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West Marine I-LYA Bay Week - July 31-August 2, 2006
By Skip Dieball, Quantum Sails Toledo

July 31 - August 1 - August 2

(July 31, 2006 - Day One) The Bay Week event is an annual rendezvous point for many of the sailor throughout the Lake Erie region. The event takes place on an island in the middle of the Lake called South Bass Island. The "town" on the island is Put-In-Bay. The second you say, "I'm going to Put-In-Bay" many throughout the world know what itís all about.

The sailing is great with race courses set between the series of Bass Islands. The organizers set the daily routine early in the day with races starting at 9:30am. By 1:00pm sailors are off the water and the fun begins!

Put-In-Bay is a party spot, no question. Bars and restaurants surround the city center's park and you can window shop for which bar has the best music and fun. For most of the Bay Week sailors, the first stop is Frosty's Bar. Frosty's is a place to sit down and drink your beer, generally served in a frosty challis.

After some beer and pizza many then head over to the Round House Bar. The Round House is rowdy and fun. Live music nearly every night with bands that set the tone. It is definitely where you will find the majority of the weeks' sailors!

Bay Week consists of racing for PHRF, JAM and One Design. The "event" starts with feeder races from Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Sandusky and Port Clinton. These feeder races took place on Saturday and Sunday, with Monday marking the first day of Bay Week racing.

I am sailing in the T-10 division where most competitors are using Bay Week as preparation for the T-10 NAs, which will be held in a few weeks in nearby Vermilion, OH. The racing is extremely tight and the waters surrounding Put-In-Bay offer some great conditions.... with the exception of the sweltering heat! Our team sits in good position, but with racing continuing through Wednesday, there's plenty of opportunity to move in either direction.

Monday's West Marine Boat of the Day was the J/120 Capers out of Mentor, OH. They won PHRF A division impressively today!

Click here for the West Marine I-LYA Bay Week 2006 website.

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(August 1, 2006 - Day Two) Wow, what heat! Hot in the morning, hot on the course and hot in the bars and restaurants. Of course we seek out any/ all air conditioned establishments, but even for early August, this is really hot!

The good news is that the current weather system has a very strong southwest gradient. We've actually experienced some spectacular racing, which this time of year can sometimes be tough to find. Congrats to the race managers on all the racing circles for getting everyone off the water by 2:00pm, and thus getting started with the festivities earlier!

On our boat (T10 Team I-Ball), we have a motto...."Work Hard, Play Hard." Today we worked incredibly hard and ended up getting the West Marine Boat of the Day. Our tactician, Paul Abdullah, did a great job of keeping us in a strong fleet position and Scott Irwin drove like a champ.

On the way in from the racing circle, most of the boats on our course decided to use the early finish to go for a swim. Lake Erie is fresh water and is about 75 degrees right now. Floating around the boat and with a dozen or so other boats in School House Bay provided some great memories! It was at this point when Scott Irwin told the rest of Team I-Ball, "....guys, we need to take a 1st on land tonight...."

So as I write this update, I am thinking that our evening will start at Frosty's with some cold beer and probably move to the Round House. Last night the Round House was especially lively and tonight will be no exception. After the Round House, we'll hit the Put-In-Bay Brewery (micro-brew and night club) for the night cap! No doubt the alarm will sound way too early, but it is a tradition and a way of life at Put-in-Bay.

I've been coming to Bay Week since I was a young kid. My dad would race and the rest of us would stay on the family boat (not being raced) and take in the island life. I recall many days of riding bikes and swimming around the island with new friends and old. These days, I often run into the same friends I made some 20+ years ago. It is a special place and I truly enjoy the tradition.

The "Bay Week" experience is organized by the Inter-Lake Yachting Association. They host three separate Bay Week events, with the current event being dubbed "Senior Sail." Two weeks ago there were nearly 200 Junior Sailors competing in the Jr. Bay event, which is part of the US Sailing ladder event (Area E Quarter Finals). I have had the pleasure to be the Association's coach and have seen this event flourish over the past 7-8 years. Similar to my days of riding bikes with friends, these young sailors are forging relationships that will last a lifetime...that's what's best about Put-In-Bay!

Click here for the West Marine I-LYA Bay Week 2006 website.

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(August 2, 2006 - Day Three) What a great day for racing on Wednesday! With a much fresher breeze, the fleet descended upon their respective racing circles bright and early. The heat was still up (way up!), but the increased wind meant that the racing was going to be fast and fun.

On our Offshore OD course, we had two spectacular races. Our T10 (Team I-Ball) started the day with our 4th straight bullet and ended with a 3rd, to seal the class victory. We were especially pleased as we've been dialing in new settings and haven't seen many races this summer with winds in the upper teens. Former Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, Heidi Backus Riddle, finished the event strong with a string of 2nds to finish 2nd in our class. They were going through the paces in preparation for the T10 NAs in Vermilion, OH.

The post event party and prize giving at the Put In Bay Yacht Club is always a great time. The rowdy Crescent sailors from Detroit always cheer with an odd chant, which has become tradition! Everyone enjoyed the free beer and camaraderie.

Congratulations to the Beneteau 367 out of Erie, PA, TAZ. They won their division and the West Marine Boat of the Week. The 367s started just before the T10s and both fleets enjoyed incredibly tight racing. From my perspective, our course probably enjoyed the best racing!

We heard from the PHRF courses that their northern trek around the islands provided some excellent racing. We saw most of the PHRF boats as they rounded Middle Bass Island and made their way west to the finish. This takes the fleet through a tight passage between South Bass and Middle Bass. The wind funnels through this passage and can be quite volatile.

Looking back on this year's Bay Week, I know we'll be talking for years about the record heat. Thank goodness the wind held (actually built throughout the week). If there were little wind, it would have been a very long week.

Socially, Bay Week lived up to its tradition. Everywhere you turned you'd find friends all charged up for a big night. Our team went out pretty big on Tuesday Night and we even stopped at the Skyway Bar, which is outside the Village limits (open late night!). I'm not 100% sure if we scored a "1 on land," but if not it wasn't from a lack of effort.

Racing on Lake Erie turns to various championships. As mentioned, the T10 NAs will be in Vermilion, just west of Cleveland. The Thistle Class is holding their Nationals Championship at North Cape in LaSalle, Michigan. With over 100 boats registered, this promises to be a good time as well.

I truly hope that those who have been following these reports try to do some racing on Lake Erie. We've got great destinations, like Put-in-Bay, and challenging sailing.

Click here for the West Marine I-LYA Bay Week 2006 website.

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