Victoria Day RegattaGrand Bend Yacht ClubRiver Road(519) 238-6676Saturday May 19 to Monday May 21Sunday racing cancelled due to weather.Monday racing (10 a.m.)Story and photos by Casey Lessard“Sailing is not a sport; it’s a way of life.”Bill Newton should know; this is his 40th season at the Grand Bend Yacht Club, and there’s no stopping the Grand Bend resident.“You’ll never find anything more relaxing than sailing,” he says. “The

Put some wind in your sails this long weekend

Victoria Day Regatta
Grand Bend Yacht Club
River Road
(519) 238-6676
Saturday May 19 to Monday May 21

Sunday racing cancelled due to weather.
Monday racing (10 a.m.)

Story and photos by Casey Lessard

“Sailing is not a sport; it’s a way of life.”
Bill Newton should know; this is his 40th season at the Grand Bend Yacht Club, and there’s no stopping the Grand Bend resident.
“You’ll never find anything more relaxing than sailing,” he says. “The lack of motor noise and the lap of the water on the side of your hull. Adjusting your sails to get the most out of your boat. It’s always a challenge to go faster than the next boat. If you think of a sailboat doing seven or eight knots, that would be equivalent to a car doing 100-120 miles an hour, versus one knot less 60 or 70. It’s like the difference between a racecar and a slow car.”
The Grand Bend Yacht Club is dedicated to racing, and anyone interested in the sport should make the trip to the dock this weekend for the Victoria Day regatta. Saturday’s Commodore’s brunch (members only) is followed by a sail past salute just after noon. Races run Sunday and Monday starting at 10 a.m. weather permitting.
While not guaranteed, you might earn your sea legs much like Newton did those many years ago.
“I was 17 and in the air cadets and I was coming back from the Toronto Island airport from a session flying, and I was out at one of the yacht clubs. Somebody yelled out, ‘Where’s my crew? Anybody here who can crew?’ I had never been on a boat before, but of course, I said, ‘Yeah, I can crew.’ He invited me on his boat and it took about two seconds for him to realize I don’t know anything about sailing, but he sort of liked my courage and asked me to come back to sail for the rest of the season.”
Commodore Tom Quigley suggests interested rookies should contact him before trying to catch a ride.
“In our club, you have to be a boat owner. There are people who are here who go racing every week and are looking for crew. But we can’t accommodate everybody. It’s a good way to get some experience; email me and if there are people looking for crew we can link you up with them.”
After his early experiences, Bill Newton moved to Grand Bend in 1968, joining the club with its 28 slips – one for each member. The club now has 52 slips for 35 full members.
“When I joined we didn’t have a clubhouse,” he says, “so what you see behind you is what we call our overnight success that took 25 years. We couldn’t get a mortgage for it, so all the money for it came from our members.”
You don’t need to take out a mortgage to become a sailor; Newton says someone bought a boat last year for $2000. The cost can go much higher. After some prying, he says he’s invested more than $100,000.
“We encourage first-time boat owners to crew on other boats. It gives them confidence on the racecourse. We have a summer school for sailing. We are really trying to encourage young people to learn how to sail; not only the technique but also the safety.”
“Our idea is to promote the sport of racing and sailboats,” says Quigley. “We have racing every Sunday in the spring and fall and a few other races in the summer.”
“If you can always keep in mind it’s got to be fun,” Newton says, “and have respect for the water. Learn how to interpret the weather and wind conditions so you don’t get in trouble. That can take a lifetime of learning. What direction the winds are coming from will determine what kind of day you will have.”
“It’s quite exhilarating,” Quigley adds. “It’s something you have to experience to appreciate it.”

How to watch the regatta
Advice from Anne Bannister
Race official since 2001 Canada Summer Games

Best place to stand: On the pier
If the wind is favourable, you can see the race very well. If the winds are unfavourable, you won’t see anything.

Bring: Binoculars
We’re very willing to explain to people what’s going on. The only thing is that people can’t talk to us during countdown because we’re very focused on that.

Victoria Day regatta: we set our rules so that if nobody makes it to the first mark within an hour, the race is over. You also have to finish within 30 minutes of your first class finisher or you’re disqualified.

Everybody races against each other, but the person who comes across first doesn’t necessarily win. It goes back to the computer and the computer decides based on the rating who won. We also have some one-design racing here, which is the shark fleet; in that case, the first person across the line wins.
The start sequence is a series of flags and signals. You cannot go over the line early or you’ll be called back. Time over distance is how it’s measured.
We have four racing classes here. So we usually have three starts at every race. It’s fun to watch. We have a rolling start the first time, which means it’s one-two-three, all in a row. Flags go up that signal people what class is going, what course they’re going to be doing. We do the countdown over the radio with a pier start so that everybody hears it. Then we finish them from the pier, or in a perfect world, we have a committee boat go out into the middle of the course and start them out there.