Windjamming: Local yacht club welcomes good times, new members |

Windjamming: Local yacht club welcomes good times, new members

Adam Jensen
Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily TribuneTiffany Coverdale, left, and David Anthes crew the Wind Dance during the Tahoe Windjammers weekly "beer can race" on Wednesday.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – When members of the Tahoe Windjammers Yacht Club are in the midst of their weekly “beer can race” between Camp Richardson and the Regan Beach area they tend to speak a foreign language.

There are booms to keep an eye on, jibs and spinnakers to trim and timing of tacks to consider.

All of the language, which dictates movement of an array of lines and sails in response to sometimes indistinguishable changes in weather conditions, can be overwhelming to the unfamiliar.

But, back on land, members speak the universal language of good food, good booze and good friends with a unique Tahoe fluency.

Members of the more than 40-year-old club pride themselves on having fun, as well as being open to newcomers and teaching them how to make the seemingly endless adjustments necessary to most effectively harness Lake Tahoe’s fickle wind.

“We have world class sailors in this club and they’re open to sharing their knowledge,” said Vice Commodore Terri Thomas, following Wednesday’s race.

The club hosts more structured and competitive races throughout the summer that culminate in the awarding of “The Tahoe Cup,” but the weekly beer can race starting from outside the Tahoe Keys Marina is an easy way for the inexperienced to get a taste of a sport Windjammers members described as both exciting and relaxing.

“The beer can races are not an alcoholic drink-fest but a term given a more informal relaxed type of sailboat racing,” according to a flier of Windjammer events.

Informal, sure, but a little friendly competition does imbue the beer can races, which have been run since the mid-1970’s.

“It’s informal, there’s no trophies, they don’t keep times, it’s just bragging rights, that’s all it is,” said Wind Dance Captain Diane Martin, clearly relishing a well-sailed race Wednesday.

While the group allows people to sign up for a crew on its website, coming down to the Tahoe Keys Marina on Wednesday evening and offering a smile and a handshake to a boat’s owner is probably more effective at getting started sailing with the group, said Commodore Mike Robinson.

Being open to taking direction is really the only requirement, added Thomas. She said her and her husband are even considering selling their own boat because of all the opportunities to sail available via other yacht club members.

“One big thing is you do not need to own a boat to sail,” Thomas said.

And for those wondering just how fun a day of sailing can be, Thomas, an avid skier, compared a sail full of wind and the rhythmic lapping of waves against a boat’s bow to another much vaunted Lake Tahoe activity.

“A good day sailing is as good or better than a powder day,” Thomas said.

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