Denis Fontaine

HOWE SOUND -- Two North Vancouver adventure racers are dead after a kayak flipped in heavy seas on the weekend and set off a tragic chain of events.

"We shouldn't have gone out," survivor Bob Faulkner, 60, said yesterday. "I miss my friends terribly."

Denis Fontaine, 40, a representative for a sporting-goods company, and Richard Juryn, 50, who worked in the mountain-bike industry, perished.

Faulkner, Fontaine, Juryn and five other elite multisport racers set out Sunday morning on an epic journey, to kayak from Porteau Cove in Howe Sound, run up to Anvil Island's peak, paddle back, then mountain bike to Whistler.

But already-poor weather disintegrated while the seven men and one woman were on Anvil Island. Fierce winds and waves higher than two metres lashed the shore.

They decided Fontaine and his girlfriend, Cheryl Beatty, would "sweep" from behind, to help any of the group who got into trouble.

Their boat was the only racing kayak, less stable than the others. Shortly after launching, a wave hit them sideways during a turn and they capsized.

Beatty was able to grab on to the rear of the kayak belonging to Troy Dalton and John Bula, and in a "superhuman effort," the two men paddled her ashore, Faulkner said.

Fontaine remained in the frigid ocean for 50 minutes, before Juryn and Graham Tutti got him into the cargo hatch of their kayak.

Opening the hatch was a last resort and brought catastrophe. Waves swept in and sank the boat.

"All three of them set out to swim," Faulkner said. "Richard was not a strong swimmer."

Meanwhile, Faulkner and Brent Martin paddled ferociously for Porteau Cove, where they called for rescue.

The coast guard dispatched their Osprey vessel and hovercraft, plus two helicopters and two auxiliary vessels.

Tutti was pulled nearly dead from the water. Fontaine and Juryn were found floating face-down, unconscious.

The paddlers wore life-jackets, but "were not appropriately dressed" for the conditions, said Officer Marc Proulx of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria.

"They were in light nylon shells," he said. "No wetsuits."

Published in The Vancouver Sun on Oct. 9, 2007