Many mark New Year’s by throwing themselves into icy water. Gerry Porter prefers to sail on it.
The Oak Bay resident welcomed 2019 by squeezing his 77-year-old body into a tiny sailing boat, racing in Cadboro Bay against some of his closest friends.
“This is called frost biting, and we are just having a wonderful time,” he says. “It’s the most fun you can have on the water without getting yourself wet.”
Porter has been having fun since 1983 when the tradition of welcoming the New Year with a turn on the sea first started.
It resumed Tuesday when Porter and some 20 other sailors meet at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club for the first of two races.
It is a vintage gathering, as most of the sailors range between 60 and 84 in age. But don’t let those numbers deceive you. Many of them have sailed all seven seas and they remain as competitive as ever in sailing for bragging rights, without being too serious. One clue to this spirit is the name of the race itself.
Porter describes the race as the mini version of the America’s Cup, the oldest international sporting competition and one of the most grueling events ever. In the real version, competitors race yachts 12 metres long on the open ocean. In the Cadboro Bay version, sailors race 12-foot-long mini versions, which they help steer with foot pedals. In short, it is not quite the same, but you get the idea.
This said, Tuesday’s gathering is first and foremost about sharing time with others who share the same passion for sailing. In some ways, it is also a demonstration that you do not need to be young to have a fun on the water. According to Porter, of the 35 sailors at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, 25 are aged 75 years and older, and if you consider Porter’s commitment to this tradition, he wants to see many more changes of the calendar.
“An hour sailing a Mini 12 adds a day to your life,” he says.