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Island sailors dominate Canadian Sailing Hall of Fame Class of 2024

Ceremony in Vancouver in October
The Royal Victoria Yacht Club has produced numerous top-notch sailers. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Hardly surprising considering it is surrounded by water, Vancouver Island has had a notable history in sailing. That is evident by the seven Island sailors announced Saturday who will be going into the Canadian Sailing Hall of Fame with the 14-member Class of 2024.

Eric Jespersen of Sidney won the bronze medal in the Star division at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and the world championship in 1994, both with Ross MacDonald of ­Vancouver. Fittingly, Jesperson and MacDonald are being inducted together. MacDonald also won silver in the Star class at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Jespersen grew up with saltwater in his veins and is part of a well-known Island sailing family that was headed by noted boat-builder dad Bent Jespersen. Eric Jespersen crewed his first race in the 1974 Swiftsure at age 12 and went on to crew in the America’s Cup with challenger semifinalist Canada I in 1983 at Newport, Rhode Island, and with Canada II in 1987 at Freemantle, West Australia.

Also being inducted is the late David Cook, captain of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club boat that won the silver medal in the Sonar class at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics. Cook was a soccer player diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative and incurable neurological disease, at age 17. He turned to sailing as therapy for mind and body.

“For four decades … my passion, obsession in life was the sport and recreation of sailing,” wrote Cook, on his website, before his death at age 62 in 2022.

“It led to winning many local and regional events in open competition and a silver medal in sailing’s debut at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. My greatest lesson learnt is our attitudes are within our control to change.”

Crew members of Cook’s Atlanta Paralympics silver-medallist Sonar crew from Victoria — John McRoberts, Kirk Westergaard and Ken Kelly — are also being inducted. McRoberts is also being enshrined individually in the Class of 2014 as silver medallist in the Skud division at the 2016 Rio Paralympics and bronze medallist in the 2008 ­Beijing Paralympics.

Victoria sailors Stacie Louttit, who won Paralympics bronze in Skud with McRoberts at Beijing in 2008, and Jackie Gay, who won Paralympics silver in Skud with McRoberts at Rio in 2016, are also being inducted.

“There is a lot of sailing talent in Canada, which makes this honour so special,” said Louttit.

“And it shows we have the perfect sailing environment on the Island.”

Completing the Class are Mike Wolfs of Mississauga, Ont., 2004 Athens Olympics silver medallist in Star, 2000 Sydney Paralympics Sonar silver-medallists Brian MacDonald and the late David Williams of Vancouver, Don Martin of Vancouver, designer and builder of the Martin 16, the late designer Rob Ball of Oakville, Ont., and three-time world windsurfing champion Caroll-Ann Alie of Gracefield, Que.

The induction ceremony will take place Oct. 5 at the Royal ­Vancouver Yacht Club.