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Whistler Sailing Association unveils green plan

Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Envirofund supports initiative

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Sailing is one of the most environmentally friendly sports around, but the Whistler Sailing Association is looking to eliminate its carbon footprint entirely.

The club is in the early stages of replacing the gasoline motors in its coach boats with Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 rechargeable electric motors in order to help keep Alta Lake healthy and safe for decades to come.

Head coach Francois Hebert credited local Lennox McNeely and his wife, Mei Liu, for helping to spearhead the project.

"One of our team members was really interested in helping us with this project so we were looking at ways to make the club more sustainable and more environmentally friendly," he said. "Sailing is already a green activity, using wind power, but we do have small engines for the small boats, for the coach boats that are used."

The WSA currently has five coach boats that will need new engines. The project actually started with replacing the motor on the detachable dock section that motors around Alta Lake as a barge.

"We got one (engine) last year for the barge and that exceeded our expectations of what it could do and how well it worked. It served as a test for us to see if it would work for our coach boats," said Hebert.

The club has raised roughly 75 per cent of the necessary funds for an engine for one coach boat. Each engine costs $12,700 and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation's Envirofund has given the club a grant for $3,800, roughly a quarter of the total.

McNeely and Liu have contributed the other $7,600.

Hebert said the cause is important since it will reduce the club's emissions to zero when all the coach boats have the electric engines, while it also prevents the possibility of gasoline leaking into the lake. As well, with rising temperatures and more people enjoying Alta Lake, its carrying capacity is strained, making it all the more important to take action.

Hebert explained the batteries hold their charge for between six and seven hours at higher speeds, though he said the club will be operating at lower speeds more often than not. In those cases, the batteries can last for nine to 10 hours.

Hebert said a fundraiser is slated for Aug. 15 at 5678 Alta Lake Rd. from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

"We're going to do boat rides by donation if people want to go out on the water," Hebert said, adding there will also be snacks and prizes as part of the evening.

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