Sailors from Niagara-on-the-Lake are testing new waters and catching fresh wind this week.
Rob Vanderperk was the last to catch his flight when he left NOTL Saturday morning on his way to Bregenz, Austria, to compete in the World Shark Championships.
The competition pits Shark against Shark and brings 43 different teams together from all over the world for a series of tough races.
Seven teams will be competing from Canada – and three of them are from Niagara.
The Shark was engineered to be crewed by three people. It’s quick, durable and affordable, making it a favourite for people who are still learning the sport.
It was originally designed by George Hinterhoeller and Gordon Brinsmead in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Hinterhoeller was the first commodore of the NOTL Sailing Club after helping to establish it in 1964.
So, it is somewhat suitable that the town is represented at the competition by six competitors from the NOTL Sailing Club.
Vanderperk will be competing with teammates Cameron Smith and Chris Russell, whom he originally met in Montreal.
He describes his team as “friends, racing together and competing and having fun.”
They will be crewing the Toga Party! at this week’s regatta.
“I'm looking forward to racing amongst the Austrian mountains,” Vanderperk said prior to his departure.
He will face stiff competition in Austria from fellow NOTLers Rod Gardner and David Deboy, who will be crewing the Devil with a Blue Dress, as well as from Jinnie Gordon, her sister Laurel and friend Eileen Quigley.
They will be crewing the Red Dwarf and make up the competition’s only team composed completely of NOTL sailors.
Jinnie Gordon has been captain of an all-woman crew aboard the Red Dwarf since purchasing the boat in 1999.
This will be the fifth time she’s raced in Europe at the Shark World Championships.
“The sport of sailing has traditionally been male-dominated,” Gordon said.
“I wanted to share my experiences and help other women to also grow in the sport,” she added.
Gordon speaks highly of the support and mentorship she’s received from the NOTL Sailing Club.
As a former coach for the club’s Learn to Sail program, Vanderperk can speak directly to the club’s investment in the development of young sailors.
“I learned how to sail as a junior sailor and then I took my instructor courses and got certified as an instructor and then got a job coaching the junior sailing program,” he said.
The club tends to hire coaches that have come up through the junior sailing program.
Vanderperk describes it as a cycle where junior sailors stay and grow with the club long enough to coach the next generation of sailors.
The World Shark Championships is an annual competition and while this year’s regatta is in Austria, next year’s will be held in NOTL.
Gardner is the chief organizer for next year’s competition.
The sailors will be returning to NOTL on Sept. 20, just in time for the Homecomers Regatta on the 24th, which will host racers from all over southern Ontario.
Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report