News, Sports

Junior sailor plots course for success

At age 13, Heidi Maier has participated in the CF Sailing Association Junior Program for eight years.

Junior sailor plots course for success

By Peter Mallett,
The Lookout Staff

Heidi Maier,13, says she has been swept away by the power of sailing.

The Grade 8 student has found competitive success harnessing the wind, and a healthy activity, during eight years with the Canadian Forces Sailing Association (CFSA) Junior Program.

“When I first tried the sport I was in kindergarten; I thought it was really cool,” said Maier.  “It was so appealing to me simply because you harness the wind and the waves and make a large object move in the water without a motor or expending your own energy.”

She began competing three years ago in single-handed sailing dinghies called Optimist Class. Strong finishes at weekend regattas have become the new normal for her.

She has first place finishes at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club’s Frozen Assets Regatta in February, and more recently the Maple Bay Regatta on Sept. 1. She also had a noteworthy 10th place performance at the Kitten Cup in Vancouver, in a much larger field that included provincial and national team members. In August, she had an 11th place finish in a field of 65 sailors at the Canadian Optimist Championship in Ottawa.

“The fun part isn’t just the competition, its meeting people from across the country and around the world, making new friends, and getting to go to post-regatta dinners.”

Getting her feet wet

Maier learned to sail with CFSA’s Opti Wet Feet at age five, around the same time father, LCdr Christopher Maier, began his first sailing experiences. He is the current CFSA Commodore, and says his daughter has advanced so far she gives him pointers and advice about sailing techniques.

“I always saw the potential in her because she is an amazing young girl,” said LCdr Maier. “The coaches at our regattas all saw something special in her and encouraged her to get involved in competition.”

In preparation for this year’s competitions, the 13-year-old attended four training camps and committed to three training sessions per week. Over the summer months she volunteered with the CFSA’s Learn to Sail programs.

Her coaches are also impressed by her efforts. CFSA Senior Instructor Ryan Kaye has spent several years coaching Maier and says that she not only has a great attitude about the sport but also the right qualities to be successful.

“She has a stubbornness and wants to push herself, but at the same time is willing to listen to a coach’s advice and spends time working on the fundamental skills that she needs to,” said Kaye. “She is also amazing and very proactive when it comes to helping out some of the less-experienced [youth] sailors.”

Maier is now looking forward to sailing faster and larger classes of boats.

This month she began practising in the laser-class sailboats, which is the gold standard for Olympic and international sailing competitions. She also hopes to one day move from solo sailing and crew a two-person 29er high performance skiff boat used by competitors in the World Sailing Youth Championships.

“If it’s a fast boat, it’s very beautiful to me. I want to go for speed and power; the bigger the boat and the faster is all the better for me.”