A $155,000 contribution from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), announced on August 15, should buoy the Lunenburg Yacht Club's (LYC) efforts to host two major sailing events lined up for next month.
Bernadette Jordan, the MP for South Shore-St. Margaret's, made the announcement on the club's lawn, before a small crowd of sailing officials, enthusiasts and sailing school students.
According to Paul Tingley, skipper of the team that won a bronze medal in the Paralympics in Rio last year, the upgrades that can take place as a result will be "a game changer" for the club.
"Hosting the World Sonar and the Women's National Keelboat championships are two very exciting opportunities for this yacht club, as well as for this region. These events will attract large numbers of visitors to the area, further building our profile and reputation as a sailing and tourism destination," said Jordan.
Twenty-five boats each with four sailors and supporting crew and family members are registered to participate in the World Sonar Championship so far, which is being held at the club September 6 to 10.
Some 16 to 18 boats and crews are expected for the Women's National Keelboat Championship running from September 13 to 17.
Jordan made the funding announcement on behalf of Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the minister responsible for ACOA.
ACOA is providing the money to assist with infrastructure upgrades to improve the movement of boats in and out of the water as well as for marketing, "to ensure the success of these two events and open doors for more large-scale events in the future," said Jordan.
Michael O'Connor, the LYC's commodore, noted that the club had already raised $450,000 toward putting in an upgraded wharf and ramp, "and provide a lot of great facilities here."
O'Connor explained he had attended numerous regattas elsewhere and the means to get boats in and out of the water has often been lacking." Now the LYC can offer this to potential championship groups.
"Going forward we hope to host many more regattas, many more people, like I say, 50, 60, 80 boats," he said.
Frank Denis, executive director of Sail Nova Scotia, commented that the waters off Nova Scotia are known as being among the best sailing areas in the world.
"And I think we're being recognized as such by all these events wanting to come to Nova Scotia."
Referring to the young sailing students in the audience, Denis said the ACOA funding will benefit "not just the kids here but sailors right across the country, because they will want to come and train here. They will host events here."
And he said the significance of the investment is not just that it will allow for a permanent crane to be brought into the club. "But it's going to make the club more accessible to all sailors. People like Paul Tingley and Scott [Lutes], our Paralympic bronze medalists from last year will have easier access to the water. And that is so, so, so important."
"This whole thing is a game changer," he told LighthouseNOW. " It's really opening [the club] up to a whole new set of possibilities. And they've got inclusion in mind. They're doing it for all the population. So no matter what your ability," he said.
"What this does is increase the access to the water for more types of vessels and for all populations," summed up Tingley.
More than simply enhanced infrastructure, the club will also have a strong proponent in six-time world sailing champion and Americas Cup winner, Andreas Josenhans, who was among those in the audience at the funding announcement.
Inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1981, Josenhans is now a resident of Lunenburg and an LYC member. He was instrumental in helping to bring these championships to the club, and he is confident he can encourage more.
"Being a world champion, I can pretty much travel to any yacht club on the planet and they know me," suggested Josenhans, who now describes himself as sail maker and an international consultant helping people race sailboats.
"I can open the door and have relationships world-wide," he said.