Alta states 

Kelly Hand – Investing heart and soul into the Whistler community

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She says she learned tons as a coach. "Patience, empathy, leadership, psychology, team work - it takes so many talents to make a good coach. As an athlete you're way more one-dimensional. As a coach you can't help but see the world as a complex place."

Which, in the end, is what convinced her to return to racing. "I thought I could apply some of the lessons I'd learned as a coach," she says. She lets escape another long sigh. "You know, strategic and tactical stuff... but technical too. Did you know, for example, that the Yngling has 25 different controls? There are so many things that you can tweak and adjust and change on these Olympic-class boats. I mean, experience really counts for something in this sport."

As does fundraising and team management. And for the young racer-cum-team-manager, it was all too much too quickly. And then she met Mike.

"At first we were just friends," she says of the legendary bar manager she met in the spring of 2006. "And that was fine with me." One of the resort's best-loved bon-vivants , Varrin wasn't particularly looking for a long-term date either. But the gods had other plans. "I came back from an utterly disastrous campaign in Europe and Mike immediately whisked me to a friend's fishing lodge up the coast." She sighs happily. "It was magical."

The budding romance didn't do anything for her sailing though. And by the next spring, she knew it was over. "It just wasn't happening," she says. "Lots of bad luck. Lots of roadblocks. So I decided to cut the cord." But it wasn't that straightforward. "It was really, really hard," she admits. "Lots of tears. Lots of soul searching. But in the end I knew it was the right decision. We definitely felt like we'd pushed it to the limit."

Meanwhile, Hand had completed an undergraduate degree at Kings College in Halifax and was looking for a new challenge. "I was working for a friend in the city, getting my feet under me so to speak, when I saw the job posting at Origin Design & Communications and I thought to myself: 'Why not?' I was already dating Mike and here was this chance to work and live at Whistler. I was at a point in my life where I was ready for something entirely new."

It's a decision she's never regretted. "I'm a small town girl and Vancouver was just too big and busy for me. I couldn't connect there. It's different at Whistler. It feels right. Like meeting people and feeling you're part of a group going in the same direction. Know what I mean? There's a real community here - and I feel like I'm part of it now."

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