We’re all familiar with the story of the underfunded athlete struggling to raise money to attend an international competition. The story of two young Vancouver Island athletes, however, has a twist in that it involves a sport that many consider a pleasure activity for the elite, a misconception that makes fundraising all the more challenging.
Sailing, especially sailboat racing, is often assumed to be an elitist sport for the well-to-do. That exact accusation, in fact, was leveled in a New York Times editorial during the London Olympics. But Chris Volkers and Stewart Clark, who are just 15 and 17 years old respectively and on the cusp of qualifying for the world’s most prestigious youth sailing competition, couldn’t be further from that stereotype.
Clark lives with his siblings in Victoria and is supported by a single mom. Volkers, who lives in Comox, is the son of a ship captain who has been around the water since his infancy. Both boys learned to sail – specifically race through Sea Cadets, a federally sponsored youth program for young men and women aged 12-19 designed to develop leadership, citizenship and physical fitness. Both Volkers and Clark have been Sea Cadets since they were 12 and, as such, have received their training at little or no cost to their families.
Now the duo is just one step away from competing at the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Youth Worlds, which takes place in Valencia, Spain next July. In order to compete, however, Volkers and Clark must raise $9,000 by the end of January in order to compete in the final qualifying event in Florida, and because Sea Cadets cannot fund individuals, they’re on their own to raise the funds. Significantly more funds will be needed if they’re successful in Florida.
“Chris and Stewart are on the doorstep of the world stage, the pinnacle of world youth sailing and the goal to which they’ve aspired all these years,” says their coach, Lt.(N) Tracy Terry. “But without the funding to get them there, they risk missing out on everything they’ve been training for.
“The weekends spent on the water instead of hanging out with friends, and for Volkers the countless hours commuting across the Island to train with the Pacific Sailing Team in Victoria – that could all be for naught.
“Sea Cadets has given these young men an opportunity they almost certainly wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she continues. “In addition to sailing and seamanship skills, they’ve developed life and social skills like respect, teamwork, goal-setting, self-confidence, and of course the level of fitness required of a high performance athlete. They deserve to be where they are, and they deserve their shot at the pinnacle of their sport.”
If you’d like to help Chris and Stewart achieve their dream, donations can be made at www.PacificSailingTeam.weebly.com with a direct Paypal link for donations.
Though Cadets Canada cannot fund individual members, the organization recently launched a Cadet Renewal Program that will redirect funds from various areas back into local corps, meaning more cadets will be able to benefit like Volkers and Clark from the program. To learn more about joining Sea Cadets in the Comox Valley check out our webpage www.189portaugusta.ca.
– Comox Valley Navy League