Arlene Truex had to untangle and straighten out the sail on her boat following a couple of turns around Grandview Lake on a sunny and windy Sunday afternoon.
“Sailboating isn’t for sissies,” the 75-year-old Truex said.
Truex’s house serves as the home port for the Grandview Yacht Club. The club, which is in its 56th year, holds sailboat races on the lake every other Sunday through most of the spring and summer.
Last week, 12 boats — Lasers, Y Flyers, a Butterfly and a Thistle — competed over a triangular course. They take part in two races, each of which usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes depending on the wind and the skill level of the sailors.
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“It’s a competition with the other sailors, so you are trying to outmaneuver them and outthink them,” said Tom Schroeder, who serves as the club’s Commodore.
The Grandview Yacht Club began in 1961, a time when sailing was high in popularity.
The club was one of the first organized groups for residents of the Grandview Lake community. It started putting on big breakfasts on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day for about 100 Grandview Lake residents.
“It kind of became a bit of a nucleus of creating a sense of community here,” Schroeder said. “That is still one of the big roles for the yacht club today.”
Following each day of racing, most of the competitors gather at Truex’s house for a “protest meeting.”
The sport of sailing has right-of-way rules, and if someone violates one of the right-of-way rules and causes another boat change course, the affected party can protest that. If the accused sailor recognizes their infraction, they do a 360-degree turnaround before resuming in the direction they were going.
If they don’t think they are in violation of the rules, they can keep going, but can be protested at the meeting. If other sailors find them to be in violation, they are disqualified.
Schroeder said protests are often ruled upon following reenactments of the possible infraction, using beer bottles and bottle openers as boats. However, he said protests are rare, and the protest meetings are usually just social gatherings.
A rough day
Dianne Fisher wasn’t having one of her better days on the water last week.
By her count, Fisher’s Laser tipped over about eight times before, during and after the races in winds that reached 25 mph. Each time, she had to get the boat turned back over while treading water.
“When you tip over, it’s physically exhausting because you have to get all the water that’s in your sail and try to get your boat upright,” Fisher said. “It takes a lot of physical strength to try and right the boat and then continue sailing.”
Jim Riffle, 81, was in the water for about two hours earlier this season after his boat turned over. Since then, he’s retired from sailboat racing.
Riffle, who was an All-American football player in high school and played football and rugby at Dartmouth University, has two artificial knees and an artificial hip.
“That’s when I stopped wind-surfing and sailboarding,” Riffle said. “I was afraid I’d fall, and I didn’t want to go through those operations again.”
Now, Riffle just takes out his pontoon boat and watches the races.
“It’s fun, even when you’re not sailing,” Riffle said. “It’s fun when you’re just watching.”
A family affair
Sailboating runs in the Voelz family. Joe Voelz helped start the Grandview Yacht Club, and now, his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter all are racing.
Jim Voelz, 57, is the ringer of the club, winning most of its races. His wife Peggy has won the Michigan women’s state championship in sailboards. Their daughter, Laura Garrett, just started sailboating three years ago.
“They did their thing, and we did ours,” Garrett said of her younger years. “It was kind of what they loved to do, and we just never did it. My brother and sister and I crewed a little bit, so I’ve been around it my whole life.”
Jim Voelz started crewing for his father when he was 11. The pair won several regattas on Y Flyers.
Jim Voelz said his father taught him 90 percent of what he knows about sailing.
“The sport of sailboat racing is interesting because you have to be so aware of so many things during a race — how you tune your boat, where you set your sails, where you position yourself on the boat,” Voelz said. “Then, there’s a whole set of racing rules you have to know, like when you have the right-of-way over another boat or when you don’t. Then, you have to read the wind, you have to tune your sails the right way and watch the water for wind shifts and wind that would speed up. There’s so many things going on in your head at the same time, it just makes it a fascinating sport.”
The Grandview Yacht Club will hold two more sailboat races before the close of the season.
The remaining races will be Sunday and Oct. 1. The Oct. 1 event will be followed by the awards ceremony.