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
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
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.