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Seattle boat takes the win in Whistler's first sailing regatta

Sailing Association hopes event will boost interest



Taking the win in Whistler's first sailing regatta was no easy feat for Seattle's Mike Karas.

"It was really gusty, shifting," said Karas who with Molly Jackson raced a Tasar sailing dinghy dubbed the Honey Badger on the waters of Alta Lake last weekend.

"It was a really challenging race. It wasn't really windy but the wind direction was changing all over the place, so it was challenging."

Throughout Saturday and Sunday the Tasars could be seen with their signature clear plastic and red sails sprinting up and down the lake. As the wind changed the boats would suddenly find themselves bunched up, then just as suddenly a gust would scatter them forward.

Second went to the Vancouver team of Julian Hannabuss and Carol McMillan. In third place was Seattle's Chuck Asper and Annette Sommer.

The Tasar is a 4.5-metre high performance sailing dinghy, designed to be sailed and raced by a man and a women. A light weight, low drag, planing hull, a rotating mast, and a jib and fully battened mainsail with efficient sail controls means exhilarating sailing without the need for a trapeze, though on the weekend many a sailor was seen leaning way out over the water to cope with wind conditions.

The Tasar class competitors raced in several races over Saturday and Sunday coming from Washington State and across B.C. to compete.

The racers were joined by youth competitors in the Optimist class of dinghy, a small single-handed sailing dinghy usually captained by under 15-year-olds.

North Shore Sailing Team's Edward Coleman, 12, took that set of races with second place going to his brother Alec, 10.

Whistler's Ren Bennett took third.

Sailors had to race between marked buoys on Alta Lake multiple times. Points are awarded according to the position the boat achieves in the race. The dinghy with the least points over the series of races wins.

Whistler's Sailing Association started about three years ago and while it has been hosting a successful Wednesday race series this was the group's first weekend regatta.

"It is the first one and we are excited," said the association's head coach Francois Hebert, who is nationally certified and who has competed internationally at the Laser World Championships.

"Most of the racers came from Vancouver or Seattle. All of the racers brought their own boats and we do have three of our junior members participating in sailing as well."

Hebert noted that the conditions were challenging this weekend for racers.

"It was variable and gusty, a little bit more than usual but it was a nice day out on the water," he said.

Hebert and other association members hope to hold more regattas in the future.

It's true, said Whistler Sailing Association Commodore and president Patrick McCurdy, that Whistler may not be the first place you think of when you think of sailing. Nor would you expect to find international level coaches living here - but along with Hebert, Michelle Brodeur is also coaching now. A competitive sailor, she taught at the Glemmore Sailing School.

"Both of them have made their homes here so it is quite an opportunity for us," said McCurdy.

"It is Francois's hope that talented competitors will come out of Whistler."

In the winter Hebert is a heli-ski guide and ski instructor, while Brodeur is on the Canadian Development team for snowboarding.

"It is quite amazing," said McCurdy. "You wouldn't expect it in Whistler."

The regatta, said McCurdy, is a way to celebrate the achievements of all of those who have been learning to sail over the last few summers as well as drawing attention to the fact that Whistler is a good place to sail.

That's what drew Shane Bennett and his family to the sport. Three of his sons now sail.

"They are doing really well," he said.

"...I used to sail and I just wanted a sport that we could do locally and the club is just getting going and it is really a fun atmosphere.

"This lake is quite challenging so I think this lake can turn out some pretty high profile competitive people...

"It is definitely worth doing for anyone... You wouldn't think of Whistler for sailing, but we have two competitive teams on Wednesday nights..."

The association runs popular learn to sail programs for both youth and adults and has a co-op program for using club sailboats.

For more information on the association go to