Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Published on July 26th, 2018

Traditionally, the Harbor Springs Ugotta Regatta in the upper Michigan peninsula is a three-day event, but this year’s schedule was changed to a two-day event for the ORR A Division which left some of the big kids wondering what to do.

David and Peter Askew, big supporters of the Little Traverse Yacht Club event, were disappointed about losing a day of racing, so after some brainstorming the brothers decided to organize a stand-alone event to give boats a chance to practice on July 27 before they can participate in the Ugotta on July 28-29.

With commitments from several boats, they also wanted the day to have a charitable component, so they reached out to the club and invited junior program members to serve as crew. That idea was well received and each boat in the Practice Regatta will have several junior sailors aboard.

“Our hope is for the juniors to participate in the actual operation of the boats,” said David Askew. “There are not enough young people interested in big boat racing these days so hopefully this opportunity may generate a spark in some of the kids.”

The Askew brothers originally hail from Grosse Pointe, Michigan and learned to sail out of Bayview Yacht Club. They were taught the finer points of big boat racing while crewing for their father aboard a C&C 35. David and Peter have fond memories of those days and competing in many of the major events on the Great Lakes.

“When we were junior sailors, the only way to get aboard a big boat was to know someone who was willing to give us a chance. Typically, it was a friend of our father. It was because of those opportunities that we are where we are today,” noted Peter Askew. “That is why we are passionate about getting youngsters onto big boats.”

David and Peter Askew have been partners and teammates for many years now with the Wizard program, which has enjoyed worldwide success aboard a number of platforms. Currently, the brothers campaign both a Volvo 70 and a Reichel-Pugh 74.

Last year, a local boy from the Little Traverse Yacht Club junior program asked if he could race on Wizard in the UGotta Regatta. The Askew brothers welcomed the youngster to the team and immediately put him to work preparing the boat. One day later, that kid was helping on the foredeck at the top mark and driving the boat around between races.

“This year, we are excited to give more kids a shot at that same experience, teaming them up with our trimmers and bowmen and even letting them drive the boat. It’s going to be a lot of fun!” Peter Askew said.

Another outreach element of their fledgling We Gonna Regatta involves the Warrior Sailing Program, which is currently racing a Farr 53 and just completed the Chicago-Mackinac Race.

Warrior Sailing is a nationwide program facilitating sailing opportunities and introducing wounded, ill and injured military service members to the sport of sailing. It is supported in part by the United States Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation, whose mission is bolster maritime programs for education and training.

Ironically, both Warrior Sailing and Wizard are part of the USMMA boat donation program. Both boats are being repurposed for use in maritime education and training.

“Warrior Sailing is an incredible program that does a tremendous amount of good and we are honored to compete with and against them,” David Askew said. “Our hope is to help expose Warrior Sailing to all participants of this weekend’s activities.”

Ben Poucher, Director of Warrior Sailing, is looking forward to the extra time on the water the Harbor Springs Practice Regatta will provide and said it will be valuable experience for the Farr 53 team.

“The warriors are looking forward to getting out there and performing as a team,” Poucher said. “It would be amazing for everyone involved to come learn about the program and meet these warriors. The warriors truly deserve some credit for their hard work getting to this point. Some of them have only sailed for six months and are fully immersed in the community now.”

The plan for the inaugural event is for three practice races beginning at noon with rolling starts being held every 10 minutes. Action will conclude with a pursuit race of approximately 15 miles that will finish in the picturesque Harbor Springs harbor.

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