Old Town pond sailors brave weather for regatta

Click on the slideshow above to view captions.Photos: Bill Braden.

Heavy rain that threatened to swamp the fifth annual Old Town Pond Sailors Regatta stopped long enough Saturday evening for 31 captains to launch their vessels from the Government Dock.

Despite serious challenges from some sleek vessels, there were no surprise winners. Boats designed and built by Anthony Foliot and Larry Jones took the top three places, as they have in most of the previous regattas.

It was a disappointing result for Stephan Folkers, who developed a reputation in previous regattas for “boats that were cute but didn’t sail.” Folkers put together the Cohiba, a sleek, metre-long hull of cedar and varnish salvaged from the dump, with a shelf bracket for the keel and rudder and the remains of a tent for the sails.

“I had it out on the water this afternoon and it goes like snot,” Folkers said before the race.

Foliot started the regatta as “a fun event that encourages families work together, and fosters a sense of accomplishment that can’t be duplicated by a high-tech gadget or game.”

Regatta rules prohibit electronic controls on the boats. Skippers must set the sails and rudders according to their best estimate of the wind. Once the boats leave the dock, there is no turning back for adjustment.

Despite sea trials, Folkers got it wrong. The Cohiba started smartly, heading for the finish line in the lee of Jolliffe Island, but then turned into the brisk southwest breeze and headed for Hay River.

Gauging the wind before the race, Larry Jones made last minute adjustments to the sails on Ducky ll and Cat and Mole, the vessels he built over the winter with his grandsons Ashley and Kym.

“I think we need more sail area for these light winds, but I’m within six square inches of what these hulls can take without capsizing,” Jones said. The designs are based on the hulls of Americas Cup winners of years past, scaled down, and lofted by Jones. The boys planed, sanded and painted the hulls laminated from boards found beside the road.

Not everyone went to such lengths. Yellowknife city councillor Dan Wong was at the dump when spied a likely piece of plastic foam in the approximate shape of a boat. Mast and sails were taped in place. “It took 45 minutes and a case of beer to motivate us through the project,” said Wong, who watched his creation turn turtle at the dock.

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