Close your eyes and picture a ride over the Skyway in the sun of a warm summer day. On the lake are several sailboats. No motors required and their sails full, they quietly glide across the sparkling water gauging their position against the other boats as they race towards a mark. The crew sits on the rail as the water below whisks past their feet. In a moment, the skipper will call them to take their positions to tack the boat to starboard. Until then, they enjoy the camaraderie of their teammates and the excitement of beating their competition.
This is a real event taking place all summer on Lake Erie and access to sailing in Buffalo couldn’t be easier. The Forty-year-old Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club provides organized racing to the community on a weekly basis. The club offers membership to boat owners as well as crew members who are an integral part of the racing program. Members can take advantage of educational opportunities such as a Learn to Race program for skippers or an Introduction to Sailing for beginners. There are fleets for women, beginner racers, experienced racers, and small one design boats. Member’s summers are filled with weekend regattas and after race parties to celebrate their winnings as well as foster and enjoy the friendships they have created through the sport of sailing. As if the time spent on the water is not valuable enough, the club provides winter activities as well – monthly educational speakers, women’s race training, a ski club, and occasional social get-togethers.
The not-for-profit Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club is home to a race program is among one of the largest on the Great Lakes of The United States. Their Wednesday night race program fields 65-70 boats on the water. Women’s Tuesday night racing fields 30-35 boats that also offers a mentor program for boats learning the rules of the road. The season culminates with an awards banquet that recognizes fleet champions, presents distinguished services awards, and brings together a community incredibly dedicated to a sport that brings so much to their lives.
In light of the growing trend to remain active as adults, all of the new revitalized waterfront development that is occurring in Buffalo, and older member attrition, the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club is always accepting new members. There are so many Buffalonians who drive by the waterfront, see all of the pretty sailboats, but have no idea that they too could be out there enjoying this fun and competitive activity right here in their own home town.
Part of the largest misconceptions to the casual observer is you do not need to own a boat of your own to become active in the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club. Boat owners who wish to participate in racing require crew and the typical crew is comprised of four to six people, but can be more depending on the boat size. The average size of the boats that participate in weekly racing with BHSC is in the range of thirty to thirty-five foot range.
“When First Buffalo River Marina dissed its slip holders last year by not having their new docks in when promised, there was an article covering the story. The article was informative and to the point, the slips were paid for but no place to dock your boat when may 15th rolled around. The comments following the article however were astonishing!!
“Oh those poor yachties” and “the rich are whining again”, I realized that the real perception is folks drive by and see all of the pretty sailboats and think “pass the Grey Poupon” and “you scratched my anchor”.
“The reality for us is that we are a middle class Buffalo family who owns a boat that has been in the family for 20 years… we scrape and save to pay for that slip fee, boat maintenance, winter storage etc etc every year so we can enjoy our summers on the water here. We choose to vacation here each summer, and spend our money locally . We are members of the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club and we like to compete in the Tuesday night and Wednesday night racing on the lake,” says Buffalo resident Laura Redding.
The Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club creates sailing opportunities on Lake Erie each summer for men and women of all ages from teens all the way up to grown adults through planned race events. There are sometimes three generations of family members racing together. Home to Buffalo’s weekly Tuesday and Wednesday night race series, the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club provides opportunities for sailors of all sailing abilities to enjoy the sport and improve their skills. Three series of five races each are run between late May and early September. The racing starts at the first gun at six o’clock in the evening and takes place just past the lighthouse in the Buffalo Outer Harbor area, just the other side of the break wall. Racing usually lasts about an hour, and the conditions are always a surprise. Some days can prove to be very windy and full of vigorous racing while other days the challenge is to outsmart your competitors by finding the wind shifts on the water – no two races are ever the same.
There is a competitive women’s race program which offers a mentoring program to help develop a greater education for new sailors, but also to help experienced sailors fine tune their skills. This Tuesday night program is for majority women crews in which women must out number men and the helmsperson must be a woman. The program is designed to encourage women to become actively involved in the sport of sailing. Educational programs are available to members throughout the year. Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club’s non-certificate Discover Buffalo Sailing program is for people new to the sport. Here they are able to learn basic sailing techniques with dockside instruction and on the water experience.
Anyone with interest from the Western New York area is welcome. The club that strives on building team work and camaraderie as well as fun and enjoyable atmosphere for everyone involved at every level of racing throughout the summer. We have beautiful summers on the waterfront, we encourage you to explore what living on one of the best lakes for sailing in the world has to offer – we promise you an unforgettable summer that will have you coming back for years to come. The program is possible by the generosity of the clubs members who volunteer their time, boats, and knowledge to help share and spread the sport of sailing right here in our own city.
There are many other alternatives to the Discover Buffalo Sailing Program. These opportunities can be found through any of the various sailing clubs or schools that surround us here in Buffalo. Some of these options include Sail Buffalo, Seven Seas Sailing School, the Niagara Sailing Club, The Buffalo Yacht Club, and The Buffalo Canoe Club.
Sailors will also be giving back to the community this summer with the first ever Leukemia Cup in the Buffalo area. The event takes place Saturday August 2nd. Gary Jobson, world class sailor and Lymphoma survivor and Jody Starck, Amherst resident who was recently voted Yachtswoman of the Year will both attend. All boats are welcome to participate and everyone in the community is invited to come down the Buffalo Yacht Club for the auction and after party. All proceeds from the event stay in WNY and go directly to the WNY Leukemia and Lymphoma chapter.
The Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club is an affordable club in which membership is only fifty dollars a year. This membership helps cover expenses such as racing markers, committee boat maintenance and fuel (they are the on the water referees), membership packets and materials, and regatta expenses. The Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club welcome active men and women who are looking for a competitive hobby no matter what point they are in their lives. There are many opportunities in the various positions on the boats and the placement of crew members varies depending on the boat owner and their crew’s skills. Sailing is a sport and the physical demands require the person be in an active shape. The boats require a level of balance and strength, and the crew members need to be able to move around on a moving boat while remaining highly competitive. Membership is modest but the experience…priceless. It’s the most fun you can have going eight to ten knots which is only about five to ten miles per hour! Now the biggest question in the WNY boating community, when will “The Boom” come out?!!!
For more information go to BuffaloHarborSailingClub.
The Committee Boat is set up at the start and finish line of the race, they call the starts and monitor the racing and rules. At the end of the race they record the times so the boat placement can be determined. This boat welcomes volunteers as well to come and learn.