The public is invited to take part in the Inland Lakes Yachting Association MC Scow Invitational Regatta this weekend on Gull Lake -- a festive gathering for competitive sailing set to run from Friday through Saturday, ending roughly midday Sunday, July 21.
Put on by a partnership of the Gull Lake Sailing School and Gull Lake Yacht Club, the regatta features a series of high-profile races on the water. The first of seven races is slated to take place about 10 a.m. Friday -- weather and wind permitting -- with the winner being crowned after accumulating points after all seven contests are completed, much like a Masters golf tournament. These competitions are generally fluid in scheduling, as the races are dependent on the water, weather and wind conditions present at any particular time.
“People love Gull Lake. People love coming to sail on Gull Lake from around the country and they love our facility. We’ve got a unique setting, our building is pretty new, there’s a unique ramp for the boats and the setting is beautiful,” said Mary Jetland of the Gull Lake Sailing School. “It’s a pretty unique opportunity to see some great sailors.”
While historically tied to the area, organizer and competitive sailor Vince Driessen said the competition is national in scope -- drawing roughly 50 competitive boaters from across the continental United States, though the majority call the Great Lakes states and the Upper Midwest home. Some are internationally ranked competitors. Many sailors come from families with four, five or more generations of avid sailboaters.
Primarily, sailors will be using scows -- or smaller flat-bottomed sailing craft with a variety of weight, size and length classes. Scows have a long history in the Great Lakes area, first arriving in the New World with Scandanavian immigrants, whereupon they quickly became a staple on the waters of White Bear Lake and the Oshkosh region of Wisconsin, Driessen said.
The Gull Lake Sailing School represents a sister organization to the Gull Lake Yacht Club, with deep ties to the area and initiatives to promote sailing as a community activity going back to 1947.
“There’s no better sport in the world,” said Driessen, who characterized competitive sailing as a compelling synthesis of nature and cutting-edge technology. “You’re working with the wind, the water’s changing, the physics of it. You’re dealing with state of the art equipment, you’re outdoors -- it’s just fabulous. I’m passionate and have been doing it for almost 60 years.”
In a side note, Driessen said competitive sailing -- as an activity for young students and high schoolers -- aligns more closely with science, technology, engineering and mathematical pursuits, or STEM education, than any other sport, bar none.
Currently, the school is teaching 87 students between the ages of 8 and 18 for five days a week in one-week segments throughout the summer, with seperate offerings for adult classes, private lessons and more advanced pupils. Through a fund established by the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, the school is able to provide scholarships, Jetland said, to assist disadvantaged students so they can take part in summer sailing courses.
Jetland said the sport of sailing gained a substantial boast in the lakes area with the establishment of a high school sailing team in 2018. Featuring members from Pequot Lakes High School and Brainerd High School, the team is open to all high schools in the lakes area, she said. The team is also subject to considerations for these scholarships as well.
“We provide everything you need,” Jetland said. “Even if you don’t have a life jacket, we’ll provide it. There’s a lot of sailors who have been around the Caribbean and they learned everything they know on Gull Lake.”