Brianna Brand will remember the 2017 Canada Summer Games for the windiest conditions she and her partner Sasha Mishchenko have ever sailed in.
“It was a cool race before it was done,” said the eighteen-year-old competitive sailor, “it was super challenging.”
Winds were gusting up to 27 knots or about 50 km/h, speeds that Brand had never trained or even sailed in before.
“It was extremely windy,” said Brand, “waves were getting to be about four feet.”
With the extreme wind and waves, the pair struggled to keep their boat flat in the water, the optimum position for fast stable sailing.
“We just didn’t weigh enough,” she said.
All the female competitors shared this problem.
“All the girls were just too small to keep the boat flat,” said Brand.
Despite having no experience in such rough weather, Brand and Mishchenko managed to complete the race before being sent to shore because of the weather.
The girls managed a fourth-place finish but were over the time limit for the race by two minutes. Despite being over the limit Brand is proud of their finish.
Brand and Mishchenko were competing in the Sailing Double Handed – 29er Female event at the games that were hosted in Manitoba.
Most of the games were held in Winnipeg however the Gimli Yacht Club, located about an hour north of Winnipeg, hosted the sailing competition.
In a sport that relies heavily on the weather, mother nature put up as much of a challenge for Brand and her partner as any of their fellow sailors did.
“The wind…it was either very, very, very light and unsailable because it was light or it was too heavy,” said Brand.
With the conditions against them it was difficult for the landlocked provinces to overcome their coastal competition.
“It’s hard to do that well when you’re up against ocean provinces that can sail all months of the year,” said Brand, “we have a two-month season.”
She did say that her races in Manitoba weren’t the best of her career either.
“It definitely wasn’t the best sailing I’ve ever done,” she said, “I’ve done way, way better.”
Despite missing the podium at the Summer Games, Brand said that the chance to compete at the Canada Summer Games was an incredible experience both on the water and off.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Brand.
Unlike the athlete’s village in Winnipeg which housed athletes from a wide range of sports, it was just sailors in Gimli.
“It was just a small group of sailors and that was about it,” she said.
Because of their common sport and close accommodations all the sailing competitors at the games had the opportunity to get to know one another.
“It’s amazing to meet people from other provinces, and it’s cool ‘cause I now have friends from all the way across Canada,” said Brand,
“I have good friends…from coast to coast, from BC all the way out to Newfoundland.”
Brand had trouble narrowing down the best off the water experience of the games, she finally settled on the opening ceremonies.
Held in the packed Winnipeg Jets stadium, Brand marched in past the Prime Minister with the rest of team Alberta.
“There was so many of us,” she said.
Brand was joined at the games by fellow Chestermere sailor Connor Weicht as well as four other members of the Calgary Yacht Club on the seven-person Alberta sailing team.
“We were all chanting Alberta,” said Brand, “we made up all of our different Alberta chants, which was super cool.”
This was Brand’s final opportunity to compete at the summer games.
At eighteen-years-old this year, Brand will be miss the age limit of 21 by one year when the next summer games come about in 2021.
Since she can’t go back as a competitor, her goal is to get there as a coach.
“It’s my goal to go back some day and coach,” she said.
Already a sailing coach at the Calgary Yacht Club here in Chestermere, Brand said that the experience of the games has only strengthened her commitment to the sport.
“I’m definitely invested into building youth sailing in Alberta,” she said.