Vancouver Sailor Dreams of Olympic Gold

Canada’s best female sailor hopes to ride favourable winds all the way to Summer Olympic gold in 2016.

July 2, 2015

Isabella Bertold is out wrestling her 14-foot dinghy in English Bay’s frigid December waters and summer swells alike. A novice sailor at age five and a qualifier for Canada’s national team by 13 (she’s now 23), she has a clear next stop: Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Only one woman per country goes in the Laser Radial (a one-sail boat) category, and qualifying begins in Spain this fall. While many of her global competitors are financed full-time to get there, Bertold balances round-the-clock training with her own fundraising — and part-time commerce studies at UBC.

“It takes a unique personality to fall in love with Olympic sailing. Even if you’re working harder than your competitor, Mother Nature still influences the outcome,” she says. “I have a love/hate relationship with that.” But it’s that polarized passion — coupled with a solid dose of grit — that makes her the country’s top-ranked woman. Last spring, while competing in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Bertold picked up a bacterial stomach infection that kept the determined racer out of the Hyeres World Cup in France — but she was unfazed. “I’m focusing on doing what no Canadian woman has ever done: win a medal in the sport of Olympic sailing.”

 

SAIL AWAY

Bring Grandma  Cooper Boating, located on Granville Island, offers the two-night, two-day Keelboat Crew Course ($399), an easy entry for new sailors. Cooperboating.com

Bring Friends  Jericho Beach’s MAC Sailing offers adult lessons in dinghy sailing (from $265 for five nights), with the bonus of a post-trip beer on the Galley patio. Macsailing.com

Bring a Defibrillator  Until September, the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club hosts Wednesday keelboat racing that’s open to non-members ($57.75/boat for four to five weeks). Don’t own your own boat? Drop by the crew circle for a chance to join a team at the last minute. Royalvan.com

 

TIPS FROM THE PRO

Solid Foundation  The key muscle groups to staying injury-free are quads, glutes, and abs. For this, “my favourites are planks, squats, and glute-band walks”

Either Oar  If you’re short on time, try 20 minutes of intervals on a rowing machine

Pick Your Battles  Consistently make healthier choices — “although I’ll have a glass of wine here and there, and I love chocolate!” Sleep is key; Bertold needs nine hours a night

 

THE BURN

600 calories burned in one hour by a 155-pound person doing dinghy sailing (warm-up/-down extra)

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