Virtual Yacht Clubs, Real-World Fun

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In an effort to accommodate a growing number of local racers, the Geneva Lake Keelboat Club (GLKC: glkcsail.com) and Gage Marine/Pier 290, in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, have created a “virtual-yacht-club/virtual-regatta” program that employs some clever technology to keep its fleet sailing.

According to GLKC commodore Patrick Evens, the club supplies the race committee, committee boat and all other racer-facing elements in the regatta equation, while Gage Marine/Pier 290 supplies the shore-side resources, including a marina and restaurant (read: a waterfront clubhouse environment). “The alliance allows the GLKC to raft up after races and enjoy awards, camaraderie, terrific food, drink and the private beach at Pier 290,” Evens says.

Sailors register for races online and make their payments ($10 per race) via PayPal at least 48 hours in advance, so that the marina can reserve the correct amount of dock space. The GLKC’s race committee uses SailWave software to tally the results, which are posted online live (via a smartphone), allowing certificates for the top three boats in each fleet to be waiting ashore when the sailors reach the dock. Better yet, the GLKC uses a drone to record the racecourse action, which is sent to Pier 290 where it’s enjoyed as a sizzle-reel, ex post facto.

The recipe, says Evens, is ideal for clubs like the GLKC, which have limited shore-side facilities (or financial resources), and is transferable to fleets nationwide. “All racing fleets without a yacht club will love the idea of forming an alliance with the top restaurant/marina on their lake or bay,” says Evens, whose three-class fleet is made up of PHRF-rated keelboats (including six Alerion 28s), C scows and MC scows, each with their own start. “They can pull racers from surrounding lakes to form a virtual regatta once per week. Every racer likes new competition and this offers that venue.”

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