To ask Paul Henderson to discuss sailing is like prompting Elizabeth
Taylor to talk about marriages.
Henderson eats, sleeps and talks sailing.
He is one of the leading members of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in
Toronto and current president of the International Sailing Federation, the
world's governing sailing organization.
"Have you got a couple of hours?" he asked when I inquired about the latest
news in sailing.
When I replied in the affirmative, his words came cascading down like
Niagara Falls on a sunny day. Small wonder -- he's very familiar with water,
having sailed in the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City Olympics and having
coached the Canadian team in the 1972 Olympics at Kiel, Germany.
"At one time the Americans won all sailing events in the Olympics," said
"That has changed. In Savannah during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where 30
medals were available and they were shared by 22 countries. It was the first
time that Hong Kong and Japan won medals. Obviously sailing has broadened its
He took a deep breath, his eyes became more focused and he said with great
pride in his voice when discussing Canada's chances at the Sydney Olympics
"This time Canada has a shot for at least two medals. We have two genuine
superstars in Richard Clarke of Toronto Island in the Finn Class and in
Vancouver's Ross MacDonald in the Star Boat Class. In the last world
championships Clarke was third out of 120 boats.
"MacDonald and his crew--Tyler Bjorn of Montreal -- are at the top of their
game and are recognized as the best in the world.
Incidentally, Bjorn played CFL football for the Montreal Alouettes and
Winnipeg Blue Bombers."
If Henderson was proud of the Canadians in the two events, he's just as
proud of Carrol Ann Alie of Ottawa in the women's board sailing, a sport in
which women in their late 20s are considered washed up.
Alie is in her 40s, with a good shot at finishing in the top 10 at Sydney.
He also gives Bill Abbott of Sarnia a chance of placing in the top five in
the Soling Class.
The Canadian team will be one of the smallest representing the maple leaf
in Olympic Games because of stringent qualifying rules set out by the Canadian
Olympic Association, which in itself is not a bad idea.
Henderson figures that Canadians who have been competing in Toronto will
have an advantage in Sydney.
"I would have trained in Toronto if I was chosen to compete at Sydney," he
"The water in Toronto Bay is flat, with shifty winds. Sydney Harbour is the
Then, with typical Henderson humour, he added:
"I don't think our sailors will have problems with sharks, because the
triathlon takes place before our events and by the the time the sailing
starts, the sharks will have been well fed."
Henderson doesn't have to fear sharks anyway. As boss of Olympic sailing,
he'll be patrolling the course in a 120-foot luxury boat. Even IOC president
Juan Antonio Samaranch won't have a larger boat at his disposal.