Thursday, October 18, 2007

Make Something Happen

I have a friend who likes to close a conversation with the words, "Now go make something happen."

So here is a story about someone who makes things happen.
The name is Craig Bergh.

Craig proudly advertises Minnesota's Lake Okabena as "the fastest lake in the nation," and he has his reasons. The guy's a one-man sailing association/race committee/promo unit who, three years ago, strapped a GPS to his wrist, went windsurfing, and was fascinated with the speed readouts. He says, "I realized that other people would want to do this."

Thus was born the Midwest Speed Quest, and now Bergh is on a quest to add sailboats to the Quest. Pay attention, people, you might be missing something.

Think of this as an American example of an international phenomenon. Bergh puts in 60-hour weeks as a nurse-anesthesiologist in Worthington, Minnesota (about 175 miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul), but Worthington is not just any small town in the heartland. Dig this . . .

Here's the Craig Bergh deal: Over a six-month season, people come to Lake Okabena whenever they want, and he takes care of them—or someone else in the family does—providing meals and hydration and sometimes a bed in his lakeside home. "One of us will meet them with a GPS," he says. "The GPS has a memory card that allows my computer to look at their entire day -- or year -- on the water, second by second, to 1/100th of a knot." Come mid-October, he has his winners for the year.

Unlike the international 500-meter course records ratified by the World Speed Sailing Record Council, Bergh looks for the fastest 10-second intervals. So far, all his takers have been windsurfers, but he is eager to expand to dinghies and catamarans. Why do it at all? He just thinks this is all so cool.

Photo by Pam Bergh

What does he get out of it? Well, if you have to ask, you just don't understand how cool this is. All the photos here are taken from the event web site, and here's an outtake from the text:

This Event is designed to be fun. We are geared to beginning sailors as well as the top racers. The Event remains completely free, and there are no entry fees.

There are prizes and gear give-aways courtesy of our sponsors such as Dakine, Murray Sports, KA Sails, Windsurf Deal, La Azteca Mexican Restaurant, LOCOSYS Technology, Aquapac International, AmericInn of Worthington, and the Worthington Chamber of Commerce.

Let us know when you are planning to attend. We will assist with your travel expenses, including gasoline. We would be delighted to provide free or discounted motel rooms at the AmericInn of Worthington. We have great discounted meals at La Azteca, the best Mexican Restaurant anywhere. The Worthington Chamber of Commerce is at your service to assist with your travel plans to Worthington. The Midwest Speed Quest Crew will meet you at the Sioux Falls or Worthington Airport to assist you with transportation.

We have free refreshments and hot meals served on the Beach.

We provide the most precise GPS units available: the LOCOSYS GT-11.

We have lots of great demo gear for you, courtesy KA Sails Australia, and from Starboard International.

We have free Hot Showers, Pet Care, Child Care, Spousal Care (care of the Windsurfing Widow), all provided on-site!

Yes, pretty cool. And it's all about Craig Bergh taking a notion and then beating up on potential sponsors and trumpeting the deal and then following through.

Sailors come to Lake Okabena from all over--not in great numbers, 47 this year, and it's reasonable to wonder if too much success could wreck a good thing.

Whatever. Bergh describes his home as one of the windiest spots in the country, "And October is really windy; the best guys look for 40 knots plus." Being located on Buffalo Ridge, a high point between the Missouri and Mississippi Basins, Worthington and Lake Okabena are, shall we say, exposed.

Photo by Todd Spence

At one point last summer, Richard White of Portland, Oregon was leading the search for speed at 32 knots . . .

Photo by Craig Bergh

. . . but Bergh was anticipating an October influx to top that, and he hit my Inbox last week with some high-wind alerts for the lake.

Nope and nope.

The Midwest Speed Quest is all wrapped up now and 32 knots it is for a high note, or rather, 31.94, as the soft-water sailing season comes to its end among the rolling hills of southwestern Minnesota with Richard White still on top. Just an inky-winky back is Chris Lock of Plainview, Minnesota at 31.24 knots.

The fastest woman for 2007 was Annabel Ferguson of Windsor, Ontario at 20.02 . . .

Photo by Don Ferguson

Those numbers are well short of a world mark but not bad for a run-what-you-brung, all-comers event where nobody's out to get famous. (Bergh's personal standard for the spirit of the event was set in 2006, when Americans Chris Lock and Jay Corbett, "sailed for two days and wouldn't let each other out of sight; Chris logged 135 miles in two days.")

Congrats to all, but to me, the story is not the winners, the lake, or even the increasing popularity of speed sailing. It's this guy who decided to make something happen. Here's Craig Bergh . . .

Photo by Pam Bergh

. . . who writes, "Kimball, good to hear from you. It's getting cold here. Only the heartiest of sailors are going out now. We usually have a little contest to see who is the last one on the lake before it freezes. I have sailed in 34 degree water. A little brisk."

And after that, of course, there's only one thing to do, as demonstrated below by Kevin Gratton.

Now go make something happen.

The Olympics? What Does it Take?

Not only because he's a fellow Tulane grad do I want to note the specialness of seeing John Dane make the Olympic sailing team in the Star. After Katrina wiped out his boatbuilding business in New Orleans, John could have pocketed a bundle of insurance money and walked away. Instead he reinvented the business from the ground up and put a lot of people back to work and (incredibly) still found time to sail and win a Bacardi Cup and now the Trials. With his son-in-law, nonetheless, Austin Sperry.

Considering what they did to get this far, I'm pretty sure these two will spare nothing to be ready to race at the Games in Qingdao.

Here is a look at Sperry hiking down on #10 at Cascais, Portugal earlier this year . . .

And below is a list that Austin posted on their web site, detailing what went into the Los Angeles leg of the campaign. Get this:

4 star boats

2 tenders

1 team house for 6 months

weather team

strength coach/trainer

massage therapist

3 coaches (Hans Wallen, 1996 Silver medalist from Sweden, Marc Pickel from Germany and Rod Hagebols from Australia)

we have ridden over 200 miles on our bikes just warming up [speaking of a two-week period]

we have spent about 30 hours in the gym [speaking of a two-week period]

an average of 4 hours of on the water tuning, testing, practice racing daily

After hours debrief, more meetings, more sail testing, more meetings to schedule meetings...

coaches sleeping on the couch because the other coach snores…

tested 15 masts

tested 4 booms

gone through 2 boxes of paper for printing our weather reports, mast pictures, side bend, fore aft bend, every type of picture or video you can think of we have done it...

more stretching, dog calls, elevated mountain climbers, swiss ball crunches, & wall sits.... those suck…
gone through more bottles of sun tan lotion than wal mart wanted to sell us…

had some seriously long days, and some serious gut checks, some long looks in the mirror

1 trip to the hospital, 1 trip to the orthopedic surgeon

More days living out of a suitcase, sitting on airplanes and away from home than I care to remember...

But now we know it was worth it.

Gotta go. Got the Jessica Cup regatta for classics this weekend, and of course I'm on countdown to the opening of court on Monday.

Feel free to sing along:

I'm glad I'm not a part of it ... New York ... Neeew Yooork—Kimball