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12/28/2012 5:27:00 AM
Northwoods crew competes in Harvest Moon Regatta
Competing in the 2012 Harvest Moon Regatta were (front, from the left) Tom Suffield, America Perezclawson, Eric Boyer and (back) Dan Mehr.Contributed photograph

Competing in the 2012 Harvest Moon Regatta were (front, from the left) Tom Suffield, America Perezclawson, Eric Boyer and (back) Dan Mehr.

Contributed photograph

Craig Turk
Outdoors Writer/Photographer

Four area residents found themselves braving the elements of the Gulf of Mexico during the 26th annual Harvest Moon Regatta, held Oct. 25-26 off the coast of Texas. They’d make a strong showing.

The Harvest Moon Regatta is one of the longest port to port yacht races in the United States. Beginning in Galveston and ending in Port Aransas, the race is 150 nautical miles.

America Perezclawson, Eric Boyer, Dan Mehr and Tom Suffield, all of Minocqua, competed in the event as crew members along with yacht owners Phil and Karen Upton, currently of Galveston.

“Dan and Eric both did the race with that same captain and his wife last year,” Perezclawson said. “Eric asked him if he needed a couple more people this year and that’s how we all got included.”

Among the dangerous elements of the race were unlit and unmarked oil rigs, lightning and winds at 25 knots (near 29 mph). Just getting to the starting line was no piece of cake.

“They actually keep the boat about five hours into Galveston Bay in a very small marina in a small town,” Perezclawson explained. “So at the beginning we had to get out to Galveston – it took us five hours to get out there to the starting line.”

The crew was aboard the yacht “Karen,” a 38-foot, Hanse 370 sailboat. All on board shared time at the helm. Perezclawson completed chart navigation and kept an hourly logbook of racing conditions.

Conditions on the Gulf were choppy for the first 15 hours of the race, then a cold front brought a north wind of 23-plus knots for the last nine hours of the race. It might have been a little chilly, but not especially so for this Northwoods group.

“It was more wet than cold. Because of us being Great Lakes sailors – this just didn’t register as cold at all,” Perezclawson said.

“We had our foul-weather gear on mainly because of the spray ... because of the waves and the wave action over the boat. It was more to stay dry than to stay warm. It probably was ... maybe 62 degrees. For us on the Great Lakes, that’s balmy.”

Six-foot swells caused several boats to drop out and head for shore.

The crew aboard yacht “Karen” completed the race in 24 hours and 7 minutes, good for second in the Cruiser Non-Spinnaker Division and 36th overall. There were 191 boats competing.

“Working with an amazing crew and traveling at speeds up to 14.9 knots made this the best sailing of my life,” Perezclawson said.

The Northwoods crew is familiar with sailing, having spent much time on the big lakes.

“I have a boat up in Bayfield and the four of us sail together as a crew ... all season long on Lake Superior,” Perezclawson said. “Actually, the four of us moved the boat last year from Michigan City to Lake Michigan and all the way through to Bayfield.”

Perezclawson said the crew plans on racing in the Trans Superior in August 2013. The Trans Superior starts in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and ends in Duluth, Minn.

“We’re looking to do more races next summer on the Great Lakes,” she said. “It’s fun – it’s a lot of fun. It can be a lot of work as well.”

The 2012 Harvest Moon Regatta wrapped up with 3,000 race participants gathering for an awards ceremony, a barbecue dinner and live music.

Craig Turk may be reached at cturk@lakelandtimes.com

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