For those who sail on these one-design, three-sail boats devoid of electronics and modern-day mechanics, bigger is not necessarily better. "The trend is toward smaller boats in all fleets because the cost is controlled by the one-design rules and the lack of needing to factor in handicaps," said Tim Rumbles, captain of the yngling Taboo.
Being a one-design boat, the yngling offers the maximum in competition. All ynglings are the same - the size, the sails, the weight. There are no handicaps based on differences. There are no timed starts and finishes to these races. The first boat across the finish line is truly the winner.And since the boats are all the same, "you don't win by spending money, you win by skill," said Tim.
With smaller and simpler, the sailor is closer to the elements - much closer. Unless the boat has a raised floor, the water thrown inside the boat by the waves puddles on the bottom until pumped out by hand. "You've got to read the wind and waves and know when to adjust and when to leave it alone," said Bill Henderson, co-owner of Splash. "And you've got to have a basic feeling of your boat's speed. If it's going slow, you fiddle around with it. If it's going fast, you leave it alone."
Bill and his wife Susan Henderson introduced the boat to Alpena 19 years ago when they owned The Sail House. They imported eight of these Norwegian-made boats to sell. "We were looking for a boat that could be an easy family sailing boat as well as a competitive racing boat," said Bill.
For those sailing with little children, the yngling's cockpit is deep enough to safely fence them in. For children who are older, the small boats prove great for training as they are very forgiving. Even though made for the Norwegian Sea, the yngling sails like it was made for Thunder Bay. It likes rough water, with big waves and lots of wind and actually moves from crest to trough much like a roller coaster. And it was made for those who don't want to spend as much as a house on a boat. The first fleet brought in by the Hendersons sold for $5,500 per boat. Mark Smith, captain of Harmless, points out you can buy an older yngling for $4,000, fix it up, put $1,500 worth of sails on it and be competitive with any other yngling on the race course.
Tim agreed. He bought one of the first fleet and spent many hours fixing it up. Other sailors jokingly refer to Tim's "bionic boat," as the "$50,000 yngling" as he has replaced virtually everything excepy for one line, the one guiding the mainsheet.
Interest in sailing the first fleet of ynglings gradually waned and by the early 1990s, there were only two or three of those original ynglings sailing in Thunder Bay. The majority of them spent more time in the garage than the water until 1993. That year, three local boats - the Yngtrepid, Shenanigan and Splash - competed in the national championship sponsored by the North American Yngling Association. During a phone call to order a part for his yngling Yngtrepid, Steve Fletcher heard about the championship and local racers were invited to compete. While at the championship, local sailors were asked to host the competition in Thunder Bay the following year. That created so much excitement among local sailors that Sam Smith traveled to Minnesota and Iowa to bring back four boats for folks to buy to increase the size of the local fleet for the upcoming championship.
The yngling association is a tightly-knit group of sailors in Sakonnet, Rhode Island; Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota; Lake Okoboji, Iowa; and Alpena. Each year, one of the groups hosts the championship. Alpena will do so again in 1998. Four local boats travelled to Lake Okoboji for this year's championship on Aug. 16-18. Tim took Taboo, with his crew of Pete Simpson and Tess Sornberger. Steve sailed Lobo with Anna and Michelle Manente crewing for him. Mark and Karen Upham took Anniversary and crewmember Nick Jasmine. And three generations of Smiths might be competing. If they go, Sam will take his boat Precious. Crewing for him were his son Mark and Mark's son, Erik, who was the youngest ever to sail in a Port Huron to Mackinaw race.
These days, the local fleet consists of 13 ynglings, many that compete in the Wednesday and Sunday races sponsored by the Yacht Club. With more boats racing and the skills and enthusiasm of young sailors, competition has become more challenging. "Now this fleet is as fast as it's ever been," Steve said.As Sam explained, "You sail for the love of it, but you race for the competitiveness.,"
story copyright 1996 alpena news
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artwork and photo copyright 1996 Andreas S. Brunvoll
all rights reserved