August 16, 2012 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Windsong, the Witch & the Optimists 

The renaissance of sailing in Whistler

click to enlarge BY STEVE ANDREWS
  • By Steve Andrews

Despite losing the sun about an hour ago, we still had at least a couple more hours before the sky got dark. The sun's nightly journey from behind the peak of Sproatt to the distant horizon was in full swing. Judging by the colour changing in the wispy horsetail clouds, we would soon be seeing one of the real treats of Whistler — the late evening summer alpenglow.

We were coasting toward the anchorage on the north end of Alta Lake when the evening wind picked up out of nowhere. Our captain, Tory Saarinen, made the call to keep sailing. He asked us if we'd mind, but in reality our opinion didn't matter, nor should it — it's his boat, and his call alone for when to drop the sail and put the anchor away for the day.

As we began to make a southbound tack toward the other end of the lake, a small 15' sail rose on the beach. "Looks like Dad's going out windsurfing... again," Tory said as he pulled the jib out a little further. Like fresh snow in the winter is to snow sliders, good wind and light is the heartbeat of the water riders.

Tory decided to make his way toward the beach so that we could get some close-up photos of his dad ripping by on his windsurfer. As he careens toward us, a distinct "Karooo ca chooooo" belts out over the water. It is the familiar call of the Finn "Finnster" Saarinen, Whistler legend and Tory's father, letting everyone in earshot know the level of his contentment. By the speed at which he was approaching, all could observe the height of his elation.

Finn sped toward us at full sail, the eternal performer knowing that all eyes were on him, anticipating his next move. He got within whispering distance of the boat, letting out a fully energized "Yaarrr!" At that instant we heard a giant "thwack" and a splash, and Finn was submerged.

"It was like a black hole as soon as I got behind your sail! I guess I'm finally getting karma from the wind I stole from all those windsurfers over the years while sailing The Witch," says Finn clambering back up on his board. "Now get the old man a beverage, Yarr!"

The boat we are sailing on is the Windsong, a 20-foot, 1974 Sloop that Tory and his sister purchased about a month ago. She flies two flags — The Maple Leaf and the Jolly Roger — an ideal representation for life in Whistler. Like all boats, this one has a particular personality — low profile, relaxed, and hospitable. She is a welcome addition to Alta Lake's fleet, allowing for the next generation of sailors to revel in the excitement that the afternoon Keg winds can bring.

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