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UVic Sailing Club wins Canada-wide competition

UVic Sailing Club wins Canada-wide competition

The student-run team is made up of passionate athletes who love the sport

Photography by Justin Reeves (@justinreeves__).

The future of the UVic Sailing Club looks bright after one of their teams won the National Keelboat Match Racing Championship in late February.

The club operates out of Cadboro Bay and hosts teams from across Canada in the regatta, which took months of preparation on and off the water.

Nathan Lemke is co-president of the UVic Sailing Club. He told Martlet that the club runs a racing team, a junior varsity team (intended for novice, non-competitive sailors), and offers sailing lessons for beginners. “We are trying to generate revenue for the club as well as provide affordable sailing opportunities for UVic students looking to take up the sport,” he said.

Ethan Lowenthal, the club's other co-president, told The Martlet that many club members are involved in sailing outside of club competitions. “Some of the people on our team are Olympic hopefuls – there is one person who is currently competing at the international level,” he said.

Lowenthal said the Canadian Intercollegiate Sailing Association contacted the UVic Sailing Club and asked them to host the tournament. He added that planning the event took just under a year. Lowenthal explained that the regatta had to be held in Vancouver because there are not enough of the same type of boats here to accommodate the national competitors.

“from [there] “We got the ball rolling, got in touch with the yacht club and started preparing.” The club also worked with the Royal Victoria Yacht Club to arrange training with its keel boats.

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UVic and other schools from across Canada are more accustomed to regattas, so winning the keelboat class makes the club stand out. Maya Gray, Social Director of UVic Sailing, explained the difference between this boat and others commonly used in the sport.

“The boat is usually a larger sailboat – one that if it starts to capsize, the keel is weighted and it will allow the boat to pop up again,” she told Martlett. The other type of boat they sail is canoes, which are not as heavy as catamarans and do not have the ability to cope with the force of the wind in the same way.

Sailboat racing isn't as easy as letting the wind carry your sail, Gray added. “You can't go straight and sail around the track and hope to go fast – there's a lot of strategy, and you have to get past the markers at the points.”

Gray said that some of these points are directly exposed to the wind, and the crew must maneuver carefully towards them. “You have to zigzag your way to the top,” she explained. “So, it's not the exact path you should wander down, instead [it’s] Different points you have to get over.”

Keelboat Racing has a “bigger team, a lot more communication going on, a lot more at stake,” said Shawn Bazzocchi, the club’s junior varsity director. Despite the challenge, the club won its first two races. Bazzocchi explained that this is partly because many of the competitive racers on the team already have boating experience before joining the club.

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Sailing is a passion for UVic Sailing members like Gray who has been surrounded by the sport her entire life. “I grew up in a household where it was either sail or be left behind,” she said. Her family embarked on months-long trips and sailed the waters near Bellingham, Washington, where she is from.

It was in high school that Gray joined the sailing team and learned how to race. “It was a big shift – and it's not slow anymore,” she said, adding that there were “a lot of little technical rules, but they opened up a lot of new strategic tactics.” Gray also noted that the popularity of the UVic sailing club was a big factor in her choosing to come here for college.

Bazzochi encourages anyone interested in sailing to give it a try. Classes are scheduled to begin later this spring. As a junior varsity director, he has seen students go from never having sailed before to being confident enough to try racing. “I have a few members now who are going to their first race this week. I'm very excited for them,” he said.

Anyone in the UVic community can try the lessons. To register or for more information, visit

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