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Tuesday, March 28, 2023
NOTL sailors place third at Shark World Championships
From left: Laurel Gordon, Rod Gardner, Eileen Quigley, Jinnie Gordon, Rob Vanderperk and David Deboy in Bregenz Austria at the World Shark Championship. Supplied

Crews used loaner boats, battled fierce Austrian weather

Two sailors from Niagara-on-the-Lake placed third at the Shark World Championships last weekend in Bregenz, Austria, despite some wicked weather.

Racers Rod Gardner and David Deboy sailed their way to the podium late last week with crewmate John Brunt. 

“You’re dealing with Mother Nature when you’re racing,” Gardner said in an interview. 

“We had four seasons in a day,” he added.

On the final day of races the sailors were hit with a swell of wind as they neared the finish line.

“There was a lot of chaos going on,” Gardner said adding that many of the boats behind theirs were wiped out by the wind. 

NOTL Sailing Club member Rob Vanderperk and his team placed a close fourth behind Gardner’s crew.

“We lost one point on the very final race,” Vanderperk told The Lake Report, adding they hadn’t expected to do as well as they did. 

Jinnie and Laurel Gordon were also there sailing with their friend Eileen Quigley and finished 20th out of 42 teams. 

Gordon has been competing in these championships for almost 20 years with an all-female team.

“My team being a lighter-weight crew and being all women, we often struggle with heavier conditions,” Gordon said.

They were pleased with their performance and happy they weren’t wiped out in the wind like many of their competitors were, she said.

Adapting to the adverse conditions of foreign waters is no easy feat but the sailors agreed that it’s made easier by the ties of camaraderie.

“Starts with a friendship,” Gardner said, adding that he’s been sailing with Deboy for six or seven years.

Gardner described sailing as “a family sport that I do with my children (and) my partner.”

After a lifetime on the water, Gardner said he is still sailing with the friends he started with at age 10.

For the world championships, the Canadians were not able to use their own craft and were loaned boats for the races.

Gardner estimates it would have cost about $24,000 to get one boat there and back again.

European Sharks are slightly different from those at the NOTL Sailing Club and that can present challenges for sailors.

“You’re having to adapt how you do things because of the way that the boat is laid out,” Gardner said.

The water, land, and weather conditions are different at every race, and adapting to them is a crucial part of a sailor’s success, he said.

“The more Mother Nature throws at me the bigger the rush I get.” 

For Gardner, sailing is like chess on water, adding that you get better with age.

In sailing, “you can win a world championship in your 80s,” Gardner said. 

It just takes strategy and experience, he added.

Gardner is 54 now and still aspires to win a world championship.

Peter Van Rossum of the Kingston Yacht Club led a crew to second place this year and Olympic sailor Christian Binder led a team from Austria to first.

Gardner described the top placing crews as being in a “league of their own.”

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