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Life in the splash lane

What’s the riskiest stretch of road in Sudbury? Answer: The Paris Street hill.

Between May and October hundreds of motorists take their eyes off the road to admire the incomparable view of the Sudbury Yacht Club and Lake Ramsey beyond it. They have been tempting peril in this manner since 1958.

The annual ritual of installing club docks in the spring and hauling them out at Thanksgiving is as much a part of the seasonal rhythm of the community as the arrival and departure of robins. Yet most Sudburians have never visited the SYC, nor is it widely known our community has a rich sailing heritage.

The words “yacht club” conjure up a vision of monocles, cocktails, and condescending company.  Nothing could be further removed from the down-to-earth family atmosphere on Blueberry Island.  Although it is a private club, the SYC is also a not-for-profit organization. Fees are pitched just high enough to cover annual expenses. Anyone can join regardless of whether he or she owns a boat or knows how to sail.

The membership includes keen racers, family cruisers, arm-chair sailors who like to read in Muskoka chairs, and those who enjoy just “messing about in boats.”

If Sudbury is the only city in Canada built around a lake, it must also be the only city with such a convenient, affordable, and outstanding recreational asset right in the heart of the community.

Pedestrians on the Jim Gordon Walkway are often treated to the exciting summer spectacle of Lasers or Y-Flyers, the two main dinghy fleets, racing around the markers for weekly and seasonal bragging rights.  Occasionally the field is more crowded: this occurs during one of the several regattas – local, national, and international – which are held throughout the summer.

Competitors from Canadian and American clubs make the trip to Sudbury; in the early 1990s a team came a very long way: from the Royal Bombay Yacht Club in Mumbai.

And Sudbury Yacht Club members also maintain an active competitive schedule throughout the province and beyond. There is a burgeoning junior sail team, while more senior members have represented Sudbury at regattas throughout the United States and Europe.

In 2010 the club will be the venue for the Ontario Summer Games sailing competition.
Sailing on Lake Ramsey can be challenging. Winds bounce unpredictably off the banks and islands; shoals may be the allies of the pickerel fishers, but they are an anathema to sailors. Still, there is nothing quite so wonderful as a well-trimmed sail, a warm summer wind, and the spray from a conquered wave.

In 1958 the founders of the club, among them Louis Fabbro, Alex Fournier and Art Townend, saw an opportunity to convert a rocky outcrop known as Blueberry Island into a peninsula.

The trees, lawns and shoreline they cultivated have grown into the friendly, inner-city oasis we know today.

Members of the club are proud that the volunteer hours they have spent grooming the property have figured in the wedding albums of three generations of Sudburians.  They are proud, as well, of their efforts to promote the exciting and “green” sport of sailing through the SYC Sailing School, club participation in innumerable community initiatives and fundraisers, and a welcoming spirit.

The Sudbury Yacht Club is definitely worth a visit.  To find out more about the club either stop by or take a tour at  www.syclub.com.

About the writer: Rick Cooper is a member of the Sudbury Yacht Club. He is an English professor at Cambrian College.

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