Regatta to hit Alta Lake this weekend 

Whistler Sailing Association to host young skippers from across province

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ADAM TABER PHOTOGRAPHY/COURTESY OF THE WHISTLER SAILING ASSOCIATION - COME SAIL AWAY Action at the 2015 Whistler Regatta was wet and wild.
  • Photo by Adam Taber Photography/Courtesy of the Whistler Sailing Association
  • COME SAIL AWAY Action at the 2015 Whistler Regatta was wet and wild.

As a racer who doesn't do the whole provincial rounds, Ren Bennett noted he doesn't have a whole lot to sail for at the upcoming Whistler Sailing Association (WSA) BC Circuit Regatta.

But the local skipper and WSA coach, who is 18, still appreciates the chance to ply his trade on his home waters of Alta Lake when the races come to town.

Notably, he's happy to get the chance to go out on a lake, which many of his competitors may not be accustomed to, as he races this weekend, Aug. 20 and 21.

"I've done a couple ocean races and it's always a massive area to get in and out of the ocean," he said.

"You wash your boat every time. This lake sailing, you have about 10 feet (three metres) to get into the water and you don't have to wash your boat.

"Anyone that comes here is like, 'Oh, this is a lot different with shifty winds and smaller lake sailing.'"

The regatta will bring in 70 athletes aged 19 and under from all over the province including a large contingent from Kelowna, as well as sailors from Squamish and the Vancouver area, said WSA head coach Francois Hebert.

Hebert is eager to welcome the young sailors to the resort to provide them a unique sailing experience.

"Alta Lake is a windy lake. It's definitely got a thermal, so the temperature rises in the valley up in Pemberton and it creates a bit of a funnelling effect here between the mountains. It's a very reliable wind and it's definitely a little bit on the stronger end, so it's considered to be a windier event on the circuit," he said. "Many of the other venues, especially in the summer, have lighter winds.

"The wind tends to shift so it changes direction more than out on the ocean. There's more land (around) the lake, so it tends to have some oscillations."

The WSA formed in 2009 and has quickly found its groove, Hebert said. After hosting trial events for the provincial body, they were welcomed onto BCSailing's official circuit as one of eight stops.

Hebert is honoured to be part of it all.

"It's an indication of the maturity of the organization. We're still a very young organization in Whistler," he said. "We approached BCSailing and offered to host an event, so they give you a trial and see how well you do with it and how well it's run.

"Right off the bat, even after the first event, it was quite successful and the kids really enjoyed sailing here in Whistler. From there, we got onto the circuit. They were looking for an extra event and we took the opportunity."

In addition to the club's recent revival, 2016 also marks the 50th anniversary of the first organized sailing on the lake, as the Alta Lake Sailing Club was formed in 1966.

"It was active for about 15 years or so and then it kind of tapered off. The club folded in the '80s and there was more of a windsurfing era on the lake," said Hebert. "We restarted the sailing club around 2009 and we've been growing ever since."

While there won't be any official recognition of the milestone, Hebert reasoned the best way to mark it is with a weekend of great competition.

For more, visit the WSA website at www.whistlersailing.com.

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