Yellowknife’s pond sailboats will be cast off from Government Dock next weekend as the ninth annual Old Town Pond Sailor’s Regatta takes place.

Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Old Town Pond Sailor’s Regatta founder and organizer Tony Foliot, is framed through the masts of his square-sailed pond sailboat. He dropped the small craft into open waters on Yellowknife Bay, Tuesday. The ninth annual regatta takes place, Sept. 1.  [ad number=1 ]

Regatta founder and organizer Tony Foliot is getting ready for another year of drawing youngsters to the Old Town waterfront for what has become a fun tradition for families on the city scene. He recently gave a tour of his tool shop and sailboat museum which includes a room of nearly 10 crafts stored in a shack on the shore of Yellowknife Bay.

Typically the event is held on the last weekend of August, but it will be held a week late this year and will coincide with the Dog Island Film Festival on Sept. 1.

The scene Foliot portrays of the event is one of authenticity and traditional craftsmanship as he is trying to get parents and their children to work together to create something unique with their hands.

“The deal is that you are supposed to be building it with your kid,” said Foliot. “It is supposed to be about getting kids off the couch and away from the computer or the television or the Game Boy and to get them to do some real, old-fashioned family fun.”

The regatta to date has averaged about 20 entries every year, but had 31 participants in the sixth annual event. Often the turnout depends on how much promotion he puts behind the event, said Foliot. For example, during the fifth annual regatta, he applied to NWT Arts and got some funding to pay for T-shirts, medals and a band to make it extra special for participants.

“The tenth annual will be next year and it will be a big deal and I will hype it up,” he said.

“I have to admit that I have been lame this year because I’ve been super busy. There are a lot of people who do look forward to it every year.”

As the regatta reaches the first decade milestone, it continues to build a storied folk history. Foliot usually enters a new boat every year and rents out older ones from his collection. His creations are among those that do the best, but he says he is often challenged by a chief rival in Larry Jones, whose grandchildren Kym and Ashley Kanatsiak have won in past years.
Another fun story he likes to share has to do with the first place winner during the 2010 inaugural year. In that race, Sarah Taggart-Miles, then 10-years-old, entered a very makeshift boat. It happened that her entry that year was not made of wood at all, which is typical of most participants. Yet she won.

“In the first one, Sarah had the tiniest little junk boat and all of us had worked hard on our boats with the rudders and the keels,” Foliot recalls. “We all tacked this way and that way and she just scudded to the ball (finish line) and won. We had our (behinds) handed to us by this little girl.”

Taggart-Miles, now an 18-year-old employee at Weaver and Devore, laughs as she remembers being the first winner in 2010.

“My friend’s auntie found a notice about it in the newspaper and asked if we wanted to do it because it was just something fun to do in the summer,” she said.

“I built a sailboat out of a milk carton and duct tape and wasn’t expecting much out of it. I ended up winning it just because it went in the right direction, but I was not expecting that at all.”

The next year, she entered the same boat, but didn’t place at all.

Her name graces the regatta trophy, an award donated and put together by Old Town Glassworks. Another winner will be added to the piece at this year’s event.

Rules and registration

No electronics can be used on a boat, but otherwise there are few rules for entries. There are no limitations to size and weight, though Foliot said there tend to be two categories based on length measurements– 60 cm and 1-metre.

Registration will take place a few hours before the race takes place, which happens at 7 p.m.

When the wind direction is determined, a target will be identified and the boat that races closest to the target will be declared the winner.

“Often the race lasts only 20 minutes, but it is the build-up to the event that really counts,” said Foliot.“Hopefully people have been working on their boats all summer but it isn’t too late to get them going.”

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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