LAKE O’ THE PINES — Waters were placid but enthusiasm high Saturday at Lake O’ the Pines as 27 teams took to the water to race sailboats they built.
The 200-yard course of the 19th annual U-Make-It, U-Sail-It race challenged the skills of sailors as young as 9, according to the Longview Yacht Club, which organized the event. It’s both a fundraiser for Windridge Therapeutic Equestrian Center of East Texas and a first step for many into the world of sailing.
Brock, a member of Cub Scout Pack 621, built his sailboat with the help of his father, Dusty Haggard. Father and son lifted it into the water so the young skipper could compete in the open category for scouts.
“It’s fun,” said Brock, a fourth-grader at Hallsville Intermediate School. “I just like to do water sports.”
He placed first in the BSA scouting category.
Later that morning, friends Ava Ritter and Victoria Offield, sixth-graders at Hallsville Junior High School, entered their maiden race as members of the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Pines.
Both girls, age 11, said they have been in motorboats but not in sailboats.
“I like boats. They take me places,” Ava said.
Victoria said she participated to be with her friend.
“The girls are nervous, both are excited,” said Ava’s mother, Felicia Ritter.
Ava, Victoria, Brock and other participants represented scouting groups, the Boys & Girls Club, other youth groups and school clubs, event Chairman Brent Smith said. However, the event was open to all age groups, and even had a separate category for “old dudes” aged 75 and above.
Saturday’s light winds meant sailors had to work harder to navigate the course.
“It is a matter of being able to control the sail,” Smith said. “They are having to manage to control the sail and steer the boats.”
The club had rescheduled the event because this year’s wet spring made lake levels in May dangerously high. The delay may have had an impact on turnout. The 2018 race drew 42 teams.
Event organizers provided kits with components for the boats. They included foam hulls, wood frames, masts and “all the hardware,” he said.
Some teams assembled the boats in advance to learn how to do so, then put them back together Saturday.
“All of them (teams) customize their own take and style,” Smith said, adding they used paint and graphics.
Race volunteer Bill Sinclair, an adviser to Venturing Crew 314 of the Boy Scouts, provided press tours of the lake while teams sailed by in boats with combinations of three colors for their sails. He said his wife, Julie, and son, Matthew, also were volunteering.
As he came within view of one sailboat, Brody Carson, a sixth-grader at Kilgore Middle School, shouted, “This is what all Boy Scouts do.”
Another boy yelled, “Get your sail out of the water.”
Sinclair, of Gilmer, advised another youth to steer around another boat.
He returned to the shore, and races continued.