Young sailor wraps up golden season

Katherine McEwen, right, sails with partner Linor Berezin. PHOTO: Linor Berezin
Katherine McEwen, left, sails with partner Linor Berezin.
PHOTO: Luka Bartulovic

Katherine McEwen topped off a stellar sailing season with a gold medal at the Canada Summer Games.

McEwen, a Grade 12 student at Malvern Collegiate, sails out of Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club with partner Linor Berezin, a first-year student at Queen’s University. They’ve been partners for about four years now, though that’s “not long compared to most sports where people train together for high level competition,” she said.

The two sail in the 29er Class, in a 16-foot dinghy which is the training class for the Olympic 49er Class. McEwen and Berezin earned the spot representing Ontario by finishing in first place in the 2012 provincial standings.

For six weeks leading up to the games, the pair trained in Kingston, where winds are favourable and dependable – enough so that their competition from Quebec, who finished in the silver medal position, also trained on the same water, as did the gold medal male team.

“We were all convinced that we’d come out of it frenemies … but what happens on the water stays on the water,” said McEwen.

The training process is typically intense, since it often happens in small bursts.

“You have to really give 120 per cent,” she said.

Kingston is a favourite training location, as is New Jersey, and when possible, Florida during the winter.

“We absolutely love it here, but to get any decent wind you have to sail about an hour and a half into the lake,” said McEwen.

It helps, then, that travel is one of her favourite aspects of the sport. The differences between ocean and freshwater sailing also help keep things interesting – along with tides and ocean currents, there are other distinct challenges, including flying fish and “learning how to punch sharks in the nose.”

McEwen is considering a year off school after graduation from high school, possibly teaching sailing on the east coast. No matter where she ends up, however, it will always be somewhere close to the water.

“It’s pretty amazing that we have boats going this fast, and it’s great just being able to be a part of it, knowing the sport is a lot bigger than the sheltered reality you’ve been playing out your entire life,” said McEwen.

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