Thistle Class: celebrating 75 years

Published on July 27th, 2021

More than 100 three-person teams will descend on the Cleveland Yachting Club in Rocky River, Ohio to compete for the 75th Thistle National Championship, taking place July 31 to August 6, 2021. Situated on an island at the mouth of the Rocky River, eight miles west of downtown Cleveland, CYC is home to Thistle Fleet No. 1 and last hosted Thistle Nationals in 1995 for the class’s 50th anniversary.

Racing begins this Saturday, July 31, as the Junior Nationals (20 and under) and Women’s Nationals get the party started with one-day series to determine their respective champions. On Sunday, August 1, the standard practice race for the Thistle National Championship gets an upgrade.

This year, it serves as the 75th Anniversary Race, with all boats starting on one line. It’s bound to be an unforgettable sight for racers and spectators, alike. Opening ceremonies on Sunday night will officially kick the regatta off, with nightly parties on the island to follow all week long.

The seven-race series for the Thistle National Championship officially begins on Monday, August 2. The large fleet will be split into four divisions for a three-race round-robin qualifying series over the first two days, after which a cut will be made to determine the Championship Fleet and President’s fleets.

Boats in the Championship fleet will retain their scores from the first two days and race for the National Championship, while boats in the President’s Fleet will start fresh on Wednesday and sail a four-race series of their own through Friday, August 6. The Nationals races typically follow “triangle-windward-leeward” courses, with each leg approximately one nautical mile in length.

In a first for the Thistle class, boats in the Championship Fleet will be outfitted with GPS trackers, allowing spectators to follow the competition live via TracTrac. In addition to live race tracking, Tim Wilkes will be providing daily photos and videos.

The 2021 Thistle National Championship is the culmination of the class’s summer circuit. Forty boats from 11 different states competed in the Thistle Great Lakes Championship at North Cape Yacht Club in LaSalle, Michigan two weeks ago. Similar regattas also took place for the Pacific Coast Championship, Atlantic Coast Championship, and Southeastern Championship.

This year’s Great Lakes Championship served as a feeder event for those looking for some Lake Erie sailing before the Nationals, with many of those boats dry docked at CYC in the time since, patiently waiting for measurement and weigh-in to begin on Friday, July 30.

After a year-long pandemic delay—the 75th Nationals were originally scheduled for 2020—the Thistle Class is eager to celebrate its 75th anniversary. The prospect of a full week of racing on the class’ home waters has attracted a large and talented fleet, which is sure to make for one of best Thistle Nationals yet.

Follow the action at

Source: Mike Lovett, event media

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