Musings of a Former UBC Sailing Club Member and Fleet Captain – 1972-1975

5 Feb 2021 6:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Recently, a picture was posted on the UBC Sailing Club's Facebook page. A throwback to the 1970's. The club's FJ's (we had some then too!) at the KYC dock, with a short writeup by the person who shared it, Peter Stricker, former fleet captain at the UBC Sailing Club.

I was thrilled to find a piece of history from our club. I chatted a bit with Peter and used that picture as the main illustration to the About/History page of the website we were are overhauling.

I shared that with Peter, we chatted som more, and in the process learned that he too was a Mechanical Engineer and worked in aviation. A few days later, he shared with me more pictures and the well-written piece below, reproduced here with his permission.

- by Peter A. Stricker, MASc. - Mech. Engrg. 1975

I arrived at the UBC campus in the fall of 1972, after a year working at the Powell River paper mill, having graduated from McGill in the spring of 1971. In the paragraphs below, I will recount some of my sailing experiences from those days --- certainly among the best years of my life were spent at UBC and especially the Sailing Club.

Until my arrival in Powell River in June of 1971, I have never been in a sailboat, just saw them from a distance on the water. But in Powell River, one of my engineering colleagues was an active racer, and one day he took me out sailing in his 12-foot Signet, and I was hooked. A sailing school was coming to town for a week to provide lessons, so I took that. The “school” consisted of a young man with a pickup truck towing a trailer, with a total of six Sabots packed on board, resting on their sterns, pointing skyward. The Sabot is a very basic 8-foot dinghy - imagine a rowboat with a single sail, centerboard and rudder. So we spent 5 evenings after work on the water learning the basics, and I duly became a certified Sabot skipper.

Later that fall and winter, I took a Canadian Power Squadrons Boating Course, which taught the basics of boat handling, safety and navigation rules, which came in handy for cruising later in my sailing life.

And, of course, I occasionally crewed for my office colleague during the winter racing season, when his wife or kids couldn’t make it, but he never let me actually sail the boat during a race, just a few times after the race heading back to the dock.

So, by the time I arrived at UBC, I knew all about sailing, but had virtually zero hands-on experience. When I signed on to the UBC Sailing Club, I considered myself a “novice”.

The first Saturday following the club sign-up meeting, about a hundred students congregated a the Kitsilano Yacht Club, where the UBC Sailing Club kept their boats and used their dock and storage facilities. The first order of business, after launching the boats and tying them up at the floating dock, was to find enough skippers to take all these novices out for a ride. Volunteer skippers were recruited, but I did not volunteer, as I thought my meager experience as a crew was not sufficient to accept the responsibility for two other living souls, in (for me) unfamiliar waters, so I waited in line to be taken out for a ride.

The dozen or so Flying Juniors were launched, a dozen volunteer “skippers” were recruited, and the rush began. Not only were we monopolizing the dock and storage areas at KYC, but also interfering with the their members’ launching their Fireballs, that were preparing for their weekly Saturday race.

UBC Flying Juniors at the Kitsilano dock. The Fireballs in the foreground are KYC members’ boats. This picture appeared in the Winter issue of the Beautiful BC magazine. I’m the guy wearing the yellow oilskin jacket, standing in the foreground. A couple of KYC Fireballs are also visible at the lower right, as well as a sliver of a Laser. UBC Flying Juniors at the Kitsilano dock. The Fireballs in the foreground are KYC members’ boats. This picture appeared in the Winter issue of the Beautiful BC magazine. I’m the guy wearing the yellow oilskin jacket, standing in the foreground. A couple of KYC Fireballs are also visible at the lower right, as well as a sliver of a Laser.

Eventually I got a turn to go out with my skipper and another novice, three per boat. It was a typical cloudy, cool fall morning, the wind moderate from the east. So we headed downwind, toward the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, and I handled the jib and centerboard as I had been taught. I also began to notice that our skipper was not a “real” skipper, but one who had at best “meager” experience sailing. So when we were a mile or so downwind, I suggested we turn back, as we would be beating all the way back to KYC. So, we did, and I quickly noticed that the skipper was not at all adept at sailing close-hauled upwind, in fact, although we were sort of pointing upwind, we were actually drifting downwind. So I suggested that he pull the main in all the way, steer the boat until the main just begins to luff, while I was taking care of the jib. But he had a hard time getting it just right – we were vacillating between being stuck in irons and running on a broad reach. He was so exasperated that he handed me the tiller and said “Ok, you know this better than I do, so you steer!” So I got us safely and expeditiously back to KYC, and from that point on, I was an official UBC Sailing Club skipper!

One lesson I learned that day is that there are people who don’t know what they don’t know, while there are those who don’t know what they know.

During the winter 1972 season, we received several Lasers and held races every Saturday where the Lasers and FJ’s raced together. We also had a committee boat, the “Rubber Duck”, a sturdy little Zodiac inflatable dinghy. I enjoyed racing the Laser, because I could do it all by myself – I’m sort of a loner. I also helped with the race committee with running the races when my turn came up.

Launching the “Rubber Duck”. Need to wear boots if you don’t want to get your feet wet! Launching the “Rubber Duck”. Need to wear boots if you don’t want to get your feet wet!

Readying the boats at the dock for a race Readying the boats at the dock for a race

FJ’s rounding the downwind mark, turning on the windward leg. That kayak had better get out of the way!FJ’s rounding the downwind mark, turning on the windward leg. That kayak had better get out of the way!

On Sundays we didn’t have organized races, so members who were skippers could take the boats out and sail around at their pleasure. One day, as we were hanging out in the clubhouse late afternoon, we noticed that one of the FJ’s hadn’t returned. We weren’t sure who was on the boat, but it was about an hour before dark, and we couldn’t see the FJ anywhere, so we called the Coast Guard, with the description of the missing boat. About an hour later, the Coast Guard cutter arrived at the KYC dock, with the FJ sitting on the aft of the boat. We all rushed down to the dock, the CG crew shoved the boat off the stern of the cutter into the water, handed the painter to the embarrassed sailor, and off they went. They found him near the lighthouse, with the wind blowing from the east. Silence all around. The skipper quietly said “sorry” and we helped him get the boat back up the ramp to the storage area.

Suggestion: If you’re a novice just going for a joyride, sail upwind first, so coming home will be easier.

In my second and third year at UBC (1973-1975), I served as Fleet Captain. We organized a couple of “Gluhwein and chicken” events during the winters, where we invited the KYC members. We would order several trays of Kentucky Fried Chicken (did you know they did catering?) and with the gluhwein, not much sailing was accomplished those days.

(to read part 2, click here)

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