Sailors want to sail

Published on July 31st, 2020

Ed Furry was all set to participate in the 2020 Ugotta Regatta, then things changed…


It seemed like a hint of normalcy. I was out of town in one of my favorite places, I was rigging a J/70 for an event that was only two days away. Harbor Springs, MI is one of the best places to sail and the Little Traverse Yacht Club’s UGotta Regatta is a very special event. Crystal clear water, sea breeze, a great town, great sailing and so much more. Many sailors bring their families with them to enjoy the best of Northern Michigan. Little Traverse Yacht Club brings in a great Race Committee and attract everything from J/70’s, Melges 24’s, Antrim 28’s to GL70’s, IC37’s and TP52’s.

Typically, LTYC seems to spare no expense and they also use this event to help fund the club for the year. The Little Traverse Sailors Junior Program does a pancake breakfast on the weekends and other fundraising for the year. Irish Boat Shop starts the whole weekend off with their famous Friday night party with a band, kegs of local beer, baby pools of pop and a great spot for everyone to catch up after two Mac races that usually happen the previous two weekends.

So this year wasn’t going to be the same as all the social events were canceled ahead of time but at least the sailing was going to happen and familiar faces would be around. LTYC downsized their Race Committee in order to keep everyone safe, lined up many precautions for a safe event. The one design fleets would only get Windward-Leewards courses on Friday and then the famous Tour of the Bay races the rest of the weekend. And they still showed up in big numbers due to the great venue.

But things were about to change. I was only planning on rigging up and heading home for the weekend, then back again on Sunday to pick up the J/70. Well, a phone call changed my schedule. You see, there was an agreement with the LTYC Board that if someone at the club tested positive with COVID-19 they would need to cancel the event. I don’t know the exact details but they stuck by their word and that has to be respected.

That phone call was telling me that the Ugotta Regatta might be cancelled and would I run some races for the J/70’s and Melges 24 teams. You see, those fleets had almost half the fleet this year and some teams traveled pretty far to attend this event. So with my most recent experience running the racing for both our local Lake Max V15 Series and as PRO for the RS21 North Americans in the last two months gave me the knowledge of how to make this happen safely. In order to keep the Race Committee numbers down in both of these events we leased MarkSetBots to make this happen.

Not only do these cool GPS driven marks help keep the RC numbers down, but they also make the 160’ depths of Little Traverse Bay less of an issue to set a great race course and make changes with the swipe of a finger. So it was time to make some calls. Timing was under pressure as MarkSetBot has had a busy summer and in order for me to get the 3 Bots to lease that would be some hard work by Fin Elliott and the team at MarkSetBot.

As time passed and I was starting to get teams lined up for the new Sail22 2020 Harbor Springs Tuning Regatta, I made the call. The Bots were on the way, I had a Boston Whaler lined up for the first day thanks to J/70 owner Sean O’Brien (thanks for that and the stocked Yeti Cooler). We had anchor line coming and we were coordinating with the TP52’s on race course location and VHF stations to use.

We had some racing in the works. The request to keep everything on the down low meant you might not have heard about this happening until now. But the last thing we wanted to do was make the decision by LTYC any harder. Sailors were here to sail and enjoy the area and we just wanted to make sure that could happen.

As I was organizing to run races for the J/70 and Melges 24 teams, some bigger boat owners approached me. I was asked to run PHRF or ORR fleets too. Hmm, well I guess I could figure that out. You see, in a normal year the One Design boats race Windward Leewards on Friday and then on the weekend the handicap fleets start their Tour of the Bay first so the One Design boats can keep running Windward Leewards with usually a short Tour of the Bay mini race to end each day as all the of the boats finish at the H mark close to the Harbor.

To make this happen, the teams had to finish where I was set up. So lead by the J/88 team Exile they picked a course that made sense. As teams started to enter we realized there were both ORR and PHRF boats. With less than 10 boats entered we decided to switch everyone to ORR. By the end of registration, which happened to be on the water Saturday morning, we ended up with 15 ORR boats. Sailors want to sail.

So we have ourselves some sailboat racing. Our fleets were able to get a little bit of everything with light air on Friday and AP ashore of the One Design boats but the sea breeze came in for 3 great races which included a mini Tour of the bay up to B mark and a taste of what UGotta is all about for one of the races. Day two gave us a short delay but then the ORR fleet was off on a 19 mile race.

The J/70’s and Melges 24’s got two races off before shifty breezes ended their day. Enjoying the shore side of Harbor Springs is always a draw to go in. And with light until almost 10:00pm there is another full day to be had. A late see breeze brought the ORR fleet home for a great time on the water.

And in true UGotta fashion, I ran into Ben Poucher and the Warrior Sailing Program on the docks Friday afternoon. They were planning on sailing but cancelled their coaches who had yet to arrive. Since their Great Lakes Headquarters is around the corner in Charleviox, MI, Ben offered to help run the races from their recently donated Beneteau 40.7 and use this opportunity to teach the Veterans how races are run and learn more for the future. What a great group of guys. Thank you for the help.

Our Sunday ended when I called the races as weather was questionable early on and teams started to haul out and head out of the harbor for home as I was trying to make the right decision.

In the end I was happy to be able to get sailors on the water and save their weekend. I was excited to hear only positive things from both sailors and LTYC members. And since then I have had some great support for what I was able to do.

I also need to thank Kevin Meier and Franny Schulte for helping me on Day 1 and John Heaton and his team for housing me for the week. And Luiz Kahl for helping me with the scoring as we used his Yachtscoring.com software. Of course the support of all the teams that competed was awesome as well. I apologize for any team that wanted to race but didn’t get the word. If you were wondering how everyone finished you can go to the private page here – yachtscoring.com

And for those that want to know if it is possible to run an event with an iPhone and a powerboat, it is possible as that’s all I had. Yachtscoring and MarkSetBots are both doable this way. But I will always ask for help with volunteers and other race committee if offered. I know it is a hard job. I hope to be able to use my recent knowledge to help make events run more efficiently. Always happy to jump in to make sure sailors can get on the water when I can.

Sail22 will be making donations from the proceeds of our event to McLaren Northern Michigan Foundation, Little Traverse Sailors and Warrior Sailing on behalf of Ugotta Regatta.

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