By JEREMIAH LINK
Sharks have been spotted racing on the south shores of Lake Ontario, the 24-foot Shark sailboats that is.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club (NOLSC) hosted the Homecomers Regatta Sept. 26 weekend, in the birthplace of the famous sailboat.
The year’s final Canadian Shark Class Association (CSCA) Counter Regatta is a two-day event consisting of 23 skilled sailing teams, spanning seven exciting races exclusive to the Shark. The team sailing on the boat Tiger Niles, consisting of Peter Aker, Jeff Mitchell and David O’Sullivan, triumphed finishing first overall in the regatta. Bedlam managed to snag second place followed closely by Devil With a Blue Dress in third.
“The races this weekend were good for us,” says Aker. “We ended up having a good strong day yesterday (Saturday) with some very challenging windy conditions. We had two firsts and two thirds going in for the day. Fortunately for us, in spite of having one bad race, we still ended up winning the last race and that consolidated it for us.” Aker is president of the International Shark Class Association and crewed on the winning boat, Tiger Niles.
The regatta, appropriately named for being held where the Shark was first built, will always have a special connection with NOTL. The Sharks migrate back to their original stomping ground to race.
George Hinterhoeller, boat designer, builder, and NOLSC founding member, set out to innovate the sailing industry by creating a boat that was lightweight, could sail fast and be relatively easy to navigate. This is exactly what he achieved when inventing the Shark, which originated from Hinterhoeller’s first design the Teeter-Totter.
“The Shark was designed in the late 50’s by George Hinterhoeller and he built the Sharks at his Hinterhoeller Yacht Shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” says Aker. “So every year, for as long as I can remember, the Sharks have had an annual regatta inviting all the Shark competitors back home, where the Sharks were built, to compete.”
After Hinterhoeller’s creation proved its exceptional functionality, many sailors desired one of their own. Now the Shark can be found sailing around the world, with over 2,500 boats in existence.
Jinnie Gordon, the regatta chair and president of the Canadian Shark Class Association, admires the mighty sailing boat.
“The Shark class is the most active one-design keel boat fleet in Ontario, probably in Canada. We’ve got over 100 boats that are actively racing each year. The boats have been around for over 50 years. The Shark’s a great boat to get into. It takes three people to sail. It’s only 24-feet long, it handles all sorts of wind conditions and it also is a lot of fun.”
Whether you are flawlessly gliding over calm waters or battling waves that are stirred by powerful winds, anyone can experience the thrill of sailing. Robert Vanderperk, a competitor in the Shark fleet, explains his experiences.
“I’ve always found sailing a unique sport. It’s kind of like a chess match when it comes to the racing side. It’s always nice to get out on the water and enjoy the sun and go for a nice sail.”
There are sailing opportunities for all ages in the Shark 24 fleet.
“Over the past few years the Shark class has seen many youth teams choosing the Shark,” says James Gardner, a NOLSC head instructor and competitor. “Particularly notable is the fact that we have a lot of young sailors out competing. We have a number of boats consisting of racers under the age of 25 out on the water today. So it’s great to see youth involved.”
“It’s a really nice community,” says first-year instructor Georgina Gardner. “They are really nice people, the Shark fleet, and it’s really nice to be able to race with them.”
The NOLSC, accredited by Sail Canada, offers a not for profit youth and adult learn-to-sail courses throughout the spring and summer.
“It’s called CANSail,” says Joe Salter, a former white sail instructor. “We hold Thursday night races for the kids on dinghies that are a lot smaller and easier for them to learn on.”
The Youth CANSail program, for children ages nine and up, has six stages ranging from beginner to advanced. For more information on sailing visit niagarasailing.on.ca.