Come Sail Away

An avid sailor created an endowment fund so that he could share his love of the water with young people

When the Wabamun Sailing Club was founded in March 1960 by Daniel Sorochan and four other members of the Royal Canadian Naval Sailing Association, the new society had no money and no land.

Instead, the members held races near their private cottages around the lake, trading off hosting duties each weekend. It took another 10 years to acquire land and begin constructing a clubhouse, using primarily volunteer labour. Today, the Wabamun Sailing Club boasts a newly renovated clubhouse, participates in regattas around the province, and has trained Olympic-calibre sailors.

It’s a story of growth and success that mirrors Sorochan’s own life. Born outside Lac la Biche, Alberta, Sorochan received an eighth-grade education before beginning work as a general-purpose employee for Sinclair Stove & Heating in 1947, a year-old company operating out of owner Walter Sinclair’s two-car garage.

Over the course of 70 years with the company, Sorochan became general manager and then owner, and grew Sinclair Supply Limited to 17 branches throughout Western Canada before retiring early this year at the age of 89. His daughter, Cindy Sorochan, says, “He came from nothing, and he’s managed to do a lot. He’s helped a lot of people. That’s going to be his legacy.”

An avid sailor for most of his life, Sorochan has always had a keen interest in passing his love of the sport on to younger generations. Known as “Danny” to his fellow sailors, Sorochan became the Northern Alberta Junior Sailing Co-ordinator in 1964, and encouraged his children to sail as well.

“I didn’t do as much sailing as I’m sure my father would have liked, but it’s always been part of our lives,” Cindy says. She has many fond memories of sailing with her father, particularly of the family dog, Sailor, whose antics sometimes included taking hold of a rope attached to the boat and paddling off with it.

In 1990, Sorochan established an endowment fund to support other young sailors, which he donated to frequently over the years. Recently, his family and the Wabamun Sailing Club collaborated with Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) to ensure that fund continues to assist junior sailors, and created the Danny Sorochan Junior Sailing Fund. Matt Mandrusiak, a donor advisor at ECF, says, “It’s going to provide sustainable funding to help teach youth the ins and outs of sailing, which is beneficial for everyone, and it will be around for a long, long time.”

Ken Anderson, a long-time member of the club and a friend of Sorochan, says learning to sail has numerous benefits for youth, including teaching them traditional values like good sportsmanship and humility, as well as learning to tackle complex problems.

“Sailing is like three-dimensional chess on water. You’re not just competing against the other guy; you also have to figure out what Mother Nature is up to.”

However, sailing is typically an expensive sport — 10 days of lessons for a junior sailor cost approximately $2,000, putting it out of reach for many families. Wabamun Sailing Club secretary Jordyce van Muyden says the club plans to use the fund to bring down the cost of lessons, as well as provide further subsidies for families who can’t afford it, making the sport more accessible. Eventually, it will also pay for young sailors to participate in provincial, national and international sailing competitions.

For Cindy, the fund is about more than recognizing her father’s accomplishments and contributions. She hopes it will promote the club itself and make sure that more people have an opportunity to share her father’s passion for sailing. “Not a lot of people know about sailing unless they have a cottage, which is really unfortunate. It can be for anyone, even if they just want to try it.”

Cindy and her sister are doing their part to keep the tradition alive by encouraging their own children to take up sailing. Cindy’s 13-year-old daughter has become an avid sailor, and although Daniel Sorochan now lives in a retirement home, he follows his granddaughter’s accomplishments with interest.