Lincoln’s Slice of Heaven

There's a great thing happening out in Cornhusker country. Nothing fancy here, but the sailing is excellent.

Snipes sailing
The Lincoln Sailing Club’s Fire and Water Regatta brings the area’s Snipe sailors together. Mateusz Mittek

Lincoln, Nebraska, is not exactly known as an American sailing epicenter, but after attending a recent Snipe regatta in this unique location, perhaps we should reconsider.  Just northwest of Lincoln is Branched Oak Lake, a manmade, crescent-shaped lake of 1,800 acres.  And on the shores of that lake, smack in the middle of the land enveloped by the crescent, is the Lincoln Sailing Club.  Like so many clubs across the country, these folks really know how to do a lot with just a little.

Yes, the facilities are basic: one long dock, a single-room clubhouse with garage doors at either end and a covered patio, a ramp and enough space for rows of small centerboarders and catamarans. Their biggest fleet is Snipes, and in late June, their annual Fire and Water Snipe Regatta, which has been running for decades, draws boats from Kansas, Texas and Colorado. This year, they had one of their biggest fleets ever–31 boats.

Lincoln Sailing Center
The Lincoln Sailing Center has all a grassroots regatta could need. Mateusz Mittek

How is it that while some clubs struggle to get good turnouts, this one is–if you’ll pardon a Nebraskan farming metaphor–really making hay? Perhaps it’s because the lake has plenty of room for a course and then some, with unobstructed shorelines and the facilities have all the essentials. The college town of Lincoln, home of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, is close enough that hotels are not far away. If that’s not convenient, or is too expensive, plenty of sailors camp at the club. A small village of tents is fully populated the night before the regatta.  

But it doesn’t end there, and perhaps this is what really tips the scales. For the Fire and Water, the good folks at the Lincoln SC brought in San Diego sailor Doug Hart, a top Snipe sailor, who ran a clinic the Friday before the regatta, which included on-the-water coaching. Then, recognizing a wide range of abilities for the event, Hart coached boats at the back of the fleet during racing.  There’s also the work of locals Mary and John Buckley. A former Snipe district secretary, Mary took care of a lion’s share of the event logistics, and husband John cooked up more than 40 pounds of pork and beef that provided two dinners’ worth of food. Talk about a team effort.

Mary and John Buckley
Mary and John Buckley serve as outstanding hosts to visiting and local sailors of the Fire and Water Snipe Regatta. Mateusz Mittek

And there’s a civilized pace.  Nine juniors raced Saturday morning (and were coached by Hart during the race). The regatta began after lunch, getting in four races in 8-15 knots of breeze.  Sunday’s schedule was for racing from 10 to noon, providing plenty of time for visitors to get home, although high winds that day forced abandonment before boats could even be rigged.  Too much wind?  No problem. Lunches were brought out, Doug cued up videos he had taken the day before, and those who could stick around jumped into another clinic. Another great event and another great club in middle America.   

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