The sport of sailing has been around the Kelowna area since the turn of the century and has grown throughout the years to involve many types of sailing vessels. Today there are keel boats and catamarans, trimarans, Hobie Cats, dinghies, windsurfers and kiteboarders.
Until recently, sailors at the north and south ends of Okanagan Lake were segregated by Kelowna’s old floating bridge, which permitted passage under its lift span at set times of the day, which changed depending on time of year. The new William R. Bennett floating bridge opened in the summer of 2008. Its elevated span allows fixed mast sailboats to pass under the bridge at any time of the day and year.
With the new bridge, look for increased participation in the weekly sailing regattas at the Kelowna waterfront on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. It is quite a sight to see all the colourful spinnakers flying on a downwind leg, off the shores of Kelowna’s downtown waterfront.
The floating bridge creates a large breakwater which produces highly variable wind conditions, depending on wind direction and on which side of the bridge you choose to sail. When the breeze blows from the north, the bridge blocks the wind, creating a lull on the lea side. With a southerly breeze, a similar lull occurs on the bridge’s north side.
Owing to the bend in the lake, winds can be very gusty and/or inconsistent to the south of the bridge along the western shore. When the winds blow out of the south and round the point at Kalamoir Beach and Casa Loma, gusts appear as dark patches, surrounded by calm patches, along the lake’s surface. These gusty conditions can make sailing very tricky, so be prepared to trim a lot!
Better sailing conditions prevail on the opposite shoreline, southeast of the bridge, where more consistent breezes typically blow from the north in the 5 to 8 knot range. Windsurfers and kite boarders prefer the strong south westerlies in 12 to 18 knots of breeze.
Central Okanagan Small Boat Association(C.O.S.A.) is located along the southeastern shoreline. It houses mostly dinghies and small catamarans and offers terrific programs for sailing enthusiasts beginners to advanced. Their website (www.cosa.bc.ca) posts weather and wind reports for the southern Kelowna area.
The Kelowna Yacht Club (KYC), Westbank Yacht Club, Summerland Yacht Club, Penticton Yacht Club, and Vernon Yacht Club, all hold regattas throughout the sailing season. Check with your local club for information regarding their sailing races and regattas.
The Kelowna Yacht Club has offered boating education programs since its establishment in 1945, and has established mooring buoys up and down Okanagan Lake for its members and the local boating community to share. Their website (www.kelownayachtclub.com) provides excellent weather reporting for Kelowna’s northern end.
Check back soon for for new sailing updates, photos and videos.