History of The Lake Michigan Clipper Cup
In 1985 & 1986, there was some controversy regarding the scoring and handicapping systems used for the Queen's Cup Yacht Race. Jack C. Rillema, of Whitehall MI began discussions with other sailors, on both shores of Lake Michigan, regarding the feasibility of establishing a new race. Jack had thought that Port Washington would be a good partner in developing this race. He contacted Bert Smith, and the two sailors, (and both one time commercial fishermen), began in earnest to make preparations for "a new tradition". The committee resolved to make sure the Clipper Cup Yacht Race was scored cleanly" (employing the user friendly PHRF system), and FUN. The committee wanted to give special awards ... First thru Fourth, First to Pay, First to Finish, Middle of the Fleet, and even a "pickle" for the last place finisher.
The inaugural race was June 1987. It was a night crossing, with a start in Port Washington, WI and a finish in Muskegon, MI. Nearly ninety boats entered the first
race. In the second year, a major sponsor was found in the First Chicago Bank. This race had the same course and approximately the same number of competitors. It seemed that the race was destined for greatness, but several issues became a concern. The Queen's Cup had "cleaned up their act"...the races were too close together ... and too much the same crossing ... shore side activities in Muskegon (dockage, awards luncheon, and the limitations of city activity for sailors in and near Muskegon Yacht Club were very
limited ... etc. So a new tack was tried ... the race started in Muskegon and finished in
Port ... it became a day race, almost a return to Wisconsin race leg after the Queen's Cup.
This change had many "positives." better shore side accommodations, activities, and city amenities ... more conducive to family oriented crew ... etc. The negatives were ... still too close to the Queen's Cup, and about the same time, the newly established Lake Michigan Single Handed Society's Double Handed Race (also finishing in Port Washington) ... and backing up into the Fourth of July. The event, and committee, persevered. When the challenges associated with running, planning, organizing, and racing became "enough", Jack Rillema, who had been ably assisted by his wife, Muriel, and son, Jack, looked to find new chairpersons for the race. About this same time, the building at Harbour Towne was being purchased for a new Yacht Club. The marina there had been more developed, and two couples from that new HTYC took over the reins of running the Clipper Cup.
Unfortunately, over that year, one of the couples had to move due to a job change, and the responsibility of organizing and running the race fell to the remaining couple, Gary & Kate Schottke. It was a major undertaking as at a time they were "in the hot seat" as Gary was Commodore of the new HTYC, trying to assist in getting that "off the ground", over seeing renovations, and coping with boat problems.
For the next three years, they managed, with assistance from many at HTYC. They added several pre-race activities, including a steak fry and entertainment the night prior to the event. They also added a breakfast the morning of the race, and an option of purchasing box lunches for the crossing. After the 1997 race, sailors of the Port Washington Yacht Club came forward and offered to take over the helm of the Clipper Cup. Chaired by Bert Smith, a strong group of volunteers began re-evaluating the Clipper Cup. Where had participation gone, where was the event headed, what changes could be made? The new committee decided to move the race event date to the 2nd Friday in August. Counting on warmer weather and better wind than in June, they hoped to make this the last great race of the season. The committee opened up participation in the race in a new race class, an, Open Division. Participants in this class did not have to have a PHRF certificate. Ten days after the 1998 race, Bert Smith suddenly passed away. The committee he established has kept the event running. Strong support from members in Michigan, notably Peter Bialik and Guy Hestand, have given the Clipper Cup encouraged more participants. The Clipper Cup is now part of the Area 4 race series.
We believe we have a great race!! We still give out special, unique awards. Allen- Edmonds has kindly donated a fine pair of their best deck shoes as the major raffle prize (value much more than the entry fee). Other fine raffle prizes are awarded. The awards luncheon (free) is great, and the host clubs on both shores are will warmly welcome you! We look forward to having you join our "crew". Mark your log for the 17th annual Clipper Cup Yacht Race on Friday, August 8, 2003. We'd love to show you a great race and a great time!