National dinghy competition to make a splash in the Shores

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 4, 2013

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Residents and Lake Shore motorists are used to seeing boats on the water during the summer, especially on a sunny day.

But from July 6-14, they can expect to see more of them — a lot more. The Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, along with the Grosse Pointe Youth Nautical Foundation, is hosting the United States Optimist Dinghy Association National Championships. More than 400 sailors ages 8-15, joined by their families, will be in town to compete and watch the races.

“The Grosse Pointe Yacht Club activity coming up is going to be quite the (event), with hundreds of additional visitors (in the Shores),” City Manager Mark Wollenweber said.

Public Safety Director John Schulte said the city would be assisting with traffic all week, but the GPYC has “made a lot of preparations” to guarantee that the event goes smoothly.

“There’s going to be a lot of activity,” Schulte said.

From probably about 7 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. July 10 — expected to be the busiest day — Schulte said the city would set aside a dedicated lane for USODA competitors on northbound Lake Shore from roughly Fontana to the GPYC. This will be for the sailors to bring in their small boats on trailers. Trailers are otherwise being stored at a marina in St. Clair Shores, and he said vehicles driven by participants would be parked at Grosse Pointe North High School, from which shuttle buses would be running to the GPYC to transport participants and volunteers.

The GPYC, a private club, isn’t opening its doors to nonmember visitors during the races, and Schulte said Osius Park won’t have good views of the course — which runs from the GPYC to about Pier Park at Moross and Lake Shore in Grosse Pointe Farms. Still, local residents within walking distance should be able to observe the races from the shore.

“There’ll be a lot of boats on the water. … We would just ask (people) to abide by traffic regulations and parking regulations,” Schulte said. Lake Shore will remain open in both directions throughout the week, although traffic is expected to be a bit heavier at times.

Shores residents will still be able to use Osius Park — which neighbors the GPYC — and park there as they normally would, Schulte said. However, he said GPYC employees only have been given special permission to park their vehicles on the grassy area next to Shores City Hall during the race period.

“Basically, Osius Park will not be affected (by the competition),” Schulte said.

Boaters at the Shores park harbor will be able to bring their watercraft in and out, as well — Schulte said there would be no restrictions on the inlet used by the GPYC and the Shores, and the race course isn’t near the marina opening — but “there may be some waiting.”

It’s considered quite a coup for the GPYC to have landed this event.

“We are excited and honored to host this prestigious and important sailing event,” GPYC Commodore William C. Vogel said in a press release.

This is the first time the regatta has been held in Michigan.

“This is the farthest north this event has ever been,” Vogel said at a Farms City Council meeting earlier this year.

The three major activities are the USODA Team Race National Championships July 6-9, the USODA Girls National Championship July 10, and the USODA Open Fleet National Championship July 11-14. Organizers say Optimist dinghies are “the biggest and fastest-growing sailboat class in the world,” and more than 85 percent of Olympic medal winners are former Optimist sailors.

Locally, the event is being chaired by GPYC Past Commodore Jim Morrow. Blaise Klenow, the committee co-chair, said this event is expected to be a boon to the local economy. When it was held last year in Sandusky, he said it brought about $3-4 million worth of revenue to that region.

“This is a good thing for the Grosse Pointes and also the area. … We have restaurants and other services that people will be enjoying,” Klenow said earlier this year.

For more information or a full schedule of races and special events, visit