Lake Shore Sail Club

One Wednesday Night in America: Taking time to volunteer as the committee boat leaves time for learning and a gorgeous sunset on Lake St. Clair.

Sailing World

Lake Shore Sail Club

Bob Mann

At the Lake Shore Sail Club, on Lake St. Clair near Detroit, Michigan, we have a standing race committee but require volunteers to supply the committee boat. This was my night to volunteer. The six race committee members met me at Windcatcher, my Catalina 27, just before 6 p.m. We loaded all the committee gear and headed out so we could set the starting line by 6:30 p.m. for the first start at 7 p.m. The temperature was a wonderful 83 degrees with a light wind of about 6 knots. The wind didn't get any stronger as we prepped for the start, so we called for a short course, expecting the wind to slacken as the sun set. I was itching to be racing instead of bobbing at anchor, but it was still a beautiful night to be out on the water.

We had 32 boats—ranging from a Frers 50 down to a Sanderling Cat—show up for six starts. Watching starts is a tremendous learning experience. It was interesting to observe the various techniques employed to start; even more so to realize how far off the line most boats are when the gun sounds.

The wind didn't slacken, in fact it picked up to 9 to 10 knots, so the first boats were around the 6.5-mile trapezoidal course in just under an hour. It was a beautiful sight, the straining spinnakers dragging the boats across the finish line and into the sunset.