What began as a family pastime has evolved into much more for Fraser Buck.
The Grade 12 student at South Delta Secondary School is an accomplished sailor who has thrived on the international stage.
He was seventh at the U.S. Nationals in Boston this past summer and fifth at the U.S. Mid-Winters in San Diego last spring. He also competed at regattas in Houston, Toronto, Kingston and Helsinki, as well as local events.
Buck was recently recognized for his outstanding season by being named B.C. Sailing’s Youth Skipper of the Year.
The Optimist caught up with Buck this week to discuss his ascend to becoming a world class sailor and what’s next in his promising career.
How were you introduced to sailing and eventually racing?
“My dad is a good sailor and a member of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club (RVYC). He did this when he was younger too. All of us (two brothers and a sister) know how to sail but I’m the only one who races.
“I actually didn’t really like it until maybe Grade 9. I started in a 420 which is a two-man boat and joined (the RVYC) race team. A year and half later I moved onto a (14-foot long) 29’er. It’s more of a high performance boat. That’s when we started to do regattas in North America. We went to San Diego and was near the back being my first time.
What led to your significant improvement in races?
“It was mainly just knowing the boat. It’s tricky and it takes time to get used to it. It just goes faster and capsizes more often. It also takes more athleticism to sail the boat. In the 29’er you also have to really trust your partner a lot more than the 420.
“This past year I sailed with Zach Spicer. He is from White Rock and also a member (at RYVC). Through the winter, I typically train Tuesday and Thursdays after school although right now the days are too short. In the spring and fall it’s four days a week and in the summer is when you are travelling a lot. For Boston, we trained five straight days and it was followed by three days of racing.”
Do you have to own your own boat to race competitively?
“You can charter a boat from the club and pay monthly fees or you can split the costs with your partner or just one can own it. Zach owned the boat so I just paid him monthly. You can trailer it to most regattas in North America. We took it to Boston. Obviously taking it to Europe would be expensive so you mostly charter over there.”
What is a typical race?
“It’s like you start on the down wind end and then there is a start line that’s even with the wind. Then you have to zig zag up wind to get to the top mark then you round it and come down. Then there’s a gate you can round at either end. You try to figure which one is farther up wind because it’s less distance. Then you go back up around the mark and through the finish which is next to the start line.”
Does Racing in different parts of the world require knowledge of those waters?
“Some races you have to know the place you are sailing. In Vancouver it’s like typically you would want to go into shore to shallow waters because you are normally sailing against the current up wind. Everyone knows the wind always shifts left on the shore. It means you need to be on the left side of the course. The way the angles work it will put you ahead of everyone else. You want to be the first to hit the shift.
Physically, what does it take to be an accomplished sailor?
For the 29’er have to be really agile and also pretty strong too. Any weight has its advantage in different conditions. A lightweight team, say combined at 240 pounds, you would be really good in light air. If the wind picks up you won’t do a well. We were on the heavier side at 290 which is pretty good. Combined you wouldn’t want to be more than 300.”
What lies ahead in 2019?
Maybe going to the Worlds in Poland and seeing how I would do there. Zach is going to university now so I will need a new partner. Right now, I’m sailing one man laser boats but don’t know how well I would do at it competitively.