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Published: Thursday, 5/25/2006

Celebration set to open boating season

BY SHIRLEY LEVY

It's not like opening day at Fifth Third Field, but for members of the Associated Yacht Clubs the annual Opening of the Port celebration, starting tomorrow, is just as big a deal.

For over 35 years, the event has launched the boating season with a three-day festival featuring a flotilla parade on the Maumee River, and lots of food, dancing and entertainment.

According to Al Crum, a past commodore of Maumee River Yacht Club, the first celebration was held at Toledo Yacht Club in 1969.

"After that, it alternated between TYC and Maumee River Yacht Club," he said.

"But it didn't get real splashy until 1980, when Maumee River's fleet captain put the first marching band on the Arawan-na [excursion boat] and led the boats up the river."

Over the years, both AYC (www.associatedyacht clubs.com) and its Opening of the Port festivities have grown.

The AYC also has added the Fremont Yacht Club to its roster, raising the number of affiliates to 32.

"That's one new club so far this year, and possibly there'll be a couple more," said AYC Commodore Jason Pearson, of Ford Yacht Club.

Boaters from all of the member clubs will be on deck tomorrow when the 2006 Opening of the Port celebration gets under way with dinner and dancing at Maumee River Yacht Club, starting at 6 p.m.

Saturday morning, guests will enjoy a champagne brunch at Toledo Sailing Club, then head back to Maumee River Yacht Club for the traditional Opening of the Port ceremony, at 1 p.m.

"This year," Crum said, "a 24-piece Maumee High School band will perform at the top of the hill and, like the Pied Piper, lead everyone down to the river for the boat parade."

Bay View Yacht Club will cap the day with a grill-your-own steak or chicken dinner, from 5-8 p.m., followed by dancing.

On Sunday, Toledo Yacht Club will host the last hurrah - breakfast, served from 9 a.m. to noon.

For competitive rowers and sailors, the season has already begun.

Midweek racing started last week at both North Cape Yacht Club and Jolly Roger Sailing Club, and Monroe Boat Club's annual Spring Series was held over the weekend.

Only 26 boats entered Monroe's 3-race series.

"Participation was down this year, more than likely because of the 10 days of rain leading into the weekend," race committee co-chairman Barbara Shaffer said. "The boats just were not ready to race."

The conditions, however, were excellent: sunny skies with 12 knots of wind on Saturday and 15-30 knots on Sunday.

"We had a lot of excitement with the heavy air," Shaffer said. "It was one of the few races we have been involved in where the spinnaker boats opted not to put up their spinnakers on the downwind legs."

North Cape skippers dominated the winners list.

John and Judy Greiner's Red Cloud captured the overall honors in the performance handicap racing fleet and Class B with wins in all three races.

Marilyn and Jeff Mackay's Wizard took first in PHRF Class A and Jim Davis' Orange Crate nailed a perfect series in the Jib-and-Main fleet.

Toledo rowers made a strong showing at the 2006 Midwest Scholastic Rowing Championships, held in Cincinnati on May 13-14.

Central Catholic High School's crew edged Marietta High by four seconds to win the boys varsity eight (plus coxswain) finals.

St. Ursula Academy won the gold medal in the girls junior eight class and the St. Johns Jesuit Rowing Club took first in the boys junior eight event.

Notre Dame Academy carried off silver medals in lightweight eights and fours.

Spring boating has had a great start this year, with fair skies and moderate temperatures that are ideal for painting the bottom and waxing the hull. Weather forecasters are predicting more of the same this weekend.

Hopefully, work on your boat is mostly completed and you can kick back and enjoy some quality time with family or plan some cruises.

Cruising auxiliary skippers looking for more action this weekend can compete in North Cape's Champagne Series on Saturday and Sunday or accept Grosse Ile Yacht Club's invitation to "catch a warm breeze and a cold beer" at its annual Day Race on Saturday.

Contact Shirley Levy at:

slevy@theblade.com.



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