Local Sea Cadets off to national regatta

What a difference a few years can make.
Five years ago, Austin Zin and Kyle Jewett had never even set foot on a sailboat.
Now, the Stratton teens are busy gearing up for the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet National Regatta, which is slated to take place Aug. 22-26 on Lake Ontario near Kingston.
Zin, who is set to graduate from Fort High next June, still remembers the first few hours he spent on the water.
“It was pretty scary at first,” he recalled. “It’s confusing. It seems like there are a lot of ropes, there’s a lot of stuff to remember.
“But the guy I was with made it seem really fun and I just got hooked.”
Both Zin and Jewett, who also participate in the Se Cadets’ biathlon program during the winter, joined the local corps in 2000 and both boarded sailboats for the first time at separate cadet camps.
When asked to choose from one of four Sea Cadet areas to specialize in (bosun, band, and gunnery were the others), Zin and Jewett signed up for sailing.
And it’s a decision they certainly don’t regret.
“Right now, it’s looking pretty good,” enthused Jewett, though conceding that when he first tried the sport, he “wasn’t too much into it.”
United as a team simply because they were the only two of more than 20 local Sea Cadets to specialize in sailing, the 17-year-olds have become fast friends and trusting teammates.
Zin is the skip, handling the rudder and steering the 14-foot vessel, while Jewett mans the sails and ensures the duo keeps their speed up.
But when it comes to making the crucial decisions that so often can mean the difference in a race, two heads are better than one, they both agreed.
“You need to get along with the person you’re [teamed] with or there’s no point,” said Jewett. “You have to have that level of teamwork and trust.
“Teams that are too busy arguing get too distracted,” he reasoned.
And the district teens will need to take every advantage they can get if they’re going to contend in Kingston next month. After all, this region is not exactly a sailing hotbed.
Jewett, for instance, only has had the small sailboat he owns on the lake once since he bought it while some national-level teams from British Columbia and the Maritimes have an ocean right in their backyards.
“A lot of [the other teams] have more experience,” Zin acknowledged. “If they’re not sailing with cadets, then they’re sailing on their own.”
A total of 25 teams, representing five regions, will converge on Kingston’s Royal Military College for the national regatta. Weather permitting, the squads could race as many as 12 times, with the overall leader after four days claiming the Canadian crown.
The Stratton teens, who qualified by virtue of a first-place finish last month at the Manitoba/Northwest Ontario regional regatta in Gimli, Man., will be one of four teams representing the Prairie region at the nationals.
They’re only familiar with a few of the competitors they’ll face in Kingston, but already know where they’d like to place at the event.
“Hopefully not last,” Zin laughed.
“We’ve never been before. We’ll just do the best we can,” added Jewett. “We’re going to work probably the hardest we’ve ever worked.”
Win or lose, Zin and Jewett just are pleased to be representing their region at the prestigious competition. Besides, they never imagined they’d be going head-to-head with some of the country’s top cadet sailors.
“Not when we first started,” said Zin, shaking his head in disbelief. “We looked up to all the people in nationals. They were what we wanted to go for.”
“We just looked up to those [national-level sailors],” echoed Jewett. “As we got up there, we just kept getting better.”
Hoping to spend a few extra hours in the boat before the national regatta next month, Zin and Jewett recently packed their bags for Comox, B.C., where they’ll spend their summer staffing a cadet camp and teaching youngsters the basics of the sport they now excel at—and love.
“It’s got everything,” Zin said. “You can be competitive or you can just cruise.”
“You can really get a rush out of it,” added Jewett.