LAKE PLACID - With names like Lake Placid and Mirror Lake, a visitor might think that heavy winds are not normal or a big concern when visiting the village of Lake Placid.
They might also think this would not be a region known for sailing. They would be right except in both instances, and yet in spite of such realities for the past 44 years an annual and very spirited sailboat race has been held the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, and this year was no exception.
Unofficially and more popularly known as the Clamato Regatta, the Lake Placid Invitational Regatta brings out a spirited crowd that over the years has at times taken such a creative approach to sailing in near still winds that a battery of rules have evolved no less strict than those in the America's Cup, a distinction that is a matter of pride to some who have inspired various rule additions (aka tightening).
2014 Commodores (hosts) Elizabeth, Callie and Christopher Rhoades
(Photo — Naj Wikoff)
This year, the fleet was modest in comparison to some no doubt a result of the doom and gloom forecast that included lightning, hail and brimstone, none of which appeared. Indeed, a far more pleasant day complete with wind resulted in nearly half the competitors showing up minutes before and indeed after the scheduled captains' meeting, and the eventual third place finisher standing on shore sans boat or partner five minutes before the start.
Regatta racers do have the ability to respond to changing conditions quickly, and rise above any lingering headaches from a previous evening overly well spent, and thus a goodly number of boats started on a very competitive East Lake coarse that spread from near Paradox Bay to Pulpit Rock. For those whose hopes spring eternal, there was wind, fickle wind to be sure, there it was and there it wasn't, and when it was it really was, and when it wasn't curses were heard as one boat could be near becalmed while another 30 feet away danced away across the surface.
"You are sailing with John. Wow, what inspired that?" I queried.
"I do just what I am told to do," said Terry Gahagan. "I was the only victim that didn't step backwards, when they said everyone line up."
"Sometimes people go out and try to get a very young and light competitor to sail with them, and I see that John has taken a more dynamic approach," I said of John Randall who has inspired more than one rule in his competitive career.
"The other younger people he has sailed with won't sail with him now," said Gahagan.
"I am hoping for world peace," said Skipper John Randall. "I am hoping that Greg Reiss and Roger Smith are behind me. That's all I hope for, that and world peace."
"It won't be me, it can only be my son this year leaving John in his wake," said Roger Smith. "Any time Randall is on the water there is a certain intimidation factor that the rest of the sailors in the field have to be very concerned about. We definitely were aware of his presence as it's impossible not to and my son stepped in to represent our house. It's a competitive field this year, very competitive."
"We are on vacation. We like to sleep late and get here right before the fun happens," said Christopher Roades still in his PJ's as was his partner and dad Jamie arriving minutes before the delayed captain's meeting.
"We are Elmo and Jack Frost," said Jamie Rhoades.
Later back on shore I caught up with Gahagan and Randall.
"It was tight. It was very cramped on the boat, because I wanted to have the mast raised and sail higher and John didn't. He said it was faster with the sail lower so we were having a hard time getting under the sail, but other than that we did just fine." said Gahagan. "We didn't capsize, we stayed dry, and we passed boats on the last windward leg."
"Would you do it again?
"I am definitely coming back next year, and with my own boat," said Gahagan.
"You beat me," I said to Randall. "By quite a bit."
"You were right there in the thick fighting tooth and nail until there was almost an environmental spill site out there when a plastic cup fell into the water and you turned around to get it," said Randall. "I was moved."
"My partner was not too thrilled because she really wanted to beat you," I said. "It was because you were ahead of us and my dropping the cup and having to go get it, let's say the added handicap wasn't welcomed."
"In 44 years, the race has never been cancelled," said Greg Reiss, who placed third. "There has been times we had zero wind, none at all, but we still had the race. One time it was pouring rain, and really cold, sailors were in their parkas and they still held the race."
"Gregg said your entering the race was a very last minute thing and he couldn't believe to agreed to go with him," I said to Lisa Reiss.
"I can't believe I agreed to go with him," said Lisa. "The last time was 22 years ago. At the 10-second announcement we still didn't have the tiller on. I don't know a thing about sailing. He said lie down, pull up the centerboard, put down the centerboard. It was all because of him. I just followed instructions."
"Was that comfortable? You don't have to answer."
"I am used to it; it is the key to a decent marriage."
"Now that we came in third, I feel like I want to sail with you every year," said Gregg to Lisa (they took second their first time out).
"You've come in first and second with Heidi," said Lisa (referring to their daughter).
"That was then," said Gregg.
"Winning feels good," said Emily Miller, who with her crewman Andy Rochat beat the pants off the field. "I placed twice before, this is my first time as the skipper. The secret is communication between the crew and the skipper."
"I helped her with the tactical stuff, when to tack when the other boats go to wide on us, how to cut off their wind," said Andy.
"My grandmother loaned us the boat," said Emily of Mara Jayne Miller.
"We gave her a big hug," said Andy.
"Next year I'm the skipper," said Renee to me.
Elizabeth, Callie and Christopher Rhoades were named commodores (hosts) of the 2015 race and promised a real Texas spread (aka spicy) dedicating the race to their grandmother's spirit and love of the Regatta.