By Katharine Morgan Contributing Writer
---- — “There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” - Kenneth Grahame.
It turns out, the Otsego Sailing Club offers ample opportunity for both adults and children to do just that. In addition to “messing around” the club also offers sailing enthusiasts the chance to challenge themselves in races, develop their sailing skills, cruise and socialize with like-minded sportsmen. The expert sailor as well as the complete novice is equally welcomed at the 52-year-old club located off of state Route 80 in Cooperstown.
Longtime member Jamie Walker said: “They do a terrific job of keeping up the property to get wonderful access to the lake. I don’t think there’s any place like it.”
Five families started the club in 1961 and it now boasts membership of 90 households. According to the club’s website, years ago, the moorings were filled with smaller boats and fewer cruisers, but now there are 19 mooring docks and 14 dock slips for cruisers. There is also a fleet of Thistle Class sailboats, (high performance racing sailboats all sharing the same overall design), and smaller Laser Class sailboats.
All of the crafts are used for competition. This weekend, the club will host some of the most avid sailors in the Northeast at the 2013 Glimmerglass Regatta giving competitors the chance to match their skills in one of the most demanding sailing venues around.
According to several members, the seemingly calm lake can provide some challenging sailing.
“It’s a tricky lake to sail on. It’s narrow, and surrounded by high hills so the winds change very quickly,” Walker said.
The Glimmerglass Regatta is held every year in mid-September drawing sailors from all over this part of the country, as well as the Mid-Atlantic region. The weekend event brings spectators as well, eager to watch boats with sails unfurled racing across the water.
Many participating in the race camp out with their families Friday night on club premises, starting the weekend by fraternizing with other sailors early. The race itself starts Saturday.
Megan and Dave Ainsworth are two members looking forward to competing in the event. On Sunday, the owners of a vintage 17-foot mahogany sloop, (numbered 45 out of 4050 produced Thistles made in 1947), pushed off the OSC dock for an afternoon practice sail with their nephew Nathan Heauner, a sailor in the making.
Megan describes the Regatta as good natured, competitive fun, with races starting in the morning, and lunch on the water. Normally the Cruisers start their race first, then the Thistles and other classes, all sailing south against the backdrop of Otsego Lake and its surrounding hills. The event ends back at the club with dinner and shared sailing stories around a big bonfire.
The facility itself includes camp grounds, a club house complete with a kitchen, changing rooms and bathrooms labeled “gulls” and “buoys,” a launch as well as docks and moorings. Membership means mandatory participation in spring dock days to prepare for summer sailing, as well as in autumn activities for taking the boats out of the water and dry-docking. Belonging also means access to sailing programs.
The junior sailing program is for ages10 to 17, with the class size usually limited to 20 students. Typically, the beginners are taught in the mornings during the summer months, and advanced students in the afternoons. The students taking the advanced class must have completed one year of junior sailing.
Walker said OSC teachers are usually well-seasoned sailors “who are great at teaching their skills to young people.”
“They’re really good at making it fun for their students,” he said.
There is an adult sailing program taught on evenings and Saturday afternoons. The kids hone their expertise on small Laser sailboats. But don’t let the size of craft or sailor fool you, both kids and Lasers are out in full force for races on the lake.
The racing during the course of the summer involves all the club members.
Ken Higgins, editor of OSC’s newsletter “Gusts and Puffs,” said even members who originally had no experience or inclination to race find themselves changing their minds. He said his family’s first race was the fourth time they sailed.
Realizing they had to make it around the buoy left no time for giving up, regardless of wind conditions, according to Higgins. He said racing challenged them to make decisions and use their skills, and they were able to complete the race knowing a great deal more about sailing than when they started.
“Sailing is all about the boat, your skills and the weather,” he explained
When asked what drew one inexperienced sailor to join the club, a single mother of two sons responded that it was the serene surroundings and the feeling of welcome and support she felt from the other club members. She said she had a boat and a desire to find an activity that her family could do together.
For more information about the club or the 2013 Glimmerglass Regatta, visit www.otsegosailingclub.com.