For the first time, the International 6-Metre Class World Championship, a biennial sailboat race, is being held in Canada at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. From September 15-21, 2017, more than 40 sailboats from around the world will compete for the coveted 6-Metre World Cup.
In anticipation of race day, we caught-up with one of the racing sailors, sailor Steve Kinsey to find out more about 6-Metre sailboat racing and his years of experience on the water.
Q&A with Steve Kinsey
Steve Kinsey has raced just about every size boat in his 40-year career, from 1-foot model boats to 75-foot offshore-racing machines. He and his crew have competed in regional, national and world-level events, and won first place at the 2013 6-Metre Class World Championship’s in Germany. When he’s not actively racing, he relaxes by cruising the beautiful local waters in the Pacific Northwest — Welcome, Steve.
Q: Tell us about your background and experience in international 6-Metre sailing?
A: I’ve sailed in all types of boats since I was 9-years old, starting with my dad in an air force dinghy in North Bay, Ontario. What’s great about the sport of sailing in particular is that it’s a lifelong sport that can be enjoyed by everyone. I started racing in the the 6-Metre class in 1985. We built a boat and took it to France to race in the World Cup. And magically, that same boat is racing in the Vancouver Worlds under the name “Finnegan”.
The 6-Metre boat is unique. It allows people of all ages to compete on a relatively fair playing field. Each boat has a skillful five-person crew. Teamwork is what gets you ahead, not just youth and exuberance. But still, these boats are demanding to sail. They require strength and agility, and you have to be healthy and fit to both compete and enjoy the experience. For older competitors, this is especially important to prevent injuries and remain competitive.
Q: Tell us about the significance of having such a high caliber sailing event in Canada.
A: The International 6-Metre Class World Championship has more than 100 years of racing history. It’s a legacy that should to celebrated and continued. The event draws competitors from all over the world. We’ve been to Germany, England, Switzerland and France in the last four years to compete in a World or European Championship. The atmosphere is absolutely electric.
Q: What are the physical and cognitive demands of 6-Meter sailing?
A: While sailing itself doesn’t make you physically fit, being in good shape can make the sport more enjoyable and make you more competitive. For instance, a strong, physically fit body, developed through a strength-training regime, will help you trim and adjust the boat as it’s maneuvered around the race course. When you sail some of the bigger, more powerful boats, an acute awareness of what to do and when to do it is incredibly important.
Q: How does a race work in the International 6-Metre Class World Championship?
It’s a series of 8 races; 2 races per day for 4 days. The race courses are set entirely by the International Race Committee. The courses are what we refer to as Windward-Leeward courses. This means we sail straight into the wind for up to two miles to a Windward mark that the race committee has set, tacking back and forth. This challenges racers to maximize their boat speed and awareness of wind shifts. We then sail downwind, gybing back and forth to the leeward mark, again maximizing speed and possible wind shift advantages. We do this twice around to complete one race. We’re out on the water for about 6 to 8 hours a day. If it’s windy, it’s very physically demanding. You have to be fit, have great body strength and a lot of stamina.
Q: Where/how can a spectator watch the race?
A: There are a few different spectator experiences. If you’re in Vancouver, you can reserve to watch all the action aboard a spectator boat. These boats get out on the water just outside the race course so you’re close to the action. There’s also some good viewing angles from the beach around the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.
Q: What else can racing fans look forward to on race day?
A: Virtually all of the sailboats in the race will have at least one World Champion or Olympic medalist on it. His Majesty King Juan Carlos I. of Spain will be competing and there will also be several sailboats racing with an all-female crew.