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Learning which way the wind blows at Blackie Spit

Sailing participants in the BC Summer Games had a windy ocean wake-up on Friday at South Surrey's Blackie Spit Park.
Participants get set to kick off Day 1 of Sailing at Surrey's Blackie Spit Park.

You'd think summer on the Pacific coast would be smooth sailing, but participants in the 2012 BC Summer Games Sailing event literally learned otherwise on Friday.

Over 50 eager athletes from teams across the province flocked to White Rock's Blackie Spit Park to begin their two-day, water-logged adventure. The competition is separated into three categories, based on the size of the participant's boat. From smallest to largest, the sailors carefully readied the Optimists, Laser Radicals, and 420s. Undeterred by the morning's rain storm, they sailed off Crescent Beach at 11:30 a.m. and were able to complete two races by 3 p.m.

Friday's large waves were especially harrowing – the wind reached 35 knots, equivalent to 64.8 km/h. Many sailors capsized multiple times due to the extreme weather, and returned to shore early, where they were greeted with a well-deserved lunch.

As he dragged his boat across the sand, 12-year-old athlete Mountain Shen from West Vancouver (Vancouver/Squamish – Zone 5) explained it was too intense to finish his race. Although he said he "likes it more windy... [and] it feels better when it's cold," he lamented that he "didn't wear enough clothes" to prepare for the low temperature.

Sailing at Blackie Spit Park - 2012 BC Summer Games

The tempest didn't seem to faze the Rocky Point Sailing team, hailing from Port Moody (Fraser Valley – Zone 3). Only a few were able to finish their races, but they all remarked that braving the cold and the damp was worth it for the unbeatable adrenaline rush.

Indeed, rain and wind can provide perfect trials for fledgling athletes, who train for most of the year in similarly uncertain conditions.

"That's what you want for a competition of this caliber," said Darren Redies, commodore at the Surrey Sailing Club and overseer of today's competition. "Something to challenge them."

Christie Englouen, adult supervisor from Comox, agreed.

"It's like our saying, if it ain't raining, we ain't sailing," she said.

These intrepid young sailors will return Saturday for three more hours of competition, after which the results will be finalized and the medals awarded.


by Rachel Davidson

(special to Black Press)