Sailboat races on Clear Lake offer landlubbers a waterfront view
Getting over the midweek hump is smooth sailing for people who take part in the weekly Wednesday sailboat races on Clear Lake.
The races have been a weekly fixture in the area for 12 years and a typical Wednesday will have as many as 55 sailboats of different sizes registered for the race.
Buddy Brown, president of the Clear Lake Racing Association, which organizes the event every week, said boaters come from Katy, The Woodlands, Seabrook, Kemah, Nassau Bay, Clear Lake and Houston.
"We draw people from all over," said Brown, who is assisted by a crew of five volunteers. "It puts pressure on us to run a top class race."
Sailing is such a compelling sport, Brown said, because it's like a board game.
"You're one of the pieces (and) the board is constantly changing. There are places on the race course where the wind blows harder, places where the wind blows less. There are wind shifts, left and right, shallow areas.
"You are watching the weather, the elements, all your competitors, trying to use everything you know to pull ahead of your competitors," Brown said.
Seabrook resident Brant Koepke, a regular in the races, has been sailing and racing sailboats for 38 years. He started sailing in the Wednesday night races more than 5 years ago and continues to try and make it to the lake each week.
"It's a nice break from work," Koepke said. "Get out on the water and enjoy the outdoors. It's a brief race, doesn't take hours and hours, it's something you can do in the evening."
Koepke sails his J/22 boat "Flossie" — a 22-foot-long keelboat. Two years ago, he and his crew were the class champion and overall champion for the year.
The starting and finishing line are set up just off the pier at Villa Capri Restaurant, 3713 NASA Parkway, Seabrook, which is one of the sponsors of the event.
Spectators near the restaurant have a great view of the races, and Brown provides a running commentary of what is going on over a PA system.
"The starting sequence is really neat, exciting-when all the boats are gathered together," Koepke said.
Spectators can also get a good view of the racing action at Lance's Turtle Club, which is just off one of the turning marks of the race.
Boating crews are divided into classes, which determine which course they will navigate. There are six different courses for eight different classes.
"We basically have a class for everyone who wants to get involved, from novices to professional sailors," Brown said.
After leaving the starting line, all crews do a short mark, meaning the distance to the first course marker, which is the same for all classes. From there, crews set off on their preset courses until returning to Villa Capri to cross the last mark, the finish line.
"The marks are close enough that when you come in, you can actually hear the people at the Villa Capri hollering and cheering for you," Koepke said.
Tom Meeh is another sailboat captain who has been attending the Wednesday evening races for a long time.
"(It's) a lot of fun and a good way to break up the week for sure. You put in a full day's work, go out and race for a couple of hours, then party and socialize for a couple of hours, all in a day. It makes for a great way to break up a week," Meeh said. "I would not know what to do without them."
The races take place every Wednesday evening through Oct. 26. Races begin at 6:15 p.m. and continue until the sun sets on the lake.
Any interested person with a boat can register to enter the races. Anyone without a boat, but who know the basics of sailing, can also sign up on the CLRA website to be picked up as a crew member.
For rules and information or to register, visit www.clearlakeracing.com.
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