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Debi Schoenherr on the 61st Annual Ugotta Regatta and One Design Series

by David Schmidt 27 Jul 08:00 PDT July 29-31, 2022
Racecourse action at the Annual Ugotta Regatta and One Design Series © Image courtesy of Gretchen Dorian

The sailing season might be shorter on the Great Lakes than it is in warmer regions, but you will have to sail a lot of miles to find a more enthusiastic bunch of sailors than those who hail from the Midwest. While plenty of attention is devoted to distance races such as the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac or the Bayview Mackinac Race, plenty of engaging day-racing events also unfurl on the Midwest’s freshwater expanses. Take, for example, the 61st Annual Ugotta Regatta and One Design Series (July 29-31), which is being organized by the Little Traverse Yacht Club, and which will be contested on the waters of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay.

The Ugotta Regatta and One Design Series is open to offshore racing and cruising yachts that are at least 22 feet, LOA, as well as invited One Design classes. Offshore-worthy multihulls are also welcome to compete, so long as there are at least three registered boats.

A glance at the scratch sheet reveals a fleet ranging from J/70s, Melges 24s, J/88s, and Alerion 28s to the GL52 division, which is populated by TP52s (and a Pac52). The J/111 class is also well-represented, with more than 15 competing teams (N.B., this regatta will serve as the J/111 class’s 2022 Great Lakes Championship).

In between these One Design and box-rule classes are the ORC A, ORC B, PHRF A, and PHRF B divisions, which represent everything from Santa Cruz 70s (ORC A) to Beneteau First 36.7s (ORC B), as well as a Sydney 41 (PHRF A) and J/109s (PHRF B).

I checked in with Debi Schoenherr, regatta chair of the 61st Annual Ugotta Regatta and One Design Series, via email, to learn more about this classic Lake Michigan keelboat regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Ugotta Regatta, how it got its colorful moniker, its history and culture, and the kinds of yachts and sailors that one can expect to find here?

Little Traverse Yacht Club Regatta started 61 years ago, providing a fun and "little crazy" regatta, on the weekend following the two Mackinac races. It was run on Saturday and Sunday, including: A point-to-point race each day, which took the boats around a tour of scenic Little Traverse Bay.

The Regatta promoted fun/family/friends racing with a big focus on parties! Within a few years, it was dubbed 'Ugotta Regatta' by the sailors. There were accolades for most number of crew on a boat, the greatest number of junior sailors on a boat, and walking the docks for a ride was encouraged.

[The] Ugotta has evolved over the years and has become a "Bucket List" regatta nationally, according to Terry Hutchinson. We now offer One-Design windward-leeward racing on Friday along with the traditional tour of the Bay on Saturday & Sunday.

There is a separate One Design course for the small boats [such as]: Melges 24s, J/70s and Alerion 28s doing windward-leeward [racing] on Saturday and Sunday as well.

The scratch sheet is now sprinkled with Offshore/Turbo boats and Pros. We have the GL 52's (TP52s), ORC boats ranging in size from 40-70 feet, PHRF boats, and One Design classes of J/111s, Melges 24s, J/70s and Alerions.

The only constant is parties! Dave Irish (R.I.P) who owns Irish Boat Shop, throws a huge welcome party on Friday evening and the tradition continues. LTYC hosts evening parties both Saturday and Sunday evening. The theme for the weekend is: No Coats, No Socks, No Ties!

What kinds of numbers and interest levels are you seeing ahead of the 2022 event compared with previous editions? Also, how many classes do you and the other event organizers plan to score?

We have a limit of 100 boats due to a shortage of dockage. We had 100 boats registered by March 1st and started a waiting list.

Attrition has taken place, but we are still standing at 100. Typically, we lose a few during the two Mac [races], due to irreparable damage , however I believe we will check in with between 95 and 100 [boats].

[We will divide the fleet] into ten classes.

Generally speaking, what kinds of conditions can sailors expect on Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan in late July?

Wow, geographically, we have a wonderful phenomenon in our beautiful Bay. Typically, we have a prevailing breeze that comes in from the West [at] about noon and builds throughout the day from 12 - 18 knots. It makes for fantastic sailing conditions.

Over the years, we have had some strange surprises, such as: three solid days out of the East at 10 - 18, last year we had an unprecedented breeze out of the North for all three days, still 10 - 18. Mother Nature can be so fickle!

What kinds of on-the-water racing can attending skippers and crews look forward to? Are we talking about mostly W-L racing, or will you also run races that use the islands or geographical points as turning marks?

We offer both W/L and the [Bay] Tour (point to point), which covers the entire bay.

We have 18 set Tour courses and we choose a course each day depending on the wind direction, these courses are set up to be mostly windward- leeward crisscrossing the entire Bay.

Are there any new additions or important changes to the 2022 regatta, compared to previous editions?

This year we are hosting the J/111s Great Lakes Championship, within [the] Ugotta [Regatta]. ORC certificates won’t be available until the close of the Chicago Mac race, giving us a two-day turnout to input for our event.

What about onshore entertainment? What can sailors look forward to once the finishing guns have gone silent each day?

Friday evening there is the Irish Boat Shop Party from 5 – 8 (complimentary). Saturday, Regatta party 4 - 8 and Sunday Awards Party [from] 4 -7 at LTYC.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made over the last year or two to further green-up the regatta and make it an even more sustainable event?

We have been a designated "Sailors for the Sea" event since 2018, when we won a silver level and [we] continue to uphold [this standard] each year.

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