Sailboats race on Lake Ontario

Photos by Tom Rivers: These sailboats race on Thursday evening as the sun comes down on Lake Ontario. It made for a picturesque setting in a competitive race for 10 sailboats. They raced for 4 miles, having to change directions frequently.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 August 2021 at 9:53 am

Oak Orchard Yacht Club hosts Thursday night races off Point Breeze, a summer tradition for nearly 30 years

POINT BREEZE ABOARD THE GALLIVANT – Bob Hodgins is at the helm of the Gallivant, a 36-foot-long Catalina sailboat. Hodgins, 67, of Alexander has been sailing since he was a kid. He is the commodore or the leader of the Oak Orchard Yacht Club this year. He is enjoys competing in the Thursday evening sailboat races.

The Gallivant had a five-person crew, which included the helmsman or helmswoman. Bob Hodgins and his wife Mary Lu each spent time at the helm, steering the sailboat. The Gallivant also took along the Orleans Hub editor, who welcomed the chance to get some sailboat photos at sunset and experience a sailboat race for the first time. (The Hub editor also was relieved he didn’t experience any motion sickness.)

The sailboats get in position before the start of the race on Thursday, testing their tacking, when the crew resets sails to change directions.

Dana Stringham and Darlene Mieney raise the mainsail, the big triangular sail on the mast, and then take in the scene along the Oak Orchard Harbor.

Stringham, 73, is retired after running his own excavation business in Genesee County. He had already played pickleball for three hours on Thursday and then was in for a busy two hours on the sailboat, springing into action to raise and lower sails, and shift them to the other side of the boat to change directions.

Mieney, 59, of Hilton has been a pastor in the Free Methodist Church for 20 years, first in Batavia and the past 15 years in Parma. She used to love riding motorcycles with her late husband Skip. He died unexpectedly at age 51 about 9 years ago.

Mieney was invited to try sailing by a friend and relishes the action on the lake, especially when the boat is straining on its side on a windy night or when it sharply changes direction.

“I needed something to replace the adrenaline from my Harley rides,” she said with a smile. “You’re never too old to try learn anything. I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about sailing.”

She has been sailing about six years now.

“It’s an art,” Mieney said about sailing. “There’s engineering to it.”

The crew on the Revenant sailboat adjusts the sail during Thursday’s race.

On Thursday the sailors had to contend with westerly winds. The Gallivant was going about 4 knots with the wind and then about 2.8 knots upwind.

Dana Stringham and Bob Hodgins are near the bow or front of the sailboat as the Gallivant gets ready to turn and go around one of the markers on the course. The sailors need to be careful not to hit the marker or that is a penalty where they have to do a 360-degree circle which can be a several-minute delay.

This sailboat gets ready to round the marker after completing one of the 1-mile lengths in the race. The boaters had to go back and forth twice.

At least one of the sailboats in the race bumped into the buoy and then had to do a 360. The sailors need to time when they will tack or turn to round the marker.

Ralph and Patricia Moorhouse of Albion were among the sailboat races on Thursday. Their boat is named Purr Diem.

Ray Leonard (in red shirt) steers this sailboat during the race. Leonard is a long-time sailor and considered a legend at Point Breeze.

The boats are in the distance from this marker in Lake Ontario. The sailboats would all need to round the marker during the race.

Mary Lu Hodgins stands on the bow and advises her husband Bob, the helmsman, if he needs to make slight adjustments in steering the boat to stay on course. Being off a few degrees can add time and result in a drop in the order of finish.

Karen Brown of East Bethany joined the Hodgins crew on Thursday evening. She is working with Dana Stringham to move one of the sails as the boat changes direction. Karen and her husband John usually have their own boat for the sailboat races. But their boat, which is 41 feet, is too big for the shallow harbor this year. The water levels are down significantly for 2021 and so of the bigger boats haven’t been put in the water.

Stringham and Mieney in recent years have been on the crew for the Brown’s boat. This year then joined Hodgins when the Brown’s boat grounded for the year.

Hodgins said his adult children have been in the crew in years’ past. The Oak Orchard Yacht Club also runs a youth sailing program and some of those youth will make themselves available to be on the crew for the sailors during the races.

Bob and Mary Lu Hodgins and their team got off to an early lead in the race. There is a rating for the sailboats or a handicapping system for the race and some of the boats have time added or subtracted based on their length, sails and other factors.

The Gallivant, which is raced by the Hodgins’s team, has about 2 minutes added to their finish.

The Gallivant would cross the finish line first and then had to wait to see if others might pass them through the rating system.

Bob Hodgins, in back, adjusts the sail while Dana Stringham and Darlene Mieney tighten ropes to hold the sails in the desired place. The crew finished first in Thursday’s race, even with the adjusted times with the rating system.

Several of the sailboats are out on Lake Ontario near Point Breeze for the race on Thursday. The last race of the season is this Thursday. The races start about 6:30 p.m. and usually take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The racing includes two 5-week series.

Mary Lu Hodgins, a retired school nurse at Alexander, takes the helm. Her husband is retired as the owner of Hodgins Engraving in Batavia. The couple has sailed all over the globe, all the way to Australia, through the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Mrs. Hodgins said those areas can’t pass the sunsets off Point Breeze.

“We have the best sunsets right here,” she said.