Waiting on Wind

By Beacon Staff

It seems fitting that a team named “Bound for Glory” should win first place. But a sailing crew needs more than a good name to win a district championship, especially when “Maniac” is hot on its tail.

Twelve teams participated in the three-day J/24 District 19 Sailing Championships held on Flathead Lake earlier this month. Pete Sauer, North Flathead Yacht Club’s commodore and one of the event’s organizers, captained his Bound for Glory (B4G) crew to a first-place finish. B4G and second-place Maniac now qualify for regionals.

Sauer’s crew won three of the nine races in the regatta, and placed in the top three in most of the others. Competition included four other Flathead Valley crews as well as participants from Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Canada.

Sauer organized the event with his friend and crewmember, Bill Corwin, who said he was pleased with the entire three-day event.

Crew members of Hair of the Dog set the spinnaker during the J-24 District Championships at Somers Bay on Flathead Lake. – Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon

“It went really well,” Corwin said. “We got nine races in, which is great in a regatta like this.”

The J/24 is, simply enough, a JBoat that’s 24 feet long. A J/24 race, unlike North Flathead Yacht Club’s weekly races, only allows the boat of its namesake, with stipulations regulating weight, crew size and other specifics.

On the J/24 regatta’s final day, a Saturday, crewmembers were ready to go as usual at about 6 a.m., drinking coffee and joking before the deciding races began. By 7 a.m. everybody was on the water. Then they waited for wind. And waited.

Race Steward Scott Galbreath signaled for the crews to return back to land. The wind hovered around three or four knots an hour. Sailors would like to see at least eight.

“It’s frustrating,” said Trevon Baker, captain of Frankly Scarlet. “Got up early, got ready, then went out there and had to come back.”

Anxious sailors milled around the yacht club, waiting for wind until it seemed the day was lost. It was nearly 10 a.m. before Galbreath sounded his horn. He had found wind on the lake.

Crews piled back into their sailboats as temperatures approached the low 90s. But sailors noticed only the wind, which had died down again by the time the boats lined up. The race started anyway.

In a sailboat race, crews must keep their boats under control behind the starting line while jockeying for position. Boats are only feet, sometimes inches, away from each other while wind constantly threatens to initiate contact. Sometimes the boats do collide, or “trade paint.”

Finally, at about 10:30, the day’s first race began. Competitors start at a point in the middle of two buoys, or marks – the windward and leeward. They go around each twice, finishing back at the starting point. The crews only went around the marks once before Galbreathe called the race off due to lack of wind. Crewmembers called out, “No, no, no!”

“It’s tough for the boats in front,” said Baker, whose boat was one of them.

Winds finally picked up for good after that. Later in the day, Corwin said consistent whitecaps allowed the crews to finish three full races by mid-afternoon, excluding the one that got called off. B4G won the final two races and placed second in the other.

Bruce Sherman of Seattle, whose fourth-place “Eagle” crew consisted of mostly family, said he also came to the first J/24 district championship that Sauer and Corwin organized almost a decade ago.

“These guys are just great hosts,” he said. “We’re the family crew and we love it here.”

The Frankly Scarlet sails runs with her spinnaker up during the J-24 District Championships on Flathead Lake. – Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon

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