The literal translation of Kamikaze, “God wind,” is an apt name for an annual distance race held on an Army Corps of Engineers lake outside Nashville, Tenn., to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day. The 200-member Percy Priest YC hosts the regatta, and the 10-mile course winds around the islands of J. Percy Priest Lake, a 42-mile reservoir.
A staggered, pursuit start makes for an exciting and often nail-biting finish—last year three different types of vessels completed the course bow-to-bow: an S2 7.9, a Northstar 500, and a 28-foot Corsair trimaran.
The Kamikaze is the club’s last race of the calendar year—it will be held on December 8 this year—and unlike its name might suggest, the goal is not suicide. “Competition is not at the fore,” says PPYC member Charlie Brown. “It’s camaraderie, fun, and getting out in the inclement weather that’s the challenge.”
The event was born in the late 1970s during a club holiday party, member Jim Doran Jr. recalls. “Several of us were over-served,” Doran claims, namely fellow member Joe Holloway. “His idea was to have another regatta since there was still sailing weather left in the year.”
In keeping with this festive spirit, trophies are bottles of booze—first place is, naturally, sake, second plum wine, third a six-pack of Japanese beer, and last gets a bottle of native Jack Daniels #7 Tennessee whiskey.
“It’s a race for bragging rights,” Brown says, “where different crew can say, ‘We made it! Where were you?’”
Doran says the breeze was so strong on the first year the regatta was held that all three of his battens were flogged from his mainsail at the start.
“There were several collisions during the start sequence,” Doran says. “Later someone observed it was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor and, given the extreme conditions, dubbed it the Kamikaze Regatta.”
Perhaps the most legendary running of the event occurred in the ’80s, when racers arrived to several inches of snow and ice covering the boats. “We were thinking about cancelling the race, but someone said, ‘Hey, the water temperature is warmer than the ice,’” member Kevin Manner says. So the ice was melted and the boats headed out.
“Kamikaze always gets the hardcore people to come out,” says Manner, “whether it’s 30 degrees or 70 degrees.”
The 2013 Kamikaze Regatta will take place on December 8. Click here for more details.