, the yearly triathlon raised a huge amount of money, and the fire department was able to purchase a new truck and fire hall.
“The event was about fun; it wasn’t necessarily a sporting event,” said Harding. “It was about getting the community out and to make donations.”
Now, qathet Regional District (qRD) provides funds to SIVFD and triathlon donations continue to go to the fire department for anything extra it may need, or things not covered by qRD funding.
“We [on Savary] are so grateful for the work they [fire department] do, as Savary has a lot of fire hazards,” stressed Harding.
The registered non-profit society aims to still support SIVFD, bring the Savary Island community together and challenge themselves to achieve a personal goal they may have.
“We invite people of all fitness levels,” said Harding. “The triathlon is flexible and we can provide accommodations anyone might have.”
One of the biggest barriers for most folks is the 750-metre swim, and they may have witnessed how fierce the competition is while watching an Ironman Triathlon. However, this swim has no barriers (no punching allowed).
“Maybe a person never thought of themselves doing a triathlon,” said Harding. “If you don't feel confident, you can run in the water if you want; there is also the option to make it a relay with two or three teammates.”
Although the race is sanctioned by Triathlon BC, the distances do not map onto any official triathlon distance. Savary is technically only 7.5 kilometres long (from the wharf up the hill, make it 10 kilometres).
The race begins like any other triathlon with a swim; 750 metres out and back, then onto the bike across the island, east to west for 10 kilometres, then a five kilometre run out and back, finishing at the fire department, which is mid-island. The race course is quite stunning, traversing the length of the island, through the ocean, sandy roads and forest trail.
Participants can enter as teams or individuals and choose between recreational and competitive divisions. However, there is no cut-off time like in competitive triathlons.
“We will wait, if people need to walk their bike up the hill, or if they are a slower swimmer,” said Harding. “It’s about keeping people in the race, however, you definitely want to do a bit of training so you don’t hurt yourself.”
Most participants are either from or vacationing on Savary, but the race occasionally has people from Powell River and sometimes Comox enter.
“Participants from Powell River can take the 8 am water taxi from Lund, and they will see members of the Clansman Pipe Band pipe coming over,” said Harding. “The race always starts with a procession down Malaspina Boulevard led by the pipe band.”
A bathing suit or wetsuit is recommended for the swim (plus a dry shirt for after the water portion of the race); this year the roads have been smoothed over quite a bit, thanks to the work of locals and qRD road maintenance crews, so fat tires are not necessary for the bike race, but a helmet is required.
Another note is that only one pair of running shoes is needed.
Registration never closes and people can register on race day in-person. However, Harding recommends registering online.
For more information and to see the route map, go to savarytriathlon.wixsite.com/info