UTS athlete of the year wins gold at Canada Games

Clara Gravely sails herself to the victory with only five years experience

ABEAM: Clara Gravely is all smiles after being given the gold medal in women’s laser radial, Aug. 3.

One could say winning a gold medal at the Canadian Games in Gimli, Man. put the wind in Clara Gravely’s sails.

The 18-year-old University of Toronto Schools alumna claimed the top spot at the summer sports competition Aug. 3.

But she revealed a little secret in late August: she’s only been sailing five years.

“My dad, one day was, ‘Our family should take up sailing’ and he signed me and my sister up,” she recalled, in a phone interview. “We did some casual camps in the summer. After that, that was when I got into racing.”

Racing came by way of the Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club. For the last two years, Gravely has been learning her craft there.

The scoring for the Canada games is unlike most sports, where the competitor with the lowest score is the winner. If a laser radial competitor, like Gravely, finishes first they get one point. The totals at the end of the day are added up, and the worst placing is dropped. For each of the four days, Gravely scored 11.

Part of the challenge, though, was competing against lighter boaters on light wind days. She stands at 5-foot-11, so her milieu is heavy-wind days.

“For me, you sail differently in a lot of conditions: light wind, heavy wind, waves or flat water. For me, my strength is heavier wind,” she admitted. “I’m a bit taller and on the heavier end of the group, and I’d say I’m the ideal size for the average conditions.”

Having a strong mental game is the focus going forward, but Gravely said she was happy with her preparation for the light-wind days. The physical aspect is no problem with a background in field hockey, soccer and volleyball.

Her success comes from her coach Chris Hewson, and post graduation, the 2017 UTS female athlete of the year is looking to stay the course and try out for Queen’s University’s team.

“That’s part of the attraction to Queen’s for me. They’re right on the water,” Gravely said. “One component of the Ontario team trains there, too.”

Fellow Ontario sailors who also claimed medals were Toronto’s Matti Muru with a gold in men’s, Nepean’s Aaron Wong-Sing with a silver in the 2.4-metre para mix and two double-handed 29er duos of Chloe Congourdeau and Georgia Stein (both of Toronto) as well as Jake Adair (Kingston) and Galen Richardson (Toronto).

Team Ontario ranked first among the provinces and territories with 212 medals (87 gold, 65 silver and 60 bronze).

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