Royal Hamilton Yacht Club prepares for national championships

From ice to water.

First it was the just completed Brier for the men’s national curling championships, now the Canadian Yachting Association’s National Sailing Championships is coming to Hamilton. Mind you, it will be a few months yet (August) until the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club will host the major event that is expected to attract 300 of Canada’s best youth and adult sailors.

From August 9-15, the waters of Hamilton Harbour will challenge the skills of sailors from across Canada racing in Optimist, Byte, Byte CII, Laser, Laser Radial, Club 420, Hobie 16, and Neil Pryde RS:X classes. And a coup for the RHYC will be the first-ever Open National Championship Regatta. Racers will complete within their fleet (boat class) but the races will be open to all age groups.
The week will be divided into two competitions – the Open National and the Youth National Championship Regatta which will be used as a qualifier for the National Youth Sailing Team.

The Hamilton club, at the foot of MacNab Street North, began preparing its bid for the Canadian championships about three years ago, said co-chair Colin Jacobs at a press conference on Thursday (March 15) to official announce the event. “We were chosen for a number of reason, including past performance and our facilities.”

Regatta chair Paul Vayda said the RHYC has staged several major events for classes of sailboats, including the Europe World Championships, the Canadian Optimist Championships, and the first Cornish Hen Regatta which combined able-bodied and disabled sailors racing together.

This summer’s event will also include the involvement of the Hamilton Port Authority, Bronte Habour YC, Oakville YC, Port Credit YC, Etobicoke YC, Mimico YC, Canadian Olympic Regatta Kingston, Brig Inflatable Boats, Hamilton area high schools, and Sport Hamilton, all of whom will provide volunteers and/or equipment.

For the Open Championships, three courses will be in use while the Youth event will employ two courses on the harbour. The event goes rain or shine, and only very high winds and lightning will delay races, said Vayda.

A feature during the event will be the Hamilton Harbour Queen boat. During the races, spectators can purchase a $30 ticket (which includes a lunch) and watch the races from the craft for four hours. Viewing the races from Hamilton’s shoreline is free.

Looking forward to competing at her own club for a national title will be 17-year-old Emily Hill. The Westdale high school student has just returned from Sydney, Australia where she was competing as part of Canada’s entry at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.

“We finished 10th out of 10, it was a very good learning experience. There were some extremely good sailors,” said Hill who began racing at the age of nine. “We were together as a team for three months and they had been together for two years.”

Hill said racing is a very demanding sport that requires great upper body strength and endurance.

“It’s not just sitting in a boat sipping on a cocktail… not that I would,” quipped the sailor who has competed internationally and won the Canadian Youth crown in the Byte fleet last year. She was also the first female to compete in the North American Byte Championships last year and placed fifth.

In addition to Hill, the RYHC has produced a number of successful youth sailors. Greg Clunies was second in the Laser Radial class at last year’s national finals in Edmonton; Morgan Megarry took second last year and in 2005 in the Optimist fleet championships in Vancouver, and competed at the world event in Uruguay; David Broe and Todd Ulbinud were first in the 29er class; Clunies was first in the Byte fleet, and Cory van Schie was fourth in the Byte at the 2005 Canadian Youth finals in St. John, N.B.; Cassandra Laman and Liam McAuley raced at the North American Optimist Championships in Tobago in 2005; and Jessica Broe Vayda and Roslyn Dakin raced in the 420 class at the World Youth Championships in France in 2001.

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