Ottawa-Gatineau Sailing

[ Background | Equipment | Where ]

Background of the Sport

Moored sailboats at marina

Sailing uses the wind to power the boat's motion. It's not as much by pushing the sail (as is the case when sailing downwind) but by creating forward-pulling lift using airfoil-shaped sails (when sailing across or into the wind). The joy of sailing combines the joy of being on the water, the power you feel in harnessing natural forces, and with the thrill of going fast without significant energy on your part.

Sailing dates back to the ancient Phoenician traders, though the technology of sailboats has improved dramatically over the years. Innovations in the past 50 years include fibreglass hulls, metal masts and booms, synthetic sails, computer controlled laser cut and sewn sails, and computer aided design for boat hulls have made sail boats faster, safer, cheaper, and easier to maintain.

Small sailboats under 20 feet in length come in two main configurations: either single hull or multi-hull (like a catamaran). They typically have one mast, one mainsail (the big one), and a jib (the small triangular at the front, to direct the wind around the mainsail), and sometimes a spinnaker (the large round-shaped one for going downwind). Small boats are designed for a limited number of people to crew, with them either sitting in or around the cockpit (which may be a tightly stretched tarp between the catamaran hulls), or supported from a trapeze rig over the edge of the boat (in high winds). Smaller boats with centreboards include modles like Albacores and Lasers.

In coastal waters and in larger lakes, boats can get larger (with fixed keels), more sophisticated (and much more expensive), and can handle larger numbers of people. Some such boats even have multiple masts, and complex sail configurations. Such larger yachts are suitable for a sailing on open water for significant distances, and provide sleeping, kitchen, communications equipment, even entertainment facilities.

Yachts with gear at a marina

To go sailing, you'll need a boat, and lifejackets.


Sailing in Ottawa is concentrated in two areas, the Ottawa River/Lac Deschene to the city's northwest (above the nasty des Chenes rapids), and to the east, the quiet waters beyond the Inter-Provincial Bridge. Lac Deschenes offers about 60 km of sailing upwind, until the Chat Falls dam upstream by Fitzroy Harbour. The waters can be quiet on some days, and quite choppy when a storm front speeds down the Ottawa Valley. Ottaw River Cruising.

Sail RA is based out of the Ottawa-New Edinburgh Boathouse on the Rockcliffe Parkway and has a fleet of Albacores and Lasers. Beginners can also a complete program of sailing lessons on larger (keeped) boats offered at Britannia by the Ottawa Sailing School, which also operates the Keel Boat Syndicate. Once experienced, both the Britannia Yacht Club and Nepean Sailing Club run crew banks, where boat owners looking for crew meet crew looking for a boat. There are a series of weekly races on Lac Deschenes that involve members from both the Britannia and Nepean clubs, which are great for anyone with a minimum of sailing knowledge, and are a good way to get out on the water.

One of the most popular windsurfing beaches is at Britannia Park, beside Lakeside Gardens, giving access to Lac des Chenes.

Here are the local sailing clubs:

Britannia Yacht Club


2777 Cassels, Ottawa, ON K2B 6N6

Lac Deschenes Sailing Club


2 Riverdown Dr, Nepean, ON Q5Q 5Q5

Kanata Sailing Club


1620, Sixth Line Road ,Kanata, ON K0A 1T0

Nepean Sailing Club


3259 Carling Av, Nepean, ON K2H 1A6

Ottawa Sailing School


2777 Cassels, Ottawa, ON K2B 6N6

RA Sail Club


Rockcliffe, ON K1M 1B5

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