49th Annual Sailing Regatta on Fremont Lake
August 15, 2018
The Pinedale Sailboat Club held the 49th annual Sailing Regatta on Fremont Lake on Saturday and Sunday, August 11th and 12th. The event is always held the second weekend in August. Eighteen total teams participated in the sailing event.
The Regatta started in the late 1960’s as the "Little America’s Cup," named after the original sponsor, Holding’s Little America Hotels. The club later renamed it the Fremont Lake Sailing Regatta to avoid legal issues with the more well-known version by that name. The story goes that there were people with big money and expensive boats who were annoyed that Pinedale’s little annual race in the mountains of Wyoming was getting higher Google ranking than their multi-billion dollar event.
According to long-time sailing enthusiast Jason Essington, "Most sailors in the western states have come to know that the second weekend of August is the annual pilgrimage to Fremont Lake near Pinedale Wyoming to fellowship with other nautical types, commiserate about the trials of a 3 month sailing season, tell sailing lies, and occasionally sail their craft in a circle on one of the most spectacular sailing venues in the country … All in an effort to gain a coveted Regatta Burgee (triangle shaped flag) that can only be had by placing in the top 3 places in this event (or alternately by finishing all races and still managing to come in dead last)."
Saturday provided teams with what they affectionately call "Regatta Wind", which is to say the races were an all-out drift with teams working their very hardest to will their craft around the (shortened) course in the 90 minutes allotted for a race. The craft at the back of the fleet were cheering the teams at the front of the fleet hoping that the lead boat would complete the course in 90 minutes which would provide the following boats an additional 30 minutes of "grace" to finish.
With 90F degree temperatures and near zero wind, these are some of the harshest conditions to race in. Any movement made on the boat, or any small adjustment of the sail away from perfect trim threatens to bring the craft to a dead stop, which then allows any wake or wave on the water to force the boat off its desired heading, causing the need to travel even further to complete the race. The complete attention of the crew must be focused on maintaining every little bit of boat speed they can muster which renders them unable to properly hydrate or reapply sunscreen at appropriate intervals. According to Jason Essington, "Saturday’s conditions were truly brutal. Crazy Tom Haigh described Saturday’s Yacht racing as, ‘Like watching grass grow, only a lot more expensive.’"
Sunday arrived with a light breeze that gave the boats more maneuverability and made the pre-start (the 5 minutes before the race where boats compete for the most desired position on the starting line) more interesting, the racing more fun for the teams, and more exciting for the spectators. The second race had enough wind to allow the spectators to see what happens when sailing crews or craft make errors. There were a couple of unintentional gybes causing a boat to perform a pirouette-like maneuver, another boat had their Genoa sail take off up the forestay due to an improperly placed tack line. And another crew got "greedy" and decided to douse their spinnaker after the gybe mark and found themselves performing a series of broaches (capsizes). This little maneuver causes the safety boat to head in their general direction with haste, while the spectators collectively hold their breath, and the crew themselves suppress their terror while scrambling to drop the spinnaker in any way possible. A single broach is usually enough for the average sailing team, but these overachievers performed the maneuver 5 consecutive times. All-in-all a much more exciting day than Saturday.
Lakeside Lodge serves as the host for the Fremont Lake Sailing Regatta. Green River Gear provided the Burgees and safety boat. April Gibson provided most of the sides for the barbecue. Jed Duke served as cook for the burgers and dogs for everyone.
Click on this link for the series standing. (PDF)
Thank you to Jason Essington for his contribution to this story. Photos courtesy Rita Donham, www.wyomingaerophoto.com.