National regattas benefit Tahoe and local sailors
By Paul Andrew
Tribune staff writer
Ray, Rus and Craig Wilson have been sailing on Lake Tahoe since before they were teenagers. This past weekend, they had the ulimate racing experience, competing against 11 of the best ultra-lights in the Olson 30 Nationals during a four-day regatta in South Lake Tahoe.
“We learned a lot this weekend,” Ray said. “We were disappointed in our final results but were sailing against the best in the country, so we got schooled a bit.”
“We are only allowed to bring a certain number of sails on board, so we made a mistake of leaving light-air sails on the dock for Sunday’s race. The courses were short, so making a mistake can cost the race.”
The highlight of the weekend for the Wilson crew was Friday’s distance race from Tahoe Keys, into Emeral Bay, around Fanette Island and back. Their boat finished second to eventual overall winner Blue Star from the Channel Islands in Southern California.
Of the local boats, Dr. Ross Groelz, sailing Junkyard Dog, finished seventh, followed by the Wilson’s Wraith at eighth and Don Newman’s Corsair coming in 12th.
The three Wilsons, along with their other brother, Tim, began sailing when their father purchased a Pacific 21 when Ray was 10, Craig was 12 and Rus was 16. They grew up sailing on numerous boats that their father owned, all while learning the intricacies of sailing on Lake Tahoe.
“After the Pacific 21, we had a Catalina 27 that broke off its buoy and ended up with a hole in it at Deadman’s Point,” Wilson said. “We then had an Islander 26 and Santana 525.”
“In 1982, my dad bought an Olson 30, but Craig and I joined the Air Force the next year, so he sold it,” Wilson said. “Don Newman bought the boat and has raced it ever since.”
When they returned from the service, the brothers continued to sail. Among the sailboats they owned were a Ranger 22 and a J 24 – the latter one they raced during the winter months in San Francisco. Six years ago, the Wilsons came upon an Olson 30 for sale and couldn’t pass up the boat.
“We bring the boat down to San Francisco Bay in the winter, along with two other Tahoe Olson 30s, and race throughout the winter,” Wilson said. “It gives us a lot of racing experience and gets us out of the snow.”
This past weekend’s Santa Cruz 27 Nationals were won by Hanalei, followed by Poopsie in second and Vitesse in third.
Overall, the weekend was a success for locals and visiting sailors. Steady winds and ideal Lake Tahoe weather made for conditions that should help lure regattas of this stature to the area.