For more than 100 years, there has been a Mills Race on Lake Erie. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious competitive sailing events on the Great Lakes. The 91st running of the Mills Trophy Race will be this Friday.
The first Mills Race, named for race founder Merrill B. Mills, was held in 1907, and four boats participated.
This picturesque scene was captured by Toledo Times photographer Carl Gifford on June 24, 1939. Some of the best-known sailing yachts on Lake Erie were among the 28 boats that participated in the race that summer. In this photo, the second boat on the left, the Siren, is edging into the lead.
TOLEDO MAGAZINE/OUTDOORS: The Mills Race‘s silver lining
The Mills Race was designed to be a test of navigational skill, so the sailboats begin the race in late afternoon in staggered starts near Toledo Harbor Light and sail through the evening until they reach the finish line at Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island. There are different race courses, based on class and boat rating. The event is sponsored by the Toledo Yacht Club.
The weather, wind, equipment reliability, and possible fatigue of the crew all factor into the nighttime sailing experience for the race participants. There was no race during the World War I era, and the 1978 race was canceled by the Coast Guard due to bad weather and large waves.
Last year, about 130 boats representing many Great Lakes yacht clubs along Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron participated, along with Michigan and Ohio sailing groups from LaSalle, Monroe, Detroit, Port Huron, Cleveland, Sandusky, Port Clinton, and Toledo.
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