Sailing through the summer

EDWARDSBURG — From Memorial Day until Labor Day, weekends are race days at Eagle Lake.

“It’s a good place to sail,” says Gary Jones, a member of the Eagle Lake Sailing Club and director of its Junior Sailing program. ¿I just love to be out on the water.¿

More than 70 families are members and sailors at the club. On Saturdays, members race Laser and MC Scow sailboats. Sundays see Thistle, National and Snipe sailboats racing to the finish line.

On Sundays, there are three different races that begin with a rolling start. Once the first race starts, the next race begins three minutes later until the last race has begun.

¿Thistles have larger sails, so they sometimes catch up with the other boats,¿ Jones said. ¿You have to pay attention to what class is coming across the finish line. It can be very interesting.¿

Some couples race their sailboats against each other, but Andrea Eriks prefers to support instead of sail against her husband Jeff. ¿I find that there¿s a high level of intensity when they¿re out there,¿ she says. ¿It can be extreme. I¿d rather be his cheerleader.¿

It¿s better to have more cheerleaders on the sidelines than in the actual boat. Overloading the boat is a sure way to cause an accident, says Bob Sorensen, executive director of the South Bend Sailing and Power Squadron. This nationwide boating group focuses on boating and safety education.

¿Sailing is a fantastic experience to enjoy, but it does take knowledge,¿ said Sorensen. ¿It¿s easy to learn the basics but more difficult to refine them.¿

As director of Eagle Lake¿s junior sailing program, Jones hopes that the skills that the sailors-in-training learn will also foster a love of the sport.

¿We keep a flow of new sailors coming into the racing program,¿ said Jones. ¿What we¿re aiming for is to train these kids to be good sailors and hopefully they¿ll want to race.¿

Jones says that many Olympic sailors get their start in the same sailboats that the junior sailors use, which are Optimist sailboats.

The sailing club races Olympic-class sailboats: the Laser and the Laser Radial, which are for mostly women and young adults. ¿When the kids get too big for the Optimist, we move them up to the Laser Radial, Jones said.

As the Olympic games gear up, Jones says that he probably will watch sailing but it can be difficult to televise because ¿the boats are on a course and they are manned by just one person.¿

Staff writer Briana Barner:

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