A summer of sailing success for Sheppard
by Randy Pascal
Bradley Sheppard has absolutely no plans to sail off into the sunset - not with things going so well with the time he is spending on the
The 18 year old Sudbury native cracked the Ontario Development Team roster with Ontario Sailing last September, and followed it up with the
best summer of his career, competing in the "Laser Standard" division.
"After I made Team Ontario, I talked to my new provincial coach (Chris Cowan), looking to see what I needed to do to beat some of those guys,"
said Sheppard recently, just before heading off for his first year of Electrical Engineering studies at the University of Ottawa.
"The top guys are practicing every single day. This summer, I sailed a lot more, just in general. I would take some weekends and come out here in the
mornings, and sail for a couple of hours, just to practice."
"That's when you get better, not necessarily when you're racing." In sailing terms, that progression involves a few major factors, including the ability
to "read the wind", but also to make the needed adjustments, in boat, to take full advantage of a having a keen eye on the sail.
"When I practice here (in Sudbury), it's all about boat handling, just maneuvering in my boat, making everything more crisp," said Sheppard. "When I do
something inside the boat, with my hands and my feet and my body, that translates to what the boat does in the water."
"When you're sailing up wind, you have to "tack" all the time, switch directions. You have to fine-tune and keep practicing that point where the
sail comes over to the other side, and you know exactly where to flatten your boat. It's never going to be perfect."
Sheppard's results speak volumes. After picking up his first ever overall win at the Vale Regatta in Sudbury, the graduate of Lockerby
Composite went on to take top spot at the Big Sound Challenge in Parry Sound, and then placing second a week later at the International
Youth (U19) Championships in Kingston.
"I had a great weekend in Parry Sound, winning every race but the last one," said Sheppard. "We went right from there to Kingston. It was really good to
sail for two days on the big water (Georgian Bay), with the same conditions, and then go straight to Kingston."
While Sheppard will be forever grateful for the opportunity to cut his teeth on the friendly waters of Lake Ramsey, he also knows
that the jump to the next level will come courtesy of greater experience under different conditions.
"The biggest thing in sailing here is that there are no waves (relatively speaking), and the amount of wind shifts here," he said. "The wind funnels into
Lake Ramsey, which makes it very shifty - it changes directions quite often."
"It's bad in the sense that most of the venues I compete at are not that shifty. To get really good in sailing, you need to move on from Sudbury." His
hope is that the success he has enjoyed this summer provides a greater incentive for the provincial governing sport body to send him to at least some
events, year round, competing in the warmer climates of Florida and other southern States.
"My results have shown me that I can do it here, and have success in bigger water." In the meantime, cool fall weather also allows for a greater
commitment to dryland training, one aspect that most non-sailors might have trouble truly appreciating.
"Races are an hour to an hour and a half, and you usually do four or five of those a day," said Sheppard. "You don't need to look like you have a lot
of muscle, but you have to be strong, especially your core."
A familiar face at the Sudbury Yacht Club, Sheppard expects to be plenty motivated as he looks to build on a very solid summer. "This was my year to
shine, and I've shown pretty well so far."