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Published: Monday, 5/12/2008

Rain fails to dampen fun at Owens regatta

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A team of three boats from Ohio State University competes in the Owens Team Race Invitational. Eight teams attended the event, held yesterday on the Ottawa River near the Jolly Roger Sailing Club. Inclement weather forced the event to drop the number of heats from 28 to 18.  
A team of three boats from Ohio State University competes in the Owens Team Race Invitational. Eight teams attended the event, held yesterday on the Ottawa River near the Jolly Roger Sailing Club. Inclement weather forced the event to drop the number of heats from 28 to 18.
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Getting up early to sail on a gray Sunday morning is fun.

Really, it is, college students who braved chilly rain at the Owens Team Race Invitational Regatta said.

The event was held this past weekend at Jolly Roger Sailing Club in Point Place.

Squeeze lots of people in a vehicle and drive hundreds of miles to sail? Sure.

Students traveled from as far away as Ohio University in Athens, more than 215 miles southeast of Toledo.

Sleep on the floor of the Bowling Green State University team s clubhouse?

Nobody s really too picky when it comes time to go to bed after racing, said Ben Mercer, an Owens Community College student and regatta organizer.

How about cooking between races to save money? No problem. Pancakes for breakfast, hot dogs for lunch, and pizza for supper satisfied.

And spend thousands of dollars on sailing gear? They do it.

Consider Mr. Mercer, 25.

He paid $700 for his foul-weather sailing pants, $400 for his jacket, and $150 for his sunglasses.

His boots cost $200, and his life jacket was $150. His gloves are a bargain. He uses the garden variety, literally, priced at 69 cents a pair.

Add a hat most any hat will do and you have the outfit most students sported as they sailed on the Ottawa River, just off Edgewater Drive.

At the beginning of the season, students wore warmer suits that left only their head and hands exposed, and had a rubber seal around those openings. Mr. Mercer paid $500 for his suit.

If the Owens regatta had been held when originally scheduled, most students would have been de rigueur.

Owens organizers, including Mr. Mercer, had proposed the regatta for Easter.

Midwest Collegiate Sailing Association officials protested, citing the holiday. So Owens scheduled the regatta for Palm Sunday weekend, as the league opener.

That turned out to be a little early. There was ice in the river the weekend of March 15-16.

So Owens regatta was rescheduled as the last of the spring, after the collegiate season s end, after the end of the spring term for schools on semesters, and on Mother s Day, a holiday which apparently didn t rate a veto from the collegiate sailing association.

Nevertheless, the regatta drew eight teams, one more than last year: Denison University, John Carroll University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Ohio University, Bowling Green, and the host, Owens.

There were about 10 fewer students than last year. Forty some, rather than the 50 or so who participated in 2007. Some teams had to borrow sailors to put two people in each of three boats for a race.

Each race there were 28 scheduled over the weekend, although only 18 were held because of poor weather meant six boats on the water.

That way, two teams competed against one another in each race. And each team had three boats on the water.

They raced on an N-shaped course in competitions that took 10 to 15 minutes each.

In between, hours were spent in the clubhouse, chatting with the other sailors while waiting for the wind to pick up or die down.

That s all part of the fun, Amanda Sundling of Perrysburg Township said.

I love the people, the 20-year-old said.

Ms. Sundling is in her third year at Owens studying hospitality management.

Her sailing partner, Kevin Bradley, is a biology student there.

Mr. Mercer is an agricultural-business student at Owens.

But sailing is so entrenched in his blood that Mr. Mercer struggled to think of what else he would do with the time and money he invests in sailing.

I ve been sailing all my life. My whole family sails ... It s just what we ve always done, he said.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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