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Mixed bag of weather tests SOAR sailors

You'd think that a place whose name means "Mother of the Wind" would be the ultimate playground for sailors.

You'd think that a place whose name means "Mother of the Wind" would be the ultimate playground for sailors. But Mother Nature can be fickle at times, and at this year's Squamish Open Annual Regatta (SOAR), Squamish didn't quite live up to its namesake.

Uncharacteristically light winds and mixed weather resulted in some frustrating times on the waters of the Howe Sound for Friday's Inflow and Saturday's main SOAR event.

"The Squamish wind gods didn't grace us either Friday or Saturday," said SOAR race director Brad Buck. "It poured with rain on Friday and on Saturday, some boats were at a standstill out in the sound - everyone was just trying to sail from one little puff of wind to the next."

But weather is all part of sailing, and captains and crew did the best with what they were given.In Friday's Inflow, which started at Porteau Cove, rain was the main weather challenge, and with rain comes little wind. But long-time local Walter Clarke managed to sail Shenanigans home first in a corrected time of 2:15:36, finishing just over a minute ahead of Meltimi.

"Walter's had a good year, placing solid results in the Southern Straits race and the Gibsons and Bowen Island races," said Buck. "He's a local sailing instructor, and a great sailor."

Clarke also sailed well enough in Saturday's main race to clinch the low points total and a total of $350 in prize money, which he promptly donated to the Squamish SPCA.

In SOAR's main event on Saturday, the water was calm enough to produce boat reflections in the water - hardly ideal sailing conditions in an area known for its reliable afternoon gusts. Five boats got a little too eager off the start and jumped the gun, then were forced to circle back and start again.

"The weather was not the most cooperative," said Buck. "Boats at the back of the pack had troubles finishing because the wind was so light. But that's sailing. You can't control the weather."

Absolute Kaos, Rattle and Hum and Planet Claire raced to the lead off the start, but were then caught by Mr. Wiggley, captained by Vancouver's Rob Avery, who managed to control his J-24 around Howe Sound into what little wind their was, finishing first in a very slow and abnormal race. "Rob sailed really smart and stayed out of the river and just kept his boat moving the whole time," said Buck.

Absolute Kaos held on to clinch second place, and won the Howe Sound Cup for the second year in a row as a result. Local boat Jalapeño, owned and raced by Ron and Eleanor Vandergaag and Chuck and Joanie Spani, were gunning for their first cup victory after finishing second for the past four years, but finished seventh in the Saturday race and ended up as the Howe Sound Cup's runner-up yet again.

The Saturday result didn't take the spice out of Jalapeño's sails, however - they still had one race to go. With the owners' sons, Jason Vandergaag and Carl Spani, at the helm for Sunday's Outflow, the wind finally came out to play.

A true Squamish breeze filled the sails for a colorful spinnaker start, as 15 boats cruised towards the finish at Porteau Cove. With the help of Caitlin Gugins, Vandergaag and Spani took control of the race by staying out of boat traffic and the Squamish River current, catching the wind at the right time. "We were leading at the start, last in the middle, and pulled off a comeback to win," said Vandergaag. "There was a breeze blowing out of the river and the other boats went to get into it, but the wind shifted and we took off. We just tried to find the best current and some patches of wind - there's always a little something."

Stella finished second, three minutes behind, and Noel's Ark was third.

"Squamish boats were triumphant in the Inflow and Outflow," said Buck. "Aside from the wind, we had a great time. A lot of locals came out and some of the original SOAR participants [from 25 years ago] came out to sail."

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