Imagine a sunny day at Conestoga Lake with a summer breeze rippling the surface of the water. Sail boats move across the reservoir as sailors from the Conestoga Sailing Club enjoy their 50th year.
Some members participate in regattas with the best sailors from the province. Others prefer club races, or a leisurely cruise. All work with the wind and the water to enjoy an environmentally-sustainable activity away from everyday cares.
The sailing season runs from late-April to mid-September. Evening and weekend lessons are offered for adults of all ages and abilities. Instructors are certified with the Canadian Yachting Association and use the club’s fleet of 25 boats. Two boats are specifically built for handicapped sailors. This community fleet is also available to club members who do not own boats.
During the summer vacation, 200 nine to 18 year-olds attend learn to sail and day camp programs. They discover how to detect wind direction from the ripples on the water and the flutter of flags along the shore. They trim sails to get the wind to work to their best advantage.
Junior sailors learn water safety, leadership and team work as skipper or crew. They may also compete at regional, national and international regattas.
The Conestoga Sailing Club enjoys a beautiful setting overlooking Conestoga Lake. There is a boat park, picnic area, a somewhat rocky beach, spacious clubhouse with full kitchen, as well as barbeque and washroom facilities. The club is located on Lake Conestoga, just outside of Drayton. Its cottage-like atmosphere encourages members to gather for social activities just as they did 50 years ago.
The club holds races weekly during June, July and August. The Warm Water Regatta in June attracts sailors from across Ontario and Michigan. The midsummer race around the arms of the lake and the year-end Club Championship make competition fun for the members.
Friday night cruises and potluck picnics encourage camaraderie. The club started in June 1961 – three years after the Conestogo dam was completed.
It is a great example of recreational opportunities created by Grand River Conservation Authority dams and reservoirs. Thousands of children and adults have learned to sail and taken advantage of employment and leadership opportunities.
Anyone with an interest in sailing may join the member-operated, nonprofit club. For more information, visit www.kwsailing.org.
Story and photos courtesy Conestoga Sailing Club.