Hannah Stevens isn’t quite sure when sailing stole her heart.
Her mom set her on the sport around age four or so, with the “wet feet program” at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, but Stevens admits it didn’t take right off. With some maternal nudging, she stuck with it.
That instinct proved accurate, as Stevens now loves the sport and has a passion for sharing it as an award-winning instructor.
“I came back every summer probably until I was around 11 our 12 and then I started racing with my school sailing team at Monterey Middle School,” she says. “It stole my heart and I started sailing out of here (at RVYC) on our race team.”
Competing is all about community and meeting cool, inspirational people.
“It’s such an interesting way to get out and see the world and it’s such a cool sport,” she says.
By 13 she was volunteering around the Oak Bay marina and at 16 in “a full circle moment” she started working in the summer program.
Now 22, Stevens is summer program manager and head coach as well as a coach for the youngest sailors.
Recently, Sailing Canada named her 2020 Instructor of the Year (delayed due to the pandemic).
It’s an award well-deserved according to her boss, RVYC sailing director and head coach Stephen McBride, who hails Stevens as among the club’s greatest success stories from her time as a competitor to her work as a leader.
“I’ve enjoyed watching her grow as a human as well as coach and as an instructor. She brings such a lovely presence to anything that she’s doing – and sailing in particular – where she’s always trying to be more inclusive and … try to get the best out of individuals,” he says. Stevens has an innate ability to assess needs and make new sailors realize what they can do, he says, whether with the sport or as part of the community.
He coached alongside her with the BC Games and Canada Summer Games this year, where they hauled home tons of hardware, which is nice, but not the takeaway, McBride says.
“She was able to make that experience of the Games really meaningful for the participants … and not just the kids we were participating with but the kids we were competing against,” he says. “She definitely brings all the pieces to the table.”
For Stevens, an Oak Bay High grad furthering her education at both Camosun and UVic this year, the reward is seeing that switch that happened in her as a child.
“They melt my heart every single day. The kids are great. It’s fun to watch them reach this point where they understand. There’s always this moment where it clicks for them,” she says.
“It’s really great to watch somebody that you’ve worked so hard with and poured so much into succeed and become their own person and their own athlete.”
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