Young sailors make waves at Sailfest Sarnia

Daniel Barry, 21, of Petrolia, men’s olympic class practice day for Sailfest held at the Sarnia Yacht Club.

The Sarnia Yacht Club offered sailor’s a perfect trifecta last weekend –wind, warm people and wonderful water.

“Most people in this province have no idea about how beautiful Lake Huron is,” said Joanne Abbott, chair of Sailfest Sarnia’s organizing committee.

“It can look just like the Caribbean in July, and feel like the Caribbean. People are just amazed at how gorgeous it is.”

Sailfest Sarnia is a regatta involving solo and two-person dinghies that draws more than100 sailors from yacht clubs around the Great Lakes.

Ages range from seven to 55, but most are teens.

“It’s addictive, like any racing,” explained Sarnia’s Jonah Kember, 16, who has sailed competitively at regattas in Toronto, Hamilton and Kingston.

“(Sailfest) is the best. They have way more food and it’s well organized.”

The event gives young sailors a chance to compete in high-level competitions. The results are used to select the Ontario Sailing Team, which represents the province at competitions.

Petrolia’s Daniel Barry, 21, is a Tier 2 Ontario eam member.

Racing in a one-person Laser makes you master of your own destiny, he said.

“I used to play soccer. But when you’re out on the water, whether you win or you lose, it’s only you. That was the attraction for me coming from a team sport.”

The yacht club was a hive of activity all weekend. Communities of pitched tents lent a festive air, with young sailors everywhere tended rigging and socializing when not racing on the lake’s two courses.

Lunch time required a good catching hand.

Rob and Stephanie Purdy of Purdy Fisheries anchored a boat a few miles offshore near the start line Saturday and Sunday. As competitors would finish a race and sail by the Purdys would toss them bagged lunches.

“We provide everything,” said Abbott. “They get Friday, Saturday, Sunday, all their food, camping on-site, everything for $110. If they get themselves here there’s no cost beyond the registration.”

Numerous sponsors help keep costs low, including RBC Dominion Securities and Mellon Inc. and Spectrum Communications.

– George Mathewson

Basile Montagnese, 14, of Toronto, readies his boat during Sailfest at the Sarnia Yacht Club. Glenn Ogilvie

Basile Montagnese, 14, of Toronto, readies his boat during Sailfest at the Sarnia Yacht Club.
Glenn Ogilvie

Jillian Smith, 14, and Elayna Hurst, 17, of the London Yacht Club, keep warm and rest up while waiting for the wind to rise at Sailfest Sarnia. Glenn Ogilvie

Jillian Smith, 14, and Elayna Hurst, 17, of the London Yacht Club, keep warm and rest up while waiting for the wind to rise at Sailfest Sarnia.
Glenn Ogilvie