Okoboji Yacht Club Sailing
Sailboats with their white and colorful sails provide a beautiful sight on the blue waters of the Iowa Great Lakes. Some sailors are out for the pleasure of sailing - for the enjoyment, while other sailors are out to test their racing skills.
There are sixty-five sailboats in four classes registered to participate in the racing program operated by the Okoboji Yacht Club. Competitive sailboat racing for scows of Class C, MC, and X plus Ynglings are held from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend each summer.
There are many types of sailboats used for sailing pleasure on the Iowa Great Lakes. Being able to identify the four racing classes on West Lake Okoboji is important to understanding the racing action. Each class completes with other boats within its class. There is no interclass competition.
Okoboji races are on Saturday and Sunday morning, generally south of Manhattan Beach on West Lake Okoboji. Between 8:30 and 9:30 AM the race committee is out on the water measuring wind speed and direction along with surveying West Lake for potential course locations. Racing doesn’t start until 9:30 AM or later because the wind usually has not come up to racing speed until 9 AM or later.
By 9:30 AM the race committee boat is usually anchored and the pin boat has deployed an orange racing mark (buoy) to set the two ends of the starting line. The windward mark (orange) is set approximately one mile to windward. A second leeward mark (yellow) is set at two tenths of a mile to windward for the MC, Yngling, and Class X sailboats.
The starting sequence follows a three-minute format.
* (9 AM on July 5 - 6th for the Fourth of July Series)
If a few boats are over the starting line at their starting gun those boats will be Individually Recalled. Should a large number of boats be over the line at the start, a General Recall will be made for that entire racing class. For a General Recall all the boats of that particular class return to the starting area and restart after all the other boats have started.
To non-sailors the wind direction and speed seems to be fairly steady. To serious sailors the wind is anything but constant. The wind is always shifting in small ways that can benefit the sailor smart enough or lucky enough to be on the good side of the wind. Since sailboats can’t sail directly into the wind, each skipper must decide if they will go to the right or left side of the course on their way to the windward mark. If the wind shifts in your favor you will be the first one to the windward mark, given comparable boat speed. Once the boats have rounded the windward mark, it is back downwind to the mark in the vicinity of the starting line.
For the first race all boats will go around the course twice, except the Class X fleet, which will go around the course only once. If weather conditions permit, a second race will immediately follow the first race. The main difference for the second race is that the sailors will finish with a windward leg, so the second race is 1.5 or 2.5 times around the course depending on the class of boat. The finish of the second race is into the wind. The first boat to finish in each class is given a one-gun salute.
When all boats have finished the last race, the temporary marks are picked up and the race committee boats head back to the yacht club headquarters on Manhattan Beach. Racing will be abandoned when winds exceed 20-25 miles per hour or if there is lightning. X boat skippers and crew are required to wear life jackets from the Class X preparatory signal until they cross the finish line. All OYC sailors are required to wear life jackets when the race committee flies code flag “Y” (yellow and red diagonal stripes) - generally when wind speed exceeds 12 miles per hour.
With a VHF Marine Radio, one can follow the action prior to the start on channel 68 and after the start on channel 72. Current weather broadcast by NOAA National Weather Service for the Iowa Great Lakes can be heard on marine radio weather channel one or 162.55 MHz.
Power boaters know that sailboats have the right a way and that boaters are responsible for their wakes. The wakes from powerboats can upset the delicate balance of a sailboat that is dependent on wind power. Sailors appreciate powerboats that give them a wide berth while they are racing on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Generally, sailboat races will be completed by about noon.
Participating in sailing is easy and fun. Quite often skippers are looking for crew – no experience necessary. Locate a skipper by their boat, boat roster on the OYC website, or by calling the club at telephone 337-0121.
The sailboats on Millers Bay Monday through Friday are part of the Okoboji Yacht Club Sailing School. Training is provided on the International Optimist Dinghy, Open BIC, Laser, and X boats. There is multiple one-week mini training sessions scheduled from mid June through early August for ages six to eighteen. Students do not need a boat, live on the lake, or be members of the Okoboji Yacht Club. Students in the area for only a week can participate. More than 200 students per summer take advantage of the sailing lessons. Additional information can be found in the Sailing School brochure using the Okoboji Yacht Club website.
Membership in the Okoboji Yacht Club is open to everyone. You do not need to live on the lake or own a boat to be a member. Many of the 500 OYC members are not sailors, but enjoy the social program. Sailing information is available from the club at 337-0121 or find Okoboji YC information on the Internet at www.oycia.org
2017 Okoboji Regatta
National Class C Association June 16 - 18. About 50 to 60 Class C boats from across the country will compete Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. For more information www.oycia.org
Four Okoboji Racing Classes
OKOBOJI YACHT CLUB SAILING SCHOOL
Sailing School Article August 2007 Lakehom Magazine Click Here