Photos by Catherine Goce

The beginning of the school year means regatta season is here for the McMaster Sailing team. This past weekend, they hosted Ontario university sailing teams at the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club for two days of sailing fun.

Organized by team president Caroline Murdoch, the regatta gives the team a chance to get much-needed competitive practice before nationals. At last year's nationals the team came in third overall, but this year their eye is on the prize.

The first regatta of the year was hosted by Wilfred Laurier University. Being that it took place prior to McMaster’s annual ClubsFest, only experienced Mac sailors competed.

[spacer height="20px"]“It went really well. We came in first place,” said Murdoch. “It was more of an introductory regatta, just getting people back on the water and getting things ready.”

This weekend, while some members were sailing the west end of Lake Ontario, Joel Millar, a member of both the Ontario and Mac’s team, was representing McMaster at the McGill University regatta. Where he and his partner Abby Brown helped Mac come in fifth place overall.

As McMaster’s regatta is set three weeks into the season, their new sailors were given the opportunity to test the waters. Among the sailors was two-sport athlete Bridget Webster, and her new sailing partner Bryson Dell.

The pair led the pack in their races, helping McMaster stay on top. For Webster, who also plays hockey on the McMaster women’s team, balancing the fall and winter sports is not as hard as it may seem.

[spacer height="20px"]“Even though [hockey] tryouts are during the same time as sailing, by the time we really get into our season, sailing is wrapped up,” Webster explained.

Being able to focus on one sport at a time helped Webster and Dell get first and second place in their races on Saturday at the McMaster Regatta.

“The race was good because the wind was pretty steady at the beginning, but it kind of died down a bit, making it a little difficult just in terms of tactics,” said Dell. “But we did pretty well because we stuck to the left side and tacked up the middle of the course.”

Sailing a lighter boat, it makes it easier for the duo to maneuver in the water, but most importantly to win.

“It's a good feeling to win, so to stay on top we'll try to stay focused on our tactics which worked out for us,” said Dell. “Our boat handling was in sync and pretty smooth for the most part. We were pretty fluid with our movements and if we can keep that up, we should continue to do well.”

Dell, like the majority of McMaster’s team, started sailing when he was young, learning the ropes from his grandfather.

“My grandpa had a boat and sailed for a long time,” said Dell. “So when we were young, we would go out on his boat and I started to learn how to sail, then got into racing. I really like being out on the water because of how refreshing it is, but I also like the mixture of physicality and strategy.”

Though Dell, Murdoch and Webster have been doing this for quite some time, there are opportunities to learn through McMaster sailing. With their “Learn to Sail” program, students can learn from Mac’s sailors once a week everything they need to know for beginner sailing.

Given the nature of the sport, it is hard for spectators to come out and support the Mac team like they can with football or basketball. But their “Learn to Sail” program is a great way for McMaster students to get involved and expand their horizons, and maybe even join the team at nationals one day.

For now, the current McMaster sailing team will continue to attend Ontario regattas in preparation for the sailing nationals at Queens University on Oct. 27-28.

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