Waiting for the wind at the 1939 Annual Regatta on Lake Minnetonka
The first women to win an ILYA Championship were the Lilly sisters, Kay and Caroline, of White Bear Lake. With a little help from their crew, Pewaukee's Maynard Meyer, the Lillys won the 1934 Class C Championship with a combination of skill and, well, cunning.
Dr. Thomas A. Hodgson
is the author and has
Copyright 1997 Thomas A. Hodgson
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|The 1934 Annual Regatta at Lake Minnetonka featured weather that swung from a whistling gale to light air and back again. In the tune-up race, several A boats tipped over before the start. The boat that won the tune-up, recalls White Bear's Smokey Ordway, finished with only her mainsail flying, the second-place boat with only her jib up.
Though the weather was noteworthy, the highlight of the 1934 regatta was a victory in the C class by two teenaged girls from White Bear and a young Pewaukee sailor by the name of Maynard "Mike" Meyer.
It was not uncommon for skippers and crew from different lakes to team up to help each other out. One of the more rewarding relationships was formed at the 1933 Annual Regatta on Lake Mendota, when Mike Meyer took seventeen-year-old Katherine Lilly of White Bear on as a third crew. According to Meyer's recollections in Pewaukee Lake's seventy-fifth anniversary history, Katherine did so well in their runner-up effort that they promised to sail together again soon.
As it happened, the following spring Len Lilly Sr., Katherine's father, bought a new Johnson C scow. Katherine called Meyer and offered him the chance to crew in the upcoming regatta on Minnetonka with her and her sister, Caroline, then aged sixteen. Given the opportunity to sail with the two attractive sisters on a fast C scow, Meyer answered with "an unqualified 'yes.'" He later wrote: "What could be more fun than sailing between those two beautiful blonde bearcats from White Bear?" Jim Fitzgerald of Okoboji recalls: "They were kind of the talk of the Inland for a while. The first bikinis I ever saw."
The alliance was again set. Katherine would steer, Meyer would pull mainsheet, and Caroline would be on the boards. The sisters each weighed about 100 pounds, and with Meyer they felt that the three-person crew would be competitive in all kinds of wind—strong enough to hike through a breeze, but not too heavy for light winds.
The regatta opened with very light winds that increased in velocity each day. Two Pine Lake boats, recalled Meyer, were ³real Œghosters,'² with Regis M. ³Bud² Lynch in Frisky winning the first three races. Bob Manegold's Pegasus finished second in each.
After two races—in which the Lillys had finished tenth and fifth—the crew decided something must be done. Meyer wrote:
However bleak things looked for anyone other than Lynch to win the regatta, the Lilly girls and Mike weren't about to give up. But they realized after the second race that they would have to work on Lynch morning, noon, and night. It was decided to aim Carolyn [sic] at him, and after Tuesday night's party the rest of the evenings of the week were neatly dated up. Only one restriction was put on Carolyn—she could stay out as late as she wished, but she had to be on board, ready to sail, at 8:30 each morning. She never missed, but the sun seemed to hurt her eyes! By Thursday, the wind was really howling, and Lynch, tiring more as the days wore on, ended up twelfth while Black Rhythm, the Lilly boat, came in second.
Thursday night, Caroline had, according to Meyer, "a very late date." That same night, a cold front passed through Minnesota, and Friday morning broke colder and blowing a gale. Spirits rose on Black Rhythm, due largely to Meyer's confidence that even if Caroline hadn't the strength to climb back in after riding the boards, he could reach over the side and, one-handed, haul her in by the seat of her pants. They knew that with a win, they could clinch the points competition and would be second in the horserace for a combined 1.5 points. But Lynch, with three bullets, had the horserace competition locked up, so in the final race, he had to be well back, allowing either Manegold or Cynthia Shields (like Katherine, from White Bear and another great heavy-air sailor) to get between them and Lynch in the points race.
With the regatta on the line, Katherine and Meyer had Black Rhythm screaming "louder than the wind that day," with Katherine driving the boat through the waves and Meyer actually hauling Caroline inboard a number of times. Lynch, as you might expect, fell back in the fleet, "fighting every puff and wave that Black Rhythm had rolled right through." He finished an exhausted twenty-fifth place.
Katherine brought Black Rhythm across the finish line first with a substantial lead, and Shields sailed Wee One well enough to capture second in the points race, pushing Lynch to third in points. His three-one in points and horserace gave Lynch a combined two points for the regatta, and the Lillys' one-two gave them the half-point edge they needed for the championship. Katherine Lilly became the first woman to win an ILYA championship, helped out by Cynthia Shields, whose great finish in that last, windy race pushed Lynch out of the championship. It would prove to be the efforts of all three women, along with Mike Meyer, that would combine to win the Inland's 1934 C championship for Black Rhythm. Yachting magazine described it as "the most sensational victory of the five-day event."
2018 Regattas - send your confirmed dates
- 25- ILYA Board Meeting - White Bear, MN
17-18 - Adv. RC Course - Geneva
- 6 Rules discussion - Harken
- 7 Judges Course - Bruce Martinson - Harken
- 28-29 Basic Race Committee Course - John Strassman
- 5-6 Cedar, IN Icebreaker
- 18 - Bilge Puller South Meeting
- Bilge Puller North Meeting
- 19-20 E Spring Regatta - Lake Geneva YC
- 9-10 Wawasee E Scow Regatta - Wawasee, IN
- 22-24 US Sailing JOs - Okoboji
- 23-24 MC Wisconsin Championship - Pine Lake
- 25 - LBSS Opti - Beulah
- 26-27 - TRAP X - Pine Lake
- 29-July 1 - US Sailing JOs - Lake Forest
- 5-6 Quad Lakes - Beulah
- 9-12 GLSS Dinghyfest
- 13-15 ILYA MC Invitational - Nagawicka
- 13-15 ILYA E Invitational - Geneva
- 16-17 XTreme X Regatta - Oshkosh
- 16-19 Area K Jr. Championships - Sheboygan
- 21-22 ILYA C Invitational - Beulah
- 21-22 WYA X - Cedar
- 23 - ILYA No Tears - Beulah
- 25-28 ILYA X Champs - Pewaukee
- 29-31 ILYA Opti Champs - Pewaukee
- 3-5 WYA C - Okauchee
- 12-19 ILYA Championships - Minnetonka
- 12-15 A/MC Scows
- 15 Bilge Pullers Dinner
- 16-19 E/C Scows
- 21-22 National MCSA Junior Championship -
- 23-26 MC Nationals - Pewaukee Yacht Club
8-9 George Dorn MC - Beulah
- 15-16 MC Fall Classic - North Lake Yacht Club
22-23 NNN Beulah C Challenge - Beulah
- 29-30 Polar Bear Regatta - Lake Davenport Sailing Club