Historic ships to race on Lake Michigan

Visitors to the Great Lakes this summer will be treated toa billowing parade of sail. An assorted fleet of historic sailing vessels will gather on the Lakes in July to celebrate the area’s maritime heritage and compete in what promises to be an exciting race.

The 1998 Great Lakes Tall Ships Race, organized by the Newport-based American Sail Training Association, will first gather in Chicago on Lake Michigan from July 16 to 20 and then race across the lake to South Haven, Mich. Sail-related festivities will continue in various Great Lakes’ ports until August 9.

The largest of the entrants, the U.S. brig Niagara, is a replica of Commodore Oliver H. Perry’s warship, which defeated a squadron of British ships on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. The nearly 200-foot brig flies 12,600 square feet of canvas and carries 30-foot wooden sweeps that can be put to use by an energetic crew in calm conditions. (The replica also is equipped with two 180-hp diesels.)

"We’ve used the sweeps a couple of times just to prove that we can turn the ship, but we don’t use them on a regular basis," said Walter Rybka, Niagara’s captain. "This summer, though, we look forward to some great sailing on the Lakes."

Anyone interested in joining the race aboard one of the many historic vessels–to pull on the great sweeps or assist in handling sail–can contact Steve Baker at ASTA at 401-846-1775. A complete schedule of the Great Lakes Tall Ships Race is also available.

By Ocean Navigator