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What Ever Happened to the Yacht Racing Union of the Great Lakes? (YRUGL)

May 1, 2024

By Roger Renaud

For many years, sailors of the Great Lakes have enjoyed competing against each other, both locally, and on an intersectional basis. In the past, the Yacht Racing Union of the Great Lakes has fostered and promoted competition among the six Great Lakes Yachting Associations.

The Yacht Racing Union of the Great Lakes (YRUGL) has a long and storied past. Founded in 1896, the original Union of three lake associations, Lake Ontario (LYRA), Lake Erie (I-LYA), and Lake Michigan (LMYA), was formed to promote sailing competition amongst its members on the Great Lakes. Over time additional lake associations were added, in order: 1967 Detroit (DRYA); 1970, Lake Superior (LSYA); and in 1976, Lake Huron (LHYA). 

The mission of the YRUGL was “to provide the ultimate challenges for sailing in the Great Lakes Region, and to grow sailboat racing in Great Lakes Region as a whole.”

The YRUGL, to my knowledge, continues to be the owner (guardian) of two prestigious trophies: The Richardson Trophy, and the Barthel Trophy. These trophies are awarded to the best teams of the Great Lakes, in the disciplines of Match Racing, and Off-Shore Racing.  

The Richardson Cup for Match Racing

The 2024 Richardson Cup is tentatively scheduled to be held at Bayview YC in Detroit MI. No specific date is published. It will be in the fall and not to conflict with other major events. At this point, the other yacht racing associations of the YRUGL, should be announcing the dates for their Lake’s elimination series, issuing a Notice of Race, and announcing a host Club for the event. This does not appear to be happening as of the date of this publication. I’m told there is no longer any interest in match racing. How can this be true? The YRUGL was formed to foster and promote match racing in the Great Lakes.

The Barthel trophy is now for the Tri-Lakes Offshore Challenge

Whose job is it to get after the individual Yacht Racing Association in each of the Great Lakes? Do we need to re-ignite the YRUGL?

When I was growing up in sailing, I remember the LYRA elimination series, for the Stolze Cup on Lake Ontario. The winner would then represent Lake Ontario at the Richardson Cup elimination series. This competition was not just about Lake vs Lake, many times it has also been a Canada vs the USA competition.

The coordination and support of ‘off-shore’ racing amongst the Great Lakes was also a prime objective of YRUGL.

Popularity and participation in long distance off-shore racing has been on the increase over the past few years. This year is the 100th anniversary of the running of the Port Huron to Mackinac Island race. Guaranteed it’s going to be a busy racecourse. There will no doubt be teams participating from each one of the Great Lakes. As it should be!

The long-distance racing events on Lake Ontario do not attract any sailors from the other Great Lakes. It would be great if more ‘outside’ sailors could participate, but there are always scheduling issues.

It’s been suggested by the distance racers outside of Lake Ontario that there should be a “The Great Lakes Grand Slam”, perhaps run every 5 years. This event would include the Mills Race, the Port Huron to Mackinac Island race, the Chicago to Mackinac Island, the Trans-Superior, and the Lake Ontario 300 (or 600). This is where we need an active YRUGL again.

There would need to be cooperation between each of the Great Lakes, the members of the YRUGL, for the host clubs planning for this special event. Interesting topic for sure!

Today, the Barthel Trophy, is awarded to the best overall off-shore boat, racing in three events, held one each on Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. This award was deeded to support and promote off-shore racing across all the Great Lakes.

Perhaps it’s time that the five ‘Yacht Racing Associations’ on the Great Lakes, get together, as a top priority, and re-ignite the YRUGL, and collectively, work towards a doable all-inclusive calendar. Make a “Great Lakes Grand Slam” happen!

SinC Roger Renaud

Born in Windsor, Ontario, Roger moved to Toronto for work in the early 70’s where he sailed a Hobie off Cherry Beach. Eventually joining ABYC, he has owned three different Thunderbirds over the years. The Thunderbird, 8-meter, E-22, Laser 28, CC27, CC34, CC99, and the Beneteau First 36.7’s, were the other one-design fleets he raced in, each for a few years dedicated to a program. He was also involved in a significant three-year program on the NM 36, Maggie Kelly.

Since returning to Essex County, he has been racing locally and in the Detroit (DYRA) PHRF divisions on his restored Pearson Flyer.

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