A Modern Functional BuildingBy Katherine Stone

A modern, functional building serves this community based club well.

When I was young, I used to love watching westerns on TV.

I think my favourite program was Bonanza. I would rush home after school, get my homework done, clean up the dishes, and then I would watch the ol’ West come alive with those three handsome, funny brothers who thrived on adventure.

At the time, I thought that the adventuresome West - and the pioneers who could handle just about anything thrown their way - was the stuff of make-believe, made for TV and definitely not based in reality; that is, until I heard about what an innovative, creative, and community-based sailing club in Alberta did when they were faced with low water and unable to launch most of their fleet.

The Kitchen Serving AreaThe kitchen serving area is well-equiped and set up for a large crowd

To set the stage, Calgary was named after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. The name Calgary was thought to mean “clear running water”, and the Elbow River running through its southwest quadrant does ring true to this name.

In 1932, the Glenmore (Gaelic for “big valley”) Dam was constructed to control the downstream flow of the river, thereby allowing the city to develop property near the river banks with less flooding. An artificial reservoir was created, providing recreational facilities to fish, row, canoe, and sail. There are also bike trails and pathways looping around the perimeter of the reservoir.

The ClubhouseThe Clubhouse under construction.

Sadly, after extensive flooding in 2005 and 2013, the City of Calgary knew that the ageing dam needed an overhaul to continue to provide clean, safe water to the local communities and handle flood mitigation.

The project, which was estimated to take three to four years, required that the water level in the reservoir be lowered. Maybe not a big problem for some, but for the boaters at Glenmore Sailing Club (GSC), it was a serious blow to the sailing season.

Tim Griggs, Commodore of the GSC, said that their sailing season had been left “high and dry” with the short notice given by the City. Not only would the club be impacted financially, but also it expected to lose some members and not be able to launch the bigger boats. Many of the programs the club was going to initiate this past summer were put on hold.

However, members of GSC decided to make lemonade from their lemons. Just like in the westerns, when hailstorms damaged crops and fires wiped out livestock, these Albertans began to think creatively on how they could continue to bring the joy of sailing to new generations of sailors.

The members decided that if new sailors couldn’t come to them, then the club would go to the sailors. From this decision, the traveling sailing show was born - sharing the members’ passion for sailing by visiting lake communities around the city.

To execute this initiative, $40,000 was raised to purchase the first three 420 sailboats. Then the boats were brought to Family Fun Days and beach parties; people could enjoy watching sailing demonstrations from the beach and experience it for themselves with experienced sailors in the dinghies.

In 1959, the GSC was founded on four guiding pillars: Provide sailing-related Education, Recreation, Racing and Social Events for people of all ages and abilities. The club’s mission is to raise awareness and participation in sailing in the community by operating a range of programs.

To this end, the club has partnered with some great organizations including KidSport Calgary, Sport Calgary, the Duke of Edinburgh Award program, and the Calgary Public Library. In partnership with the library’s ‘Wonder, Seek, Discover, Share’ program, a sailboat was put in the Shawnessy Library during the summer months and four sailing programming sessions were held in other libraries throughout Calgary.

Some other unique programs have also been created to entice all kinds of people to dip their toes into the water and try sailing.

This summer, close to 600 children registered in a pilot program in a partnership with the Scouts and Girl Guides of Canada. In the program, youngsters can earn sailing badges as part of the Canadian Path in an Optimist, Laser, or 420 dinghy by enrolling in either the Youth Introduction to Sailing (three hours) or Youth Summer Sailing Camps (one week).

Once basic skills are mastered, participants can compete on the youth race team or Wednesday Night Racing; the Venturers and Rovers can go on the Scouting Coastal Sailing Trip to sail the Gulf Islands in British Columbia.

Additionally, all participants in the Youth Summer Sailing Camp are eligible to enter the Scouts Sailing Games in September. The Scouts Sailing Games are set in a round-robin format with sailors taking turns on boats over the course of a day; those on land participate in fun activities while awaiting their turn on the water.

Wednesday Night RacingWednesday night racing in San Juan 21s – photo taken from a Fireball sailboat.

Whether kids are in Scouts or Girl Guides, or are enrolled in the Youth Summer Sailing Camps, Family Friday evenings are free and open to all members, their guests, and those youth that have taken lessons with GSC. This is a great way to have fun and learn to sail in an evening with family. Instructors are always on-hand to provide supervision.

Warrior Sailing was all set to take off during the summer of 2018; however, due to low water, the club was unable to launch their keelboats. This free program, open to any active military personnel or veterans, introduces sailing in an intense (but fun) three-day camp where participants learn sailing, teamwork, and self-reliance. All equipment, meals, boats, and instructors are included. Stay tuned for the start-up in 2019, when GSC will also celebrate its 60th anniversary.

Warrior Sailing is being brought to Western Canada by the GSC and the Disabled Sailing Association of Alberta, which GSC started more than 20 years ago. The Disabled Sailing Association of Alberta’s sonar keelboats will easily accommodate people with disabilities from the military community. Service animals are accepted at the Basic Training Camp with open arms. Although the dogs are not able to go out on the boats, dog watchers are organized for the sailors while they’re out on the water.

Another program that has been put on hold is the Adult Keelboat program in San Juan 21s - the largest and most active fleet in North America. Once basic skills are mastered, the next step is the Keelboat Spinnaker Course. Now eligible for the Fall Sunday series, which moves from evenings to Sunday afternoons as the days get shorter. Several races are run in the afternoon so that the sailing season continues with improved skills and solidified friendships.

But they aren’t done yet – they also offer high school, after school, and collegiate sailing clubs and training programs, many of which take place with indoor theory sessions from January to April covering the points of sail, mark roundings, rules, starts, and pre-start maneuvers.

Club OptisClub Optis at regatta.

Much of their focus is also on the cost of programs, which they have endeavoured to keep affordable or, in many cases, free. With many options of boats from Optimist, 420, Laser, Byte, 29er, Fireball, and San Juan 21 – there is a lot to chose from and learn. Any of these boats are available for club members to use and an annual club boat usage fee is only $200 for the season – what a deal!

They even have a volunteer credit program to help raise funds needed to operate the club at a sustainable level. These credits can be earned through volunteer work on the Race Committee, property maintenance, bookkeeping support, spring/fall clean-up, or as a bartender at the Friday socials. Volunteer credit can then be used towards workshops, regattas, the Annual Awards Banquet, or annual membership. All in the spirit of keeping the sport of sailing fun, accessible, and affordable.

The first event in 2019 will be ‘Midwinter Indoor Sailing’ in January. A wall of fans provides the breeze for six Optimist prams in a pool for the public to try sailing.

Saving the great news until the end, in early November the club received confirmation that water levels will be back to normal in time for its 60th anniversary. This means that all the new programs that have been developed over the past two years for this milestone anniversary will be ready to roll out!

The GSC ClubhouseThe GSC clubhouse is warm and welcoming even on a rainy evening.

Club location: Mailing address:
8601 24 Street SW Box 72107, Glenmore Landing PO
(South Glenmore Park) Calgary, Alberta T2V 5H9
www.glenmoresailingclub.com 403-238-2044

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