- Our Town
Teenage Bowen boating champ hits his ‘bliss point of sailing’
Islander Robert Torok whipped his sails about countless times during the three days of competition last August in the prestigious Commodore’s Cup’s Regatta at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, navigating his laser class boat through nine races.
He won eight of those races and, as the rules call for dropping the lowest finish (for Robert, that was second place), that meant he was perfect.
“The win still feels good, especially when talking to friends about it,” Torok says.
“It felt awesome to win that cup and the gold medal.”
A tough act to follow, no?
But Torok, only 16, is set to try for gold again as he readies to compete in the Pumpkin Regatta in the laser full-rig fleet at the West Van Yacht Club on Oct. 20.
It’s again a competitive racing series and he’s excited about getting back into the water in a competition and for him there’s nothing else like it.
The West Van Secondary student does a good job of describing what he loves about it.
“There’s the sound of waves splashing against your hull,” he says, just getting started.
“There’s the flap of the sail as it cuts through the air, the wind billowing the sails and the vibration of the hull as you rip through the water with your bow slicing smoothly through the waves while you hike out hard, hitting that bliss point of sailing.”
Hitting that “bliss point of sailing” last August got him that big win and the win in turn got him an invite to compete in the Sail Canada Youth National Regatta the day following the Commodore’s Cup.
He didn’t place but he did fare well against 13 older competitors and will compete there again next summer.
That competition is the qualifier for the Youth World ISAF Championships, which is the main qualifier for the Olympics, and Torok is ambitious enough to set his sails on racing for our country as an Olympian.
If he does get there, he’ll own his own boat by then and he already has a name for it. And in naming it, again, he shows that he does a good job of articulating what it’s like to sail.
“If I get my own boat, I will name her ‘Hummingbird’ because when you have fast hull speed, the daggerboard makes a humming sound as it vibrates in the blade housing, thus – ‘Hummingbird.’”
He really had no interest in sailing as a young kid — it was originally just his passion for power boats that could take him out to sea.
But he started sailing at 13, beginning with the Bowen Island Yacht Club, a club he left this past summer for the Hollyburn Sailing Club because the HYC offered an advanced level he wanted to take.
However, he still has loyalty to the BIYC and points out that it was a former Bowen teammate, Keona Wishart, who finished second to him at the Commodore’s Cup.
Torok says parents Alex and Dana “pushed” him into sailing and laughs when he adds that “only they don’t know anything about it.”
He was reluctant but soon fell in love with it.
He spends a great deal of time on the water but notes that during school it’s harder to get out as often as he’d like.
Racing for him is about competing against others and about learning about handling his craft and improving his technique.
And about the pure enjoyment of being on the water.
“My favourite part about competing in sailing is how competitive and intense the racing can become, everybody gives it their all, thus making it really competitive and fun,” he said. “The feeling you get when you’re out on the ocean is like no other.”