Competitors from near and far travel to Atwood Lake for 70th annual Harvest Moon Regatta

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A group of Thistle sailboats open their spinnaker sails to head downwind.

 By Leigh Ann Rutledge

Associate Editor

The day was partially sunny, warm but not too hot, with good wind Sept. 12 during the 70th annual Harvest Moon Regatta at Atwood Lake.

A total of 42 MC Scow, Thistle and Cruiser sailboats filled the lake area during the competition. Pontoon boats cruised around the outside of the race course watching the activities.

Race Committee (RC) Chairman Bill Singhaus set a course in an area visible from the public boat launch on SR 212, after changing locations due to wind. The course was widened after the first race due to all the boats on the course. After the second race, the course was moved due to wind changes.

Once the course is set, RC1 (chairman’s boat) posts a sign showing the length and set up of the race.   Two buoys are placed close to the start line, these are the leeward (downwind) markers. Windward (upwind) buoys are near the finish line.  Sailors go around the buoys and head straight windward on the final leg of the race.

All boats race the same course, but the start is staggered by class. An assistant on RC1 displays a different flag for each class. A bullhorn sounds at different lengths over a period of time to announce preparation and start of the race.

A six-minute sound draws the races (in class about to start) to the start line. Boats go back and forth behind RC1 boat and the starting buoy in anticipation of being in the right spot when the bullhorn announces the start of the race. Racers included all ages of families and friends.

MC Scow boats have a single sail and are operated by a single person or two-person crew. Thistle sailboats are larger than the MC Scow and usually have a two-or-three person crew. They have a main sail and a spinnaker sail designed specifically for sailing off the wind from a reaching course to a downwind. The spinnaker fills with wind and makes a balloon in front of the boat when it is deployed.

Cruisers are the only boats that are timed during the race. MC Scow and Thistle boats have a number on the sail. They are listed by number in the order they cross the finish line.

Top Sailors

Bruce Moore of Portage Lakes won the MC Scow class sailing alone. He felt the winds were light to medium Saturday, but came from a weird direction. Atwood Lake is long and narrow and when wind comes from the narrow side of the lake, it is more challenging and harder to sail, Moore explained. Even though Sunday was rainy, he felt it was a better day for sailing because of the ideal winds going through the center of the lake.

Moore did not sail for a few years and really got back into it in the last 15 years. This year was the second time he raced in the Harvest Moon Regatta. He crewed on other boats in the race. Last year he placed second. “At 71, maybe I am getting better,” he laughed about moving to the top spot this year.

Moore grew up in Indiana and worked with sailboats in Wisconsin. Sailing took him around the United States and to Europe. He has won three world championships in the National One Design class.

He noted, he was in the right place at the right time, when as a young man, he had the opportunity to sail with Buddy Melges. Melges is an Olympic gold and bronze medalist and has won numerous national and world championships.

“He took a-liking to me and spent time with me, helping me with my sailing. It was the chance of a lifetime, “ Moore said. “He was the most humble and approachable guy you could meet.”

Three generations of the Finefrock family competed in the Thistle class. Jack Finefrock and his crew, wife, Kathy and friend Jameson Burt, won the class.

Jack has been sailing Atwood Lake for over 50 years. Raised in Magnolia, his dad had a good friend who was a member of the Atwood Yacht Club. Jack began sailing with a sunfish. By the time he turned 16, the Thistle class was an option.

Jack and Kathy met on the lake and soon sailing became a family hobby. The couple has three children. Their son and grandson and their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, competed on their own boats.

“We dragged our boats all across the U.S. and had good fortune now and then,” he explained. “We love the boat and love to compete. The racers are all great people. They are extended family.”

All three boats are “Finefrock yellow.”

“We told our kids they didn’t have to race, but if they wanted to they could go along,” Finefrock laughed. “It’s nice to see the next generation learning. They seem to like it.”

Finefrock says he stays active and is not willing to quit sailing yet.

Mike Humphries was the winner of the cruisers class with his boat “Spirit of the Storm”. He has been sailing on Atwood Lake for 25 years and has won the cruiser class at the Harvest Moon Regatta four of the last six years. The crew consists of five “friends who have crewed together a long time”.

Before the course was widened out, Humphries noted he wasn’t used to all the scows and thistles congested on the course. However, there were no collisions.

Safety boats patrol the area during the races. They assist with course set-up and changes and assist racers. If a boat tips, the sailor has the option to right the boat himself, at which time he may continue in the race. If he has assistance righting the boat, he is disqualified for that race. Only one boat tipped Saturday.

The Harvest Moon Regatta at Atwood Lake is sponsored by the Atwood Yacht Club.

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