Young Ninette sailor makes his mark at regatta

Gavin Garabed places 42nd at the Canadian Olympic Training Regatta in Kingston, Ont.


It was the sight of a flotilla of sailors bobbing on the lake outside his window that first inspired a young boy to take to the water.

Lorna Garabed said that her four-year-old son Gavin was excited to see sailing students out on Pelican Lake, so she thought he might like to get involved.

“We live beside the lake in Ninette, right across from the yacht club, and about nine years ago we could see the boats out on the water with the CanSail camp,” said Lorna Garabed. “I think I said, ‘Hey, do you want to try that?’ and he did. It was a Friday, and we went down and talked to the instructor. And by Monday Gavin was on a sailboat on Pelican Lake, with an experienced sailor showing him the ropes.”

Gavin continued with his lessons with CanSail every summer, and attended his first regatta when he was just seven years old. 

These days the 13-year-old student, whose favourite subjects are Gym and Math, and who will enter Grade 9 at Killarney School this fall, operates his own Optimist sailboat, an ‘Opti,’ as they are known on the waterfront. This is the small and light model of sailboat that kids usually use when they first learn to sail, said his mom.

“They can use it up until the age of 15, and then they have to progress to a different boat,” she said. “It cost around $3,000 to $4,000, and he paid for it himself. He did a lot of lawn mowing, around Ninette, for six regular customers. And he spent a lot of time at my sister’s, at Shilo CFB, mowing lawns for families at the base. He rigs his Opti right in our front yard, and wheels it across the road, right into the water.” 

But it was not easy sailing raising all that cash, said Gavin.

“It was hard work,” he said. “It was usually pretty hot. I used my parent’s lawnmower, and sometime the owner’s lawnmower if they lived across town. I could use the club’s Optis. But getting my own boat meant I could sail out here whenever I wanted to, and it added a lot of flexibility – to go anywhere with it, anytime.”

Gavin says he spends three to four hours at a time sailing on Pelican Lake, at least twice a week. He dons a special flotation vest, along with clothes to safely suit a sailor.

“My mom can see me from the front window, out on the water,” he said. “I love it out there. It’s peaceful, and it’s exciting.”

A couple of weeks ago Gavin, who joined the Manitoba Provincial Sailing Team two years ago, flew to Ontario with his mom to attend CORK, the Canadian Olympic Regatta Kingston.

“It’s the Canadian Olympic training regatta, and it’s a three-day international event,” said Lorna Garabed. “There were 94 Optimist sailboats and their skippers, and Gavin placed 42nd. He had a great race on Friday, and there were three days of training the following week with some of the top coaches. This year was his first big regatta, and it was a big event.”

Coming up next on his list is the Centennial Cup Regatta in Gimli, which takes place at the end of August.

“Last year he won first place,” said Lorna Garabed. “And he hopes to win it again this year.

She said that the local sailing club has been instrumental in making her son a good yachtsman.

“The Pelican Yacht Club supported him financially, as well as giving him full access to anything he needs at the club,” said Garabed. “And they are really encouraging to the young sailors.”

Gavin’s aunt Tammy Pugh said she was also proud of her nephew, and of his dedication in raising the substantial cash though his hard work in order to pay for his own boat.

“It’s a great sport, and he’s done so well,” she said. “The Yacht Club say he is the first one from Ninette to represent Manitoba. He saved his own money to buy his sailboat. It’s an expensive sport, but he was really keen and wanted to stay with it. He mowed a lot of lawns, and he also did yard work to make that happen.”

Gavin is currently learning to operate the next sized vessel, a Laser sailboat, at the Pelican Yacht Club. An Opti is quite small and light, designed for young beginners, and as a sailor grows, the boat needs to become more substantial.

“The Laser has a bigger sail, it goes faster, and it’s heavier,” said Gavin. “It handles better. I still use the Opti, and will use it in my last race this year in Gimli. But I started two days ago, learning to sail the Laser. I will be training on it over the next year, because the Opti will be too small for me in the next couple of years.” 

AT HOME ON THE WATER – Gavin Garabed, 13, has been making quite a name for himself as a member of the provincial sailing team. Above, he’s ready and rigged to board a Laser sailboat for his Tuesday morning lesson with the Pelican Yacht Club in Ninette. Next stop for this youngster, who started sailing at age four, is the upcoming Gimli Regatta, which he won last year.

RIGGING THE LASER – Gavin Garabed rigs up a Laser sailboat for his Tuesday lesson, as Ben Stephenson, assistant coach at the Pelican Yacht Club, motors in to check on the young sailor.

SETTING SAIL – Teen sailor Gavin Garabed says he can easily spend three to four hours sailing on Pelican Lake, a few times a week, just enjoying his time on the beautiful water. 


REGATTA WINNER – Gavin Garabed, 13, a young sailor with the Pelican Yacht Club, recently received a wonderful plaque and award, after being named the Richardson Regatta Optimist Champion at the 2021 Richardson Regatta held on July 24 at the Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club in Kenora, Ontario. With him are two of the yacht club’s sailing instructors. Congratulations Gavin!


Learning to sail at the Pelican Yacht Club

If you have long dreamt of learning to sail, the opportunity awaits nearby.

The CANSail program, operating at Ninette’s Pelican Yacht Club, is open to students of all ages, and is suited to both ages and level of development.

“The program is designed to get, and keep, sailors excited about sailing for life!” says the club brochure.

The nationally recognized courses, created by Sail Canada, are offered in a variety of formats: week-long day camps, private and semi-private lessons, and with small group lessons. Lessons are taught in Optimist, Laser, or Laser 2 sailboats provided by the club.

Learn to Sail programs this summer run until August 27, and you can check them out at their website at: and by email to Lucas McPhail Stouffer at: where you can book your spot or ask questions. You can also contact them by phone at 204-528-2620, and at