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St. Mary's River,  Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
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News Local: Is our city missing the boat regarding Trans Superior Race?

By Bob Mihell, Sault This Week

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 11:40:08 EDT AM

David Steele, the skipper of his 39-foot "dream" sloop, Steele N Time, is the lone Sault competitor among the sailboats in the 2009 Trans Superior Race.

Steele will be aided by a crew of five, including one other Canadian from Heyden. His other four crew members are American, as are the majority of the 31 crewed sailboats in this year's race that include sailboats, ranging in size from 26 to 50 feet.

Steele, who will be participating in his fourth Trans Superior Race, said it is tough to find experienced sailors willing to tackle the grueling and challenging 400-mile run from Gros Cap to Duluth, Minnesota.

Steele N Time is one of many boats whose masts were decorating the skyline of the Roberta Bondar Marina in downtown Sault Ste. Marie last week.

Steele agreed that perhaps the City could do a little more to promote the race that has run bi-annually since 1969, and also to let locals know why the sailboats are here.

"I think the event could be promoted a little bit better," he suggested. "When we arrive in Duluth everybody knows about it. Nobody knows about it here."

But Steele said he thought it was a good decision when daily rates at the marina were cut to $1.15 per foot in mid-July to make the destination more appealing.

He said the Sault's downtown location and numerous accessible attractions, including the Buskerfest event, proved popular with racers who began arriving four or five days before the race start.

Race director, Eric Thomas, from Duluth Minnesota, will single hand his 30-foot sloop, Polar Bear, in this year's race. He said it would take anywhere from two to four days for boats to complete this race.He said that at least half this year's entries were returnees from previous races.

Thomas said that the competition and opportunity for socializing with sailing friends was part of the race's continuing appeal. He also praised the hospitality the sailors always receive in Sault Ste. Marie.

"It's great to see old friends, and coming to Sault, Canada is always a lot of fun," he said. "I wish we had it this good at the other end."

As for promoting sailing to the general public, Thomas said, "Sailing in North America is an unknown thing, and it is difficult to make it spectator friendly."

This year, however, people can follow the progress of the sailboats that are equipped with tracking beacons on the race website at transsuperior.org.

Joe Cain, the City's manager of recreation and culture, said that over the years, the Roberta Bondar Marina, which is designated as a temporary cruising facility, has successfully hosted a variety of events for boaters that have filled the 50-berth facility. Part of the difficulty in attracting more boaters to the facility between big events is the city's location at the entrance to Lake Superior.

Some sailboats are deterred by the necessity of a 45-mile detour because their masts are too tall to get under the bridge to St. Joe's Island.

He said also that the new regulations governing border crossings between Canada and the U.S. have created a false perception that travel between the two countries now is too difficult.

Cain said he was hopeful that with the many attractions that the Sault has to offer visitors, including boaters, when the economy rebounds, boat traffic at the downtown marina would improve.


 


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