A pair of young sailors from Sooke have set a course to compete in the B.C. Summer Games.
Finn Unger, a Grade 10 student at Edward Milne Community School and member of the leadership class, and Grade 9 student Vincent Magdziarz have qualified for the Games, which take place in Prince George in July.
The 15-year-olds, who became friends through their involvement with sailing, will represent lower Vancouver Island in the division 6 competition.
Although the pair have only been sailing together for a year with the Sooke Sailing Association, they will be the first ever from Sooke to compete in sailing events at the Games.
In the past, it has been primarily competitors from larger established sailing clubs along the east coast of the Island, like the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, that made it to the Games.
The lads have undergone a baptism by weather to qualify, including racing in what Unger described as “crazy but totally doable winds” off of Kitsilano on the day a tornado descended on Vancouver and passed through English Bay.
The challenging conditions may have been surpassed during qualifications for the Games in the Victoria area, where winds gusted up to 75 knots per hour.
“We capsized five times,” Unger recalled. “We were wet and cold, but we righted our boat each time and kept going because we wanted to finish, place, and qualify.”
Only three of 14 boats in the race finished.
”We were very proud to finish, and we finished in a very Sooke way. We didn’t give up, we kept on going, and we made it happen,” Unger said.
Unger said he was drawn to the sport because he enjoys communing with nature out on the water, and it’s been interesting finding out how the boat functions.
“Sooke Sailing Club isn’t a fancy club, but it’s a feisty club,” said Magdziarz, who’s been involved with sailing during his four years with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. “One thing I like is that unpredictability. As soon as you get in the boat, you don’t know how the day will end, and that’s cool.”
The boys’ home base is a shipping container in a gravel parking lot at the marina and shipbuilding site on West Coast Road off Ella Beach.
“Our boats are OK, but not top of the line,” Magdziarz said. “We didn’t have a spinnaker, that third sail that catches the wind on the last leg of the race to push you over the finish line, so our learning curve will be steep in the next few months.”
Although participating in the B.C. Summer Games is a great honour, but it’s also an expensive proposition.
The pair’s budget to participate in the event, including the cost of a spinnaker sail, newer used boats, gear, training, and transportation, is about $25,000.
Following a presentation to council, the District of Sooke recently issued a grant of $5,000 to the Sooke Sailing Association toward the boys’ expenses.
“That will definitely help out,” Unger said. “But we still have a way to go.”
Both boys said they are grateful for council’s donation and the way the community has stepped up to help them. They are approaching local businesses and organizations for assistance as well.
Anyone who would like to help them reach their target for funding can call 250-881-0502, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the Sooke Sailing Club’s Facebook page for more information.