The “Wylie Coyote”
by Vivian Reddin
OK, so I’m a female sailor driving up with 4 male total strangers from Minneapolis to Bayfield Wisconsin to race on a 40 foot boat called the “Wylie Coyote”. In the minivan, Mark Gross, one of the owners of the Wylie Coyote is charting positions for the weekend races into his laptop. I might as well have been in a car with people that don’t speak American, because the 4 hour conversation was about sailing terminology completely foreign to me! The word “lazy guy” now means something positive and is a regular used term in my vocabulary, since becoming a regular crew and learning foredeck. I began sailing when my dad, Tom Reddin, bought us 4 kids a Johnson X boat on Lake Harriet back in 1980. In those days there were a lot of teens sailing the city lakes. I had always been a scow sailor and had no idea what I was getting myself into racing keel boats. I joined Wayzata Yacht Club in 1999 and crewed on Capri’s before I got hooked on Bayfield racing. The first couple of races gave me so many bruises that it made it even harder to convince my friends how fun sailing is. But when I come back to Minneapolis after a race I am a happier person full of enthusiasm and renewed love of the lakes and the wonderful opportunity to be able to sail 6 months out of the year. Over the 4th of July each year is an event called “Bayfield Race Week” where boats come from all over the great lakes, and from surrounding cities and compete. It is a great chance for crew to participate and try racing on the “big” boats. The city of Bayfield opens their city of 600 to us and helps us celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks, parades and lots of evening celebration.
|Captain Mark and Geri Gross in Bayfield, WI.|
|Shana, Mark, submerged crew, and Jeri surfing|
When Fall hits, the North Shore is so beautiful. The Apostle Islands each have their own unique history. Learning how to layer-dress for races makes the cold winter months a lot more comfortable and active. I love the wind, waves and challenging spinnaker jibes. The adrenaline rush of racing overcomes the fear of falling into the lake. Safety is of utmost priority, then having fun while being competitive. I am continuously amazed at the wonderful opportunity to be a part of this sailing family. Mark, his wife Jeri and their two boys, Brecon and Bronte try to race as a family for the whole season. From May to October you will find us sailing from Port Superior to meet the rest of the fleet that is at Bayfield marina. At night we have even had fresh lamb on the grill from Mark and Jeri’s farm.
Mark’s philosophy is that we are a “work in progress”. Built in 1981 by Tom Wylie, the boat has had the names “Woodcraft” and “Resilience”. It was once one of the fastest boats competing in Bayfield. Mark would like to bring her back to the way she was as far as speed and just enjoy her. Tom Wylie, the designer says that “The design principle was to make a boat that was fast and easy to handle while sailing fast, without regard to the trends or whims of racing rules. As a Captain, Mark gives everyone that steps on the boat a chance to learn new skills, push their limits, and face challenges. Mark has been an inspiration to me because he always motivates me to figure things out on my own, and asks how I think things could be better and what I think went well. I have even had the rare opportunity to be at the helm for an entire boye race. Each race brings new challenges, like quick problem solving skills during Race Week, 2001 when 40 mph gusts helped “ski” our pole, almost broaching while we watched the spinnaker dive into the water and fill with water. Everyone reacted quickly and no-one got hurt. I love seeing Mark and Jeri’s two boys grow and take on more and more responsibilities on the boat. It is a family race where many people have been given the opportunity to see if they want to become regular crew. Perry’s sister and mother had never really sailed and now they are regular racers. Our navigator Rob, and his daughter, Anna work together, Rob navigating from the stern, Anna on the foredeck. We now have an internet cite, created by our crew member, Perry, so that the crew and Captain can have a continuous dialog between races to make sure that everyone feels ready and can come with ways to become a better team.
|Tom, Perry and Vivian on a foul weather gear day.|
On the way back from the Duluth triangle in 2001, we were 20 miles from shore and had a completely glass surfaced lake all around us. Mark and Gerry tied the 4 fenders to the stern, and 8 of us took turns surfing while under motor. At 6 knots it was fun trying not to get flipped over. The surface water was pleasant, because there were no waves to churn up the deeper, cooler water.
Vivian Reddin works for Northern Breezes, is an ASA sailing instructor and races on Lake Minnetonka, MN and in Bayfield, WI.