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Helen Hodgson on the 2022 Sail Canada Women's Keelboat Championships

by David Schmidt 5 Jul 08:00 PDT August 6, 2022
Women's Keelboat Championships © Sail Canada

There are few things finer than watching well-polished and well-choreographed teams sailing at a high level of competition. If this sounds like your cup of tea, be sure to check out the 2022 edition of Sail Canada Women's Keelboat Championships (SCWKC; August 19-21), which is being organized by Sail Canada and hosted by the Hudson Yacht Club (HYC), in Hudson, Quebec.

Racing will take place on the Lake of Two Mountains, near the HYC’s harbor, and it will consist of windward-leeward races that will drill-down on each team’s level of preparation and skill.

The 2022 SCWKC is open to teams that consist of at least three women (Canadian-flagged teams have different requirement; see NOR for details). Teams will contest the regatta in J/22s, however these can be privately owned or borrowed or charted boats.

I checked in with Helen Hodgson, regatta director of the 2022 SCWKC, via email, to learn more about this exciting championship-level regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about Sail Canada Women's Keelboat Championships (SCWKC), its history and culture, and the kinds of teams and sailors that one can expect to find here?

The event usually attracts a wide age-group, from young women to more mature sailors. I was part of the organizing committee when it was last held at the Hudson Yacht Club in Quebec in 2011. The atmosphere around the event is very friendly with everyone determined to have a good time besides sailing well.

Several of my fellow women sailors have taken part in several of these championships, and they have many wonderful stories of the good times experienced.

What kinds of numbers and interest levels are you seeing ahead of the 2022 (SCWKC), compared with previous editions? Do you think this is magnified by the fact that the 2021 event was postponed?

As you can imagine, the past few years have been a challenge. Hudson was supposed to host the 2017 event. However, Quebec experienced a major flood that year and the club property was completely inundated. The clubhouse was badly damaged so even when the water receded it was out of the question to host the event.

Lunenburg Yacht Club (Nova Scotia) came to the rescue. Mimico Cruising Club (Ontario) held the 2018 event. Hudson attempted to host again in 2019 but this event was cancelled due to a lack of registrations and it was postponed until 2020. Of course, COVID had other plans and continued to affect the event until this year.

Rather than magnifying participation, I think we are still on our back foot. I know of several crews having difficulty getting their sailing act together.

What kinds of on-the-water racing can attending skippers expect? Are we talking about mostly windward-leeward racing, or will the regatta also run races that use the islands or geographical points as turning marks?

The races are usually a windward-leeward set up. The club is on the Lake of Two Mountains, which is not very wide. To sail using islands and geographic markers presents awkward courses. The islands near the club have shoals that would make this dangerous. With windward-leeward racing we can usually set up a decent length course.

Are there any new additions or important changes to the 2022 regatta, compared to previous editions?

There is no plan to change up the format. There is a training day on Friday followed by a weekend of racing. There is a regatta dinner and some entertainment included. The registration process has been streamlined through Sail Canada, which makes management of this aspect easier for the hosting club.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on the Ottawa River in mid-August? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Mid-August on the Lake of Two Mountains is a challenge for racing. We are often plagued with hot, windless days. So sailors could be facing long, hot, still days waiting on the wind.

On the other hand, it can be pretty brisk out there. We have high hopes for great wind.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

Plan to take a couple days longer than the regatta. Hudson is a very pretty town and in recent years several excellent restaurants have opened. So much so that we are attracting visitors from Montreal making the 40 kilometer (25 miles) trip.

What about onshore entertainment? What can sailors look forward to once the finishing guns have gone silent each day?

There is a casual buffet dinner planned on Friday evening. No additional entertainment other than crews meeting and getting to know each other.

Saturday evening has music and a regatta dinner. A more formal affair with dancing if the participants are not too exhausted.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made over the last year or two to further green-up the regatta and make it an even more sustainable event?

Hudson Yacht Club has been hosting a major youth training regatta (The Fruitbowl) in July for the past 25 years. Sail Central at Hudson Yacht Club Fruitbowl is a not-to-be-missed event for very young sailors. The regatta consists of two days of training with top level coaches and two days of racing. Over 200 sailors take part. It got this name from the start when it was a very small event organized by a Junior Sailing instructor. He gathered teams from around the lake for a fun training and racing event. The prizes consisted of pineapples. Hence, the Fruitbowl.

For several years we have been focusing on getting greener. We have eliminated plastic water bottles and plastic in individual lunches. We have moved registration to on-line saving much paper in the administration of the event.

These techniques are being used for any event at the club.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

I thank you for your interest. The club is very excited to be back to a full schedule. People are stoked to be living a near-normal life.

Editor’s Note: Hodgson reports that the 2022 Sail Canada Women's Keelboat Championships is struggling to attract enough entries to hold the event. As a result, we are running this piece early, with an eye towards encouraging any teams that are on the fence to commit and submit their entry forms so that this event can unfurl as planned. For more information, and to register, please visit:

www.sailing.ca/events/sail-canada-womens-keelboat-championships

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