Snipe USA

2014 Snipe US Nationals: Full of Surprises

2014 Snipe US Nationals: Full of Surprises
August 05
13:24 2014

When we drove into Okoboji, IA, home of this year’s US Nationals, I didn’t know much about the state or the lake for which the town is named. And since we didn’t know the state motto, we made one up: “It’s full of surprises.” It seemed to fit, both on shore and on the race course.

One surprising fact about Lake Okoboji is that it is one of only three “blue” lakes in the entire world—and the other two are in Switzerland). Since it’s spring-fed, the water is crystal clear and clean enough to drink. At the bottom left of the race course where a point jutted out into the lake (a point that also happened to be the campground home of Team San Diego), I actually thought we were going to run aground a few times since the rocks looked so close to the surface—even though the water was actually quite deep.

Since it is the largest lake for hundreds of miles, vacationers of all stripes flock there in the summer to swim, fish—and yes, race sailboats. The lake was crowded with powerboats of all shapes, sizes, and speeds, making the sailing a bit challenging at times as the waves were usually bigger than the breeze.

Okoboji Yacht Club is well-respected in midwest sailing circles, and the Race Committee did a great job fitting in the maximum possible number of quality races. The wind committee did not do such a great job and failed to whistle up a sailable breeze at all for the last two days. Fortunately, the RC had correctly predicted this and started off with three races on Monday. (The third was after a leisurely lunch break on shore.) Two races each on Tuesday and Wednesday gave us a very respectable seven race series. And somehow the expected heat and humidity never appeared, though the extremely pleasant conditions for sitting around were undoubtedly related to the lack of wind.

Anyone who followed the event will already know that the results were dominated by Raul Rios/Henry Dumke, who won five races. (Their other two finishes were thirds.) Shoreside, however, was a bit more egalitarian. The local fleet members (most of whom are from Omaha, Nebraska, about 3 hours away) shared information about places to eat and showed us how to drive a Snipe around on a trailer with the mast up. The San Diego and Florida sailors put together an impromptu tuning/sailing clinic on Thursday morning, once it was clear that the predicted morning breeze would not materialize. And Snipe sailors from across the country had a chance to meet new friends, catch up with old ones, and admire various generations of Snipes, all without leaving the well-shaded Yacht Club lawn. Snipe Camp, at its finest.

For me there were two special boats on site: 28099, which (along with skipper Ed Adams) taught me how to sail a Snipe. That boat also taught me (and Ed) some humility, when we ended up winning the Wells Series in 1990. The second special boat was 28444, which has what is still my favorite custom paint job to come out of Jibetech: a blue overspray/faded edge that looks different depending on the heel angle. Builder Andrew Pimental and I finished second at the 1992 Nationals in that boat, and it still looks great. The rail-less Jibetechs might be mostly out to pasture in the flat water sailing of the Midwest, but their latest owners are keeping them alive and well.

Oh, and the actual motto of Iowa? Disappointingly serious: “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.” After a week of sailing on Lake Okoboji, the Great Lake of Iowa, I prefer ours: “It’s full of surprises.”

Results, race details, and lots of great photos (courtesy Roberto Guaragna and other Snipe members) are available on

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