Skippers brace for truly frigid Frostbite Sailboat Race on Watauga Lake

Zach Vance • Dec 26, 2017 at 9:36 PM

This year’s New Year’s Day sailboat race on Watauga Lake seems destined to fulfill its namesake.

With below-freezing temperatures expected all day, spectators and participants should certainly considering wearing additional layers during the 18th annual Watauga Lake Sailing Club Frostbite Sailboat Race on Jan. 1. 

According to a press release, between 12 and 15 boats are expected to participate in this year’s race, with more than 90 skippers and crew members from the Tri-Cities, Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia participating.

The pursuit-format race will begin around 1 p.m. at the Lakeshore Marina Sailboat Dock, 1185 Highway 321, Hampton. 

The sailboats will have staggered start times, based on each boat’s speed. The course is one full lap around the island at the middle of the lake and back. 

The entire friendly competition typically lasts about an hour or two, but that’s all dependent on the wind. Accuweather.com is currently predicting 5 to 8 mile-per-hour gusts. 

“The club has held this event every year since 2000 and WLSC sailors have raced in everything from beautiful 50-degree days to snow blizzards,” Bob Hebner, commodore of the Watauga Lake Sailing Club, said in a press release. 

Last year, many skippers gushed over the ideal weather conditions of light winds and cool temperatures. That year, Skip Greene claimed his fourth-straight victory, a streak he hopes to keep alive this year. 

“I mean like anything else, you’ve got to have a little luck, and you got to be where the wind is,” said Greene, who’s been sailing for more than 40 years. 

“A lot of times we’ll sail into a hole out there, and boats go right by us. Or we’ll go by boats (who’re) stuck in a hole. So you got to read the water and see where the wind is and where it’s not and avoid (the areas) where it’s not.”

Although the National Weather Service is predicting a 20 percent chance of snow showers, Greene said he’s still confident in his performance. 

“I’ve been in blizzards out there. I’ve been (in situations) where you couldn’t see the boat behind you because it was snowing so hard,” Greene said. “Then sometimes on Jan. 1 you can wear shorts. You just never know what the weather is going to be like.”

The low temperature for New Year’s Day at Watauga Lake is expected to be 6 degrees, while the high is forecast to be 24. 

Prior to the start of the race, Greene said it’s extremely beneficial, for himself anyway, to test his sailboat in the water and get a feel for the wind before the competition starts.

Cookies and coffee will be offered on the deck beginning at 11 a.m. All race participants must sign up online or on the deck by 12:30 p.m., with a skippers meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. 

Following the race, a potluck dinner with chili, soups and desserts will take place between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. 

Email Zach Vance at zvance@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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