Two young sailors from Sooke set sail to compete in the BC Summer Games.
Finn Unger, a Grade 10 student at Edward Milne Community School and a member of the leadership class, and Vincent Magdziarz, a Grade 9 student, have qualified for the Games, which will be held in Prince George in July.
The 15-year-olds, who have bonded through their involvement in 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 from Sooke to compete in sailing events at the Games.
In the past, it has mainly been competitors from major sailing clubs established along the east coast of the island, such as the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, who have traveled to the Games.
The guys underwent a weather baptism to qualify, including racing in what Unger described as ‘crazy but totally doable winds’ off Kitsilano the day a tornado touched down on Vancouver and crossed Français Bay.
The harsh conditions may have been overcome during qualifying for the Games in regional Victoria, where winds were blowing up to 75 knots per hour.
“We capsized five times,” recalls Unger. “We were wet and cold, but we righted our boat every time and kept going because we wanted to finish, place and qualify.”
Only three of the 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 just kept going and we got through it,” Unger said.
Unger said he was drawn to the sport because he likes to commune with nature on the water, and it was interesting to find out how the boat works.
“The Sooke Sailing Club is not a fancy club, but it is a spirited club,” said Magdziarz, who was involved in sailing during his four years with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. “One thing I love is that unpredictability. As soon as you get in the boat, you don’t know how the day is going to 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 decent, 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.”
While participating in the BC Summer Games is a great honor, it is also an expensive proposition.
The couple’s budget to compete in the event, including the cost of a spinnaker sail, new used boats, equipment, training and transportation, is around $25,000.
Following a presentation to council, the District of Sooke recently awarded a $5,000 grant to the Sooke Sailing Association for the boys’ expenses.
“It will definitely help,” Unger said. “But we still have a long way to go.”
Both boys said they were grateful for the council’s donation and how the community stepped up to help them. They are also approaching local businesses and organizations for help.
Anyone interested in helping them reach their fundraising goal can call 250-881-0502 or email [email protected]
Check the Sooke Sailing Club Facebook page for more information.