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Cloudy skies, chilly temperatures, and calm winds greeted sailors at the start of the 90th running of the Toledo Yacht Club’s Mills Trophy Race on Friday.
About 130 boats set sail near Toledo Harbor Light en route to Put-in-Bay, beginning at 5 p.m. Sixteen different classes took off on three different courses in 10-minute intervals, with boats jockeying for the best possible position and trying to time-up the starting gun.
The light winds sailors were encountering will be both beneficial and difficult, said participant Keith Weinman, 49, of Fairlawn, Ohio.
“You’re more at ease,” he said. “You’re not as worried about someone falling overboard, because there’s not big waves and there’s no thunderstorms ... but we don’t sail as well in light winds.”
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The main event, the race on the Mills Trophy course, covers 70.6 nautical miles. The Governor’s Cup course is 53.5 nautical miles, while the President's Trophy course is only 38.1 nautical miles.
Classes are divided by the type of boats, with the winning boats not necessarily the first to Put-in-Bay, but the boats with the best adjusted time based on the boat’s rating, determined by factors such as the size of its sails.
“There’s an overall [winner] for each of the courses, but each of the classes also gets an award,” said Kaye Soka, public relations chairman for the race.
To commemorate the Bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie, each of the courses this year was to lead boats past a buoy at the site, and the battle’s commodore, Oliver Hazard Perry, was named honorary chairman of the race.
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An unusual aspect of the race is that much of it occurs at night, with boats not pulling into Put-in-Bay until the morning hours. In past years, the first boats have completed the course at any time from 1 a.m. to 10 a.m., often depending on weather. The calm winds this year could make for a later finish, Mrs. Soka said.
“I’m thinking it’s going to be later, and it just depends on the wind direction, too, because if this were to switch over to the southeast then we’d have a long night ahead of us,” she said.
Mr. Weinman and five other sailors were aboard the boat Aloha, racing in the Jam B class on the President’s Trophy course in their sixth year in the race. Mr. Weinman said he participates in only two other races annually. Many factors draw him back to the Mills Trophy Race year after year.
“The history, the racing at night, these people do a good job with it that run it,” he said. “Every year’s a different adventure.”
The first Mills race was in 1907, when four boats took to Lake Erie. After sporadic interruptions throughout the 20th century, including a three-year break from 1978-1980, the race has been run every year since 1981.
Contact Sam Gans at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6516.