skip navigation

Mills Race sets off in a breeze

06/07/2014, 12:00am EDT

125 boats head for rendezvous at Put-in-Bay

The Lunasea, owned by Mike Austin of Clinton, Ohio, heads out on the President’s Trophy Course during the Mills Trophy Race. The overnight race will take the 125 competitors to Put-in-Bay. THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON

Sunny blue skies and peaceful waters greeted sailors Friday as they made their preparations for the 91st Mills Trophy Race on Lake Erie, but there was one problem: no wind.

“It’s a nice day. It may not be enough wind for what we’‍re trying to do,” 2014 Mills Race general chairman Ron Soka said.

The race, hosted by the Toledo Yacht Club, began at 5 p.m. at the Toledo Harbor Light, and was to conclude early today in Put-in-Bay after a full night of sailing.

PHOTO GALLERY: Mills Trophy Race sets sail

Racers come from all across Ohio and Michigan to participate and there were 125 boats sailing in the race this year, Mr. Soka said. Those numbers are about even with last year, when Mr. Soka said 128 boats competed.

“The economy took some boats away,” Mr. Soka said, “and now they’re starting to come back.”

“It’s our fun race for the year,” David Spiers said.

Mr. Spiers, who lives in Rochester Hills, Mich., captains the Irish Mist, which won the overall Mills Trophy in 2012. He said the quality of the people at the Toledo Yacht Club — and the party afterward — makes the race stand out from the 30 or so other races he sails in every year.

Racers this year are sailing on one of three courses, depending on their boat’s class and rating: the Mills Trophy Course (71.7 nautical miles), the President’‍s Trophy Course (38 nautical miles), and the Governor’s Cup Course (53.4 miles).

Mr. Spiers is sailing in the Governor’‍s Cup Course this year, after his win on the Mills Trophy Course two years ago. “I think the Governor’s one is a little more tricky,” he said.

The Mills Race is a bit unusual because of its nighttime setting, making tasks such as trimming the sails a little trickier. “You have to be particularly careful,” said Gary Byers of Maumee.

Still, a night on the lake has its perks, “Visibility, especially on a night like this, is wonderful,” Mr. Byers said.

A number of sailors mentioned the difficulty of sailing with little wind on Friday.

“When the wind’‍s really blowing, you kind of set the boat up for the wind conditions and sail, just go for it,” Mr. Soka said. “When it’s light you’‍re spending all your time looking to see if there’s any more wind somewhere.”

Still, the racers agreed the weather on Lake Erie is unpredictable, no matter what the forecast says.

“One thing about the Mills Race, you never are sure what the conditions are going to be,” Mr. Byers said.

Sure enough, by the time the first ships began the race, they got off to a breezy start, with plenty of wind in their sails.

Contact Stephen Gruber-Miller at: or 419-724-6050.

Most Popular

Tag(s): Pro