Sunday, September 10, marked the conclusion of three years of regatta planning at the 2023 E Scow Nationals 100-Year Celebration in Madison, Wisconsin. An army of dedicated volunteers from the E Scow Class and Mendota Yacht Club (MYC) teamed up to celebrate 100 years of E Scow sailing on Lake Mendota, focusing on participation and celebration. The MYC is no stranger to big regattas, having hosted a record 130 E Scows on Lake Mendota at the 1999 E Invitation. The 2023 E Scow Nationals nearly broke the record with 126 boats on the four-day regatta.
The Mendota Yacht Club rented a 37-acre park on the west end of Lake Mendota as a headquarters and launch facility since they do not have a physical building. Behind the scenes, a dedicated team of volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure smooth traffic flow, efficient boat launching, table set-up, registration, and so much more. The Mendota Yacht Club deserves commendation for providing competitors with a memorable 100-year celebration experience.
Wednesday, September 6, was anticipated as a practice racing day, a chance for sailors to fine-tune their skills and get a feel for the competition ahead. However, nature had other plans, as rain squalls moved through and the winds exceeded the racing limit (a 28 mph gust was recorded), leading the race committee to cancel the race.
Day one, Thursday, September 7, was a perfect day for sailing and ‘turned out better than we could have ever possibly imagined,” said PRO Mark DeGuire after completing two races. He was impressed with how the 126 competitors navigated a mile-long starting line and maneuvered through the heavy traffic during the mark roundings. Overcast skies made it easy on the eyes. The air was perfect at 8 – 12 mph, with a puff coming through now and then. Every sailor in the 126-boat fleet will share unforgettable tales of these two races for a lifetime.
Race organizers limited the number of races to two per day to efficiently manage the large fleet while emphasizing participation and celebration. It was a wise decision as every race required approximately two hours to finish. Every sailor in the 126-boat fleet will share unforgettable tales of these two races for a lifetime.
Of particular note was Minnetonka Yacht Club’s Tom Burton, who found his way through 126 boats in both races. Burton, who sails in the Masters Division, is a two-time National champion and led the entire first race and placed third in the second.
Proving that Masters knew how to stay in the front of the pack, Robby Wilkins SC55 of the Carolina Yacht Club in Lexington, South Carolina, led the entire second race.
Two Youth Division skippers made the top ten, including Jack Brown SS11 of Seaside Park Yacht Club in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, in second place with a 4th and 7th, and Pewaukee Yacht Club’s Jonathan Baily V39 (2, 20) is in 6th place.
There were numerous spectator and support boats present to witness the exciting event. Volunteers had a BBQ and beverages ready when competitors returned to Marshall Park.
Day two, Friday, September 8, was challenging due to the whims of the weather. After an hour-and-a-half delay waiting for the wind to increase, competitors started Race 3, but then a General Recall was signaled. The hope for another starting sequence turned into uncertainty as the winds grew light again. After a significant wind shift, PRO Mark Deguire called an AP over H. He reminded everyone that the focus of this regatta is participation and celebration.
Competitors were able to get an early start on getting ready for the first night’s banquet at the event’s social headquarters. Author Gary Jobson was kept busy for two days greeting old friends and signing his latest book, A Century of E Scow Racing. Ed Vienckowski and Dick Wight from the Barnegat Bay Racing Yacht Racing Association took the stage to provide a perspective on how the E Scow influenced sailing in Barnegat Bay and how sailing on Barnegat Bay affected the evolution of the E Scow over the past 100 years. The Mendota Yacht Club’s Lance Puccio led a toast in memory of recently deceased longtime MYC member Jack Bolz and Sailing Hall of Fame members Bill Mattison and Buddy Melges.
Day three, Saturday, was another celebration rather than a sailing day as the regatta faced its second consecutive day of calm waters as the wind played hard to get. PRO Mark DeGuire and the dedicated race committee spent hours on Lake Mendota taking wind readings, but the middle of the lake remained flat. Meanwhile, competitors ashore at Marshall Park didn’t let the lack of action on the water dampen their spirits. They had a great time on the summer-like day, creating memories with camaraderie and fun. A vintage wooden stern-steerer and Class A Skeeter, displayed by the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, attracted great attention.
PRO DeGuire and the E Scow Class Executive Committee made some important adjustments to the race documents in light of the predicted low wind conditions. They recognized the successful completion of two lengthy and high-quality races and concluded that the series would consist of these two races rather than three.
Saturday evening’s banquet speakers, Dr. Tom Hodgson and Bill Goggins from the Inland Yachting Association focused on the genesis of how the E Scow evolved in the ensuing decades to become one of the premier One-Design classes on the planet.
On day four, the final day, Sunday’s wind forecast offered a glimmer of hope compared to Saturday’s conditions. The race committee diligently set the course, and the fleet sailed out, fully prepared for the race. The starting signal sounded at 10 AM, but the wind waned, prompting the PRO to declare a general recall and wait for more breeze.
After some more drifting, most of the fleet opted to be towed to shore. About 15 E Scows, including points leader Tom Burton M9 of Minnetonka, MN, and the other contenders, persevered with the Race Committee on the lake. The RC team again worked tirelessly to measure wind across Lake Mendota until the deadline.
Upon hearing RC radio chatter about potential wind on the course, one team quickly relaunched their boat from shore. Witnesses reported that they executed the fastest mast-stepping maneuver ever seen. However, it was a false alarm, and a few minutes later, the PRO called the regatta completed. Everyone gathered for the prize-giving ceremony emceed by E Scow Class Commodore Kyle Rogachenko.
Nationals winner Tom Burton M9 praised his longtime crew, Andy Ferguson and Bruce Martinson. Tom spoke about his family’s sailing heritage that spans five generations. His grandfather founded the Minnetonka Yacht Club, and Tom’s father was born in the same year as the E Scow and would have turned 100 in 2023.
Ultimately, this regatta may have been shorter than expected with just two races, but sailing or viewing 126 E Scows racing as one fleet was an undeniable spectacle. The camaraderie, the spirit, and the joy of being on the water or the dance floor with the E Scow family made every moment unforgettable. Sometimes, it’s about more than just the quantity of races but the quality of the experience.
2023 E SCOW NATIONALS TROPHY PRESENTATATION
- Colie Service Award: Matt Schmidt
- Women’s Corinthian Trophy: Hannah Noll
- Race 1 Keuka Trophy Winner: Tom Burton M9;
- Race 2 Iver C Johnson Award: Robby Wilkins SC55
- Top Rookie: Finn Rowe I59
- Top Master: Tom Burton M9
- Top Youth: Jack Brown SS11
- Top Woman Skipper: Emily Haugerud Z23
- Highest Placing Female, Crew, or Skipper Women’s Championship Trophy: Carolina Jewett and Lucy Zinn SC-7
- Road Warrior and National Ranking Champion: Eddie Cox
- Torch Lake Team Trophy: Minnetonka Yacht Club
- Bilge Pullers Trophy: Tom Burton M9
- Robert Weldon Trophy for the Winning Crew: Andy Ferguson and Bruce Martinson