Championship regatta attracts hundreds of sailors to Oshkosh

OSHKOSH – Ahoy Oshkosh!

Sailors from around the Midwest are hitting the waters of Lake Winnebago.

The four-day Inland Lake Yachting Association’s Championship Regatta is underway.

It’s the culminating event of the sailing season for hundreds of people.

“This is a big regatta. It probably is not at the level of an America’s Cup or an Olympic Games but it is very, very good racing,” said race coordinator Tom Hodgson.

The series of races attracts around 400 sailors and 150 boats.

Race coordinator Tom Hodgson says with four fleets going, race committees stay busy.

“Setting buoys and setting signals, and watching the start calling the finish,” said Hodgson.

“My grandfather sailed and my father sails, I sail, my kids sail. So I’m a third generation sailor. I’ve been sailing forever,” said skipper Bill Wyman.

Wyman of Oshkosh is no stranger to this regatta.

“It is fierce competition, there’s some really good sailors. We have America Cup winners and national collegiate winners,” said Wyman.

Also taking part, “newbies” like Frank Tower of Oshkosh. He’s crewing a boat for this regatta.

“I’ve been racing now a couple of years, and this is my first regatta,” Tower said.

While exciting, Tower describes his first race as a bit challenging.

“You’ve got 20 other individuals jockeying for that very first position, getting off the line, and making sure they got a great start,” said Tower.

The trick with these competitons is working with the weather. Organizers postponed one race earlier in the day when winds died down, but sailors say the changing conditions are what makes this all so interesting.

“Depending on the wind and direction it’s coming from, and do you have somebody next to you, it’s really variable each and every time you go out there,” said Tower.

Apart from the competition on the water, sailors say – just as attractive – is the camaraderie on land.

“It’s just fun to see your friends that you only see in the summer at events like this,” Wyman explained.

The regatta runs through Sunday.

And a little bit of history: The annual event began in Oshkosh back in 1897.

While it’s now held at locations across the Midwest, the competition returns to Northeast Wisconsin once every seven or eight years.

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