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Big Inland Bred »

August 23, 2011

Scow sailing within the Inland Lakes Yachting Association sometimes gets the reputation from outsiders of being “in-bred”, and it is not hard to figure out why when the people you compete against are the same as when you were 8 years old and a large number of the sailors are from the same families that have been doing it for generations.  Maybe it is wrong to be proud of having this connation, but when it comes to racing scows in the ILYA, it truly is a big family and the annual Big Inland is our reunion, the only difference from a normal family is we have 500 crazy uncles instead of a few.   Throw in some of the fastest one-design boats on the planet, extremely talented sailors all vying for beautiful trophies dating back to the late 1800s, and it makes for the greatest regatta of the year which just concluded with 4 champions being crowned in 4 different classes over 10 days of racing.  I never thought being in-bred would be so much fun.

Being hosted on our home waters of Lake Minnetonka, I was able to witness the massive volunteer effort that took place to make this one of the more memorable “Big Inland” regattas in a long time.  Regatta co-chairs Tony Jewett and Rick Kotovic enlisted their friends, families, in-laws and long lost cousins to ensure that everything from housing, social activities, and even helping to retrieve halyards was taken care of so every competitor could make it to the racecourse without a hassle.  Phone calls were made over our long winter helping to provide each fleet with their highest numbers in years; 26 A Scows, 58 E Scows, 54 C Scows, 50 MC Scows.  Out of all the sailors in these fleets, 30% were 25 or younger.  The final Saturday night party on MYC’s Lighthouse Island saw over 400 guests and would have made the Pillsbury’s proud, and the entire event could serve as an effective rebuttal to Saving Sailing.

I had the opportunity to compete in the A and E Scow classes and had not-so friendly reminder that if you are hoping to be an ILYA Champion, you better be in championship form.  During the A Scow portion of the event, we had two great days of southerly breezes in the 15-18 range where 26 of the big 38 footers weighing only 1800 lbs were able to stretch their legs and fly around the race track.  Broken masts, capsizes and a few bruised egos resulted from the smallest mistake being made on these boats.  On Joel Ronning’s Catapult, we fought hard for a 6th place and managed to take home the legendary Valentine Trophy, but we and the rest of the fleet were no match for Andy Burdick and his team who took the title.  Petey Crawford was on hand to shoot some awesome footage from Day 2 of the event.

For the E Scows, our goal for the weekend was to do our best to defend out title from last year, knowing it would not be easy with a deep field including the most decorated E Scow helmsman of all time, Harry Melges.  After posting a 19th in the first race and not having a throwout to utilize, it did not take long to figure out that our chances of repeating were basically zero.  The remaining races on the first day would be a struggle for our team, and we would have to watch as many of our close friends established themselves at the front of the pack.  In the end, Augie Barkow and his team put their numerous 2nd place finishes in previous ILYA Champs to rest and took home the big one.  They sailed great, and even battled back from a broken traveler in race 2 to help secure the win.  The good news for our team is the  85 boat E Scow National Championship on Torch Lake is just a few short weeks away for a shot at redemption.

One unmistakable trademark of any Big Inland always comes during the trophy presentation where the majority of the award winners get a bit choked up thanking their crews for a great week of sailing, and saying good-bye to their host families that will soon be guests.  Just like a final Thanksgiving toast that shifts the action to a different family venue the following year, the ILYA Champs will take place in Madison, Wisconsin for 2012 and it the members of the Mendota Yacht Club will have the duty of rolling out the red carpet for the out of towners.  And of course, the door is always open for any newcomers to experience this in-bred style of sailing…it’s the best.

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