Sail across the blue yonder for maverick Bas Cobanli

March 10, 2016

Since junior high school, I have never been an athletic person. Before that time I did well in high jump and long jump at the annual Field Day. I guess as my body rounding out, I lost agility.

In team sports, I got hit in the nose by the hard ball during a baseball game. It could have contributed to me living for the rest of my life with a large nose and it did nothing to encourage me to enjoy team sports.

Those were the days when everyone had a television but, particularly in rural areas like Victoria Beach, Manitoba, where I grew up, there was only one channel. Even if there had been a choice, my father always monopolized the television set on the weekends for Hockey Night in Canada.

Being a teeny bopper, I was enamoured by Derek Sanderson, the Esposito brothers and Bobby Orr but this not translate into any excitement for the game of hockey.

Yet there came a day over the years when I wrote for small weekly newspapers that I was asked to do a Sports piece. (Prior to this, I had occasionally reported wins in sailing boating and other sports).

Anything could still happen — especially in my life — but, so far, the following is the only sports article that I have authored:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Sail across the blue yonder for maverick Bas Cobanli

by Tanya Lester

The man who will be honoured next Saturday in the First Annual Bas Cobanli Invitational Race could have been a character in an Ernest Hemingway novel.

Three years after his death from leukemia, Cobanli is still recognized for his contributions as a civil engineer, a potter and a race car driver.

Above all else, his consuming passion for sailing is remembered. “It was in his blood,” said his wife Gill Cobanli. “He was happiest on the water.”

Those associated with the sport in the Vancouver-Gulf Islands area are probably well aware of all the awards “the old bastard” scooped up over the years.

One of the boats Cobanli built and raced drifted past his Marina Crescent home into Long Habour five days after he died, said Gill.

It seemed to be a sign, from the man who was so connected in spirit with sailing, that everything was and will be alright.

The name of the boat, the Maverick, was a testimony to his personality.

The son of diplomats, Cobanli was born in Istanbul and lived in many different places while growing up. He refused to follow in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, as Turkish tradition dictates, and took up engineering as his profession.

Sailing was his pleasure from the time he was a young child. Forty-three years ago, he met Gill in England. They were married in Lillooet, B.C. and lived in West Vancouver for many years before moving to Salt Spring Island in 1973.

Their children experienced sailing from the time they were in utero.

Gill said their father and all three children — Richard, Bruce and Jane — would always retreat out onto the water to relieve stress after their busy work and school days.

Cobanli decided to quite working as an engineer when, at the age of 40, promotions had made him “a suit,” said Gill.

On Salt Spring he discovered his talent for making pottery, which was featured at ArtCraft. He built their house and continued to build boats. He also spent much time with his family involved in the sailing program offered at high school.

Cobanli designed the docks for what is now the Salt Spring Island Sailing Club. Parents and students then built the structures.

This is how Cobanli became friends with Lawrie Neish, who taught boat building at the high school in those days.

On May 13, Neish will said as skipper with Jane, as she feels “this is the closest she can get to (racing with) her dad,” said Gill.

Bruce and the three grandchildren will also attend.

Richard, who is with the Canadian Coast Guard, will be working on the water that weekend on the east coast of Canada.

Gill recalls how gatherings of family and friends in the past often provided an excuse to get out onto the water. If Richard was due to arrive at the Sidney airport, for instance, they would take a boat to meet him.

Before his death, the couple travelled on a fishing boat up to the Port Hardy and Prince Rupert areas.

Gill said friends and family had a difficult time accepting Cobanli’s death because he had been so “lusty” with life. Now there has been a proper period of mourning, she said, and the race next Saturday will be his wake.

A skippers meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Gill Cobanli’s 103 Marina Crescent home, with the race starting at 11 a.m. It will cover a distance of about 16 nautical miles around Prevost Island and will also end at Cobanli’s place.

It is open to all sailing vessels over 20 feet in length. A donation of $25 per entry is requested.

A reception prize-giving and barbecue at Colanli’s home will follow the race.

Those attending should come prepared to share their memories, storie and photographs of Cobanli.

“The race is dedicated to celebrating the memory, skill, achievement, tenacity and pure sailing brilliance of our dear friend and mentor Bas Cobanli — member of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Salt Spring Island Sailing Club and Long Harbour Racing Association,” states the race information….


Tanya Lester, BA and master tea leaf reader, works as an intuitive/psychic counsellor and house sitter. To find out more about these services go to her web site: or pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Twitter. Or contact her directly at or call 250-538-0086

To read other posts on this blog go to or

Tanya’s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader (which can be purchased from the author or from, Women Rights/Writes, Dreams and Tricksters and Friends I Never Knew.





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