LAKE O’ THE PINES — Keegan Spous sounded confident that he and Gilmer Boy Scout Troop 314 would retake its title at an unusual race Saturday, minutes before the first of eight heats in the U-Make-It, U-Sail-It charity sailing contest.
“We’re going to get first (place),” the Scout said, sitting on one of two Styrofoam pontoons on which his handmade craft would soon sail.
Asked why he was so confident, Keegan’s sailing mate gave a painfully obvious reply.
“Because our boat is going to win,” Jantz Bass told a reporter.
“Because he’s delusional,” fellow troop member Matthew Sinclair added from the next boat over.
They were all wet.
Neither Longview’s Troop 621, which won the past two years, nor the Gilmer troop were first to cross the finish line at Big Cypress Marina, where the Longview Yacht Club was hosting its 17th or 18th homemade sailboat race.
While the event once welcomed any craft the sailor’s imagination could build — there have been bed boats and stranger sights — the club four years ago developed a simple, two-pontoon catamaran with a PVC tiller and thin, wooden mast that everyone now builds on the spot and races.
“So the only difference is the sailor,” longtime event organizer Al Hildebrand said.
The Boy Scout Class trophy, this time, went to Kilgore Troop 252, setting up a three-way rematch next year.
The Longview Yacht Club made another change seven years ago, converting the whimsical race into a whimsical race with a reason. The event benefits Windridge Equestrian Therapeutic Center of East Texas, which helps children and adults with development disabilities or injuries move more independently.
“We’re now up to around ... $75,000 (raised),” Hildebrand said, outlining benefits to the Upshur County therapeutic center.
Nearby, Longtime Windridge staff instructor Chris Stowe was psyching up for his wild ride.
“I had my first sailing lesson last Saturday,” he said. “I only ran into a pier one time.”
Stowe said Windridge has about 75 student riders this semester, riding six days a week.
“This is a pretty big thing,” he said. “It helps our scholarship program because we’re not going to turn anyone away because they can’t pay. So, this event helps.”