For the first time since 2006, Lake Minnetonka will be home to the exclusive youth regatta that crowns the national sailing champion every year. In July, 230 sailors on 115 X-boats (a type of racing yacht) will sail across Lake Minnetonka in hopes of winning one of 12 coveted trophies.
The first annual Inland Lake Yachting Association (ILYA) X-boat Youth Championship was held in 1940 on Lake Geneva, Wis. Since then, various lakes around the Midwest have shared the honor of hosting the regatta. Minnetonka Yacht Club commodore Pat Hughes says, “The ILYA championship presents the opportunity to see the Midwest’s best youth sailors compete for a championship that dates back to 1940, and there is nothing like the thrill of regatta sailing.” Hughes adds, “For young sailors, it is a competitive and rewarding experience that ultimately fosters a deep passion for the sport and generates lifelong friendships. We look forward to a great week of sailing and in the end, recognize true champions in the sport at the youth level.”
MYC is one of the oldest yacht clubs in the country, and has called Lighthouse Island its home since 1882. The island includes a clubhouse, sand volleyball courts, three docks and Lake Minnetonka Sailing School. Sailors from MYC and fellow Twin Cities club White Bear Yacht Club have won this youth regatta 29 times collectively. Organizers say the rich tradition of sailing on Lake Minnetonka is partly due to the ability for children and teens to start sailing, with small boats, at a young age.
The X-boat was designed in 1933, accepted by the ILYA as an official class in 1935, and has been the No. 1 boat for young sailors ever since. Out of 51 clubs in the ILYA, 16 are registered with X-boats, providing their sailors with the opportunity to compete in this regatta.
15-year-old MYC skipper Kate Ness is one of the top sailors competing in this year’s regatta. “Sailing has taken me to eight different states and created lifelong friendships,” Ness says. “I wouldn't trade my sailing experiences for anything.”
The ILYA X-boat regatta offers youth sailors the chance to compete in six races over the course of three days. Sailors and their families will be welcomed to Lake Minnetonka by the ILYA and MYC officials on Wednesday, July 24, with an opening ceremony at Deephaven Elementary School. The opening ceremony will conclude with an Italian feast and sand volleyball tournament for sailors and their families to enjoy on Lighthouse Island.
The real excitement begins on Thursday morning with the first senior fleet race at 9 a.m., shortly followed by the junior fleet at 9:30 a.m. on a separate course on Main Lower Lake Minnetonka. Spectator boats are invited to congregate around the buoys that outline the race course to watch the sailors expertly steer their boats in a triangle, finishing the race where they started.
Friday and Saturday will follow the same morning schedule. An anticipated 500-650 guests will gather on the island, celebrating the event and socializing with sailors, their families, and yacht club members.
After the races on Saturday, a trophy presentation will conclude the regatta at Deephaven Elementary, crowning the 2019 national youth sailing champion.