The constant wind and waves at Fort Peck Lake, mixed with the sun and sails, created the perfect environment for the first Fort Peck Can-Am Laser Regatta. Organizers of the event said that the conditions for the weekend couldn't have been better.
Cars and trucks could be seen lining up on the dam to get a view at the eight sailboats that competed in the local event. The small sailboats are one of the most popular to race worldwide and a few sailors from Calgary, Canada, came with the hopes of good training in windy and wavy conditions. They were excited to see the winds grow stronger on the second day of the race, and while it gave the rest of the sailors a challenge, it also provided great training.
The regatta took place on Aug. 16-17 at the Fort Peck Marina. Three competitors were local to the area, and one of them helped organize the event.
The race ran on a point system, similar to golf, where the lowest points won the entire event. Points were gained by the placings in each race. Over two days 10 races hosted the competitors. The worst two were thrown out.
Terry Reid, of Calgary, Canada, took first place. He seemed to move around the course with ease. The starting markers were placed near local Rafe Sigmundstad's sail boat, where the Principle Race Officer John Cormack, of Alberta, watched and observed the sailors. Out of the eight races counted, Reid took first in six. In third was David Elliot, also of Calgary.
The two sailors are hoping for tougher conditions as they prepare to go to France for the Wold Master Championships in October. The competition will bring at least 300 boats from around the world.
In second place was Tim Sauer from the Flathead Lake area. Sauer was the previous organizer of the Flathead Laser Regatta, but had stepped down in the last year.
The event eventually moved to Fort Peck Lack as Page Anderson and Julie Burke became interested in bringing sailors to the local area.
Dennis Muri, of the Billings area, placed fourth, followed by Caleb Gilliam, a 13-year-old, also from the Billings area. Gilliam took home a youth award at the event and seemed to be a strong contender.
The 13-year-old seemed experienced and was able to navigate the water with ease. His parents were present during the event for support, and they helped out on the mark boat. That is the boat that sets out the starting line and buoys that line the course. They also helped in the signal boat, which is Sigmundstad's boat, where flags signaled the sailors when to start.
Local sailor's Anderson placed in sixth, Drew Markle placed in seventh and Tim Ogrinc placed eighth. Anderson said that he's an experienced sailor who started in a laser and just picked the sport back up in the last year. But he said that Markle had only sailed on a laser eight times prior, and Ogrinc hadn't been on a boat at all until the day prior to the race. He said that several of the contenders were impressed by Markle and Ogrinc, who kept going even in tough waters. Markle's mast broke on Sunday, when the winds and waves grew stronger.
Volunteers from the event helped keep the event going. Anderson said the mark boat, run by Mary and John Lamb, and the safety boat, run by Arlie Gordon, along with the many volunteers who helped on the land side of things, made the first time event run smoothly. The sailors and spectators enjoyed meals thanks to the Cottonwood, the TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District), the Fort Peck Marina and local 4-H.
Organizer Anderson, explained that the Canadians said once the word on the conditions at Fort Peck Lake, along with the food that was provided over the weekend got around to other sailors, the event would quickly expand. They plan on organizing the event again next year.