Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thank You, Race Committee

On the north coast of Texas, you can see all the way to Oklahoma.

But what I carried away from Lakefest on Lake Texoma was a renewed appreciation for the volunteers who make sailboat racing possible. My friend “Johnny” did a little Hobie cat racing in his youth, but he’s not a sailor at heart. He’s a powerboater who “likes to look at sailboats” and for seven years has brought out one or another Savannah Jane to serve as signal boat for Lakefest. You know—I hope you know—that you can judge the importance of a sailboat race by how many motorboats it takes to run it.

The ladies of the Texoma Sailing Club who raised flags and kept the scoring have been at this so long that they run their own show. You don’t tell these women what to do.

And if you've never breathed the early morning air or hunted down the breeze of the day—if you've never done your time on race committee—you're missing something. It's really pretty cool.

The certified RC people and judges who came in from Houston, Oklahoma City and the like to work with PRO Jim Tichenor were smooth as clockwork. I think the sailors on the 50-some raceboats know this, but I’ll say it anyway.

We are blessed. And it's not that Texoma Sailing Club is unique, rather that all across this country there are volunteers who turn out to make sailing happen. At Fairhope Yacht Club, on the shores of Mobile Bay, people have worked for months (more like a year) to be ready for Saturday's 50th Anniversary Dauphin Island Race. There's a race to prepare, yes, but what surrounds the race is just as important. This is one of the great sailors-and-all-their-cousins-and-aunties reunions of the Deep South. It's a spirit thing. Also a spirit thing—what Long Beach Yacht Club does with its Congressional Cup. Over time, this event has been a leader in developing features we now take for granted on the match racing circuit: identical boats and sails, assigned ends, on-course judging, etc. LBYC also embraces the Congressional Cup as a communal celebration of what it means to be "us." Making the Congressional Cup happen is at the heart of club life.
Thank you, race committee.

(Congressional Cup racing kicks off next week and we'll have a winner in a week.)

On the Red River

Lakefest has been a going concern for 22 years (it was a pioneer in charity regattas and fundraising for a cause). But 2008 was the first year that Lakefest tied into the Leukemia Cup circuit to create the opening round of “three lakes in three weeks.” That has a nice ring to it, eh?

Texoma was created by damming the Red River—the state border—and over time it has become a major sailing destination for both Texas (Don't mess with Texas) and Oklahoma (Right on top of Texas). Texoma, nearly-equal drive time from Dallas and Oklahoma city, may be the only thing these two states agree on. Twelve-foot dinghies? Forty-foot racer-cruisers? They got’em. Now, one week after Lakefest, Leukemia Cup action edges closer down toward the heart of Texas, to Dallas and White Rock Lake, for centerboarder racing Friday through Sunday. Add another week and we'll have keelboats and multihulls at Lewisville Lake, May 2-5, which is also part of the Dallas big picture.

When Melges 24s hit the line, they look about like the Melges fleet racing anywhere . . .

Texas is primarily a trailerables sailing environment. Texoma is an exception. Last month I went to Mexico for MEXORC and the Banderas Bay Regatta and I spent time aboard a Beneteau 47 that was previously a Texoma boat. The name, appropriately, was Sooner Magic. Is it overkill to sail boats this size on a lake? Maybe. But what about sailing ever made sense? And let me tell you, there is plenty of elbow room. We’re talking 89,000 acres and depths to 100 feet. It’s the sixth-largest manmade lake in the USA. Grandpappy Point, home to the Texoma Sailing Club, looks like this . . .

I have a sneaking suspicion the best parties happened in the campgrounds . . .

Regrets? I have a few. I’ve been on the road for more than a week and haven’t been able to revisit the old blog in a while. That will self-correct next week. Also, Lakefest was scheduled one week too late for me to get to the Madill Spring Rodeo. On the other hand, I’ve been here . . .

And you probably haven’t. Pretty country, too.

Fink, Texas was never incorporated after its founding in the early 1800s. The population topped out below 100, and I’m guessing that I could count all of today’s denizens on my fingers and toes. But Texans know a good Fink when they see one. The state celebrates Fink Day every fourth Friday of June. Get ready to haul out your Lone Star bunting—Kimball

P.S. It's back to the road. See those trailers rolling, rolling, rolling?