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UVic sails to victory at match racing national championship


February 29, 2024

VICTORIA – Wrapping-up the final leg of the 2023-24 sailing season, the University of Victoria sailing club cruised to victory to become national champions at the Canadian Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s National Keelboat Match Racing Championship from Feb 22-25, 2024.

According to University of Victoria sailor Nathan Lemke, teamwork, tactics, and strategy are the key ingredients to making a good sailing team. The combination of the three, along with a group of talented athletes is what led the UVic sailing team to winning their second national banner of the season.

Hosted by the UVic sailing club in partnership with the prestigious Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, two competitive UVic teams battled it out for three days against programs from across the nation, with UVic 1, led by skipper Alexander Heinzemann, emerging victorious.

The UVic sailing club provides an opportunity for high-level dinghy racing at the university level and compete as a member of the Canadian Intercollegiate Sailing Association (CICSA) and Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) throughout the school year, attending regattas all over North America. They also host an annual regatta at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.

Following a win at the CICSA Keelboat National Championship last fall in Toronto, the UVic sailing team is proving to be one of the country’s best, and for good reason.

“A lot of people grew up sailing here, so the pool of students is amazing,” said UVic sailing club member Ethan Lowenthal. “The club is composed mostly of people who just want to get out on the water and sail or learn to sail, but our racing team is made up of people already in the competitive racing world.”

Leading the team to two championship wins this season is Pan American Games bronze medalist Heinzemann, a former Canadian national team member. Other members of the winning team were Sean Bazzocchi and Maya Gray. UVic 2 was led by Lemke at skipper alongside teammates Maclain Walsworth and Megan Hamilton.

UVic Sailing
UVic 2 battling it out at the national match racing championships

Annually, the UVic racing team competes in team, fleet, keelboat and match racing national championships, as well as various other regattas and cup races.

On Feb. 22-25, UVic played host to the national match racing championship for the first time—a vast undertaking led by Lowenthal and Lemke with the help of a team from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. With 12 teams competing, the event was eight months in the making, requiring not only a large team of people to make it happen but also volunteers from across North America.

“The weekend went really well, and the weather turned out better than forecasted. It was inspiring to see the response of the sailing community who came out to support the event,” said Lowenthal.

Volunteers from the sailing community came from as far as California, Arizona and New York, to help with the event.

What is match racing?

Imagine match racing as a captivating chess match on water. Unlike traditional fleet racing, where numerous boats compete simultaneously, match racing involves a head-to-head duel between two sailboats. The objective is simple: outsmart your opponent and cross the finish line first.

Each match race typically lasts around 15-20 minutes, and the racecourse is marked by a series of buoys that the boats weave through, navigating wind shifts and tidal currents to gain an advantage.

One unique aspect of match racing is the pre-start maneuvering, a phase where strategic prowess is key. The boats engage in a cat-and-mouse game, jockeying for position and attempting to force their opponent into a less favourable spot on the starting line. This phase often sets the tone for the entire race, as a well-executed start can provide a significant advantage.

What’s next?

Next up, UVic racers are preparing to host the Sea to Sky regatta in partnership with the University of British Columbia from Match 18-19 at the Victoria Yacht Club.