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Come sail away

Wateree Sailing Club hosts weekend multi-hull regatta

Posted: April 1, 2014 1:55 p.m.
Updated: April 2, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Hearing that his cousin was going to buy a catamaran and go sailing, Mac McCallum got caught up in the excitement and bought his own multi-hull sailboat. Turns out, he did not have a sailing partner as his cousin backed out on his end of the deal.
That was more than three years ago and from his learn-by-doing stage, the Lake Wateree resident stayed with his hobby, competed in regattas around the southeast, but never on his home lake. That will all change this weekend as the Wateree Sailing Club (WSC) will be the home base for a two-day Eastern Multihull Sailing Association Regatta (EMSA) on Lake Wateree beginning on Saturday and continuing with racing on Sunday.
McCallum, a member of the WSC as well as the EMSA, said competing on Lake Wateree is a dream come true. When he saw a free weekend on the EMSA schedule, McCallum jumped at the opportunity to bring the regatta to Kershaw County.
“I’ve been trying to get them to come here for a couple years. Then, a spot in the schedule opened up in the early spring so, we’re going to get the guys to come out,” said the 1991 Lugoff-Elgin High graduate on a cold winter day at the club headquarters located on Nautical Lane, off Sailing Club Rd., on the banks of Lake Wateree.
“Personally, I’ve wanted to get a race on the lake since I started sailing. We’re hoping that we’ll get some exposure and, hopefully, get some people to join the Wateree Sailing Club; we take power boats, pontoons and even house boats. We have people with jet skis who use the dry storage and the ramp. We have social functions. We hope people will see us out there and wonder what’s going on.
“I want people to know that it’s out here and to find out more about the sailing club.”
A catamaran, which some know as a Hobie Cat, are usually 16- to 18-feet in length with some measuring 20-feet long. Outfitted with three sails, the lightweight vessels can travel anywhere from 15 to 20 miles per hour, depending on the winds. A rather uncommon sight on Lake Wateree, catamarans will take center stage this weekend.
Saying that he “dumb-lucked” into buying and sailing a catamaran after he bought one, McCallum laughed when telling the story of his maiden voyage from his dock on the Lugoff side of Lake Wateree.
“I have a cousin who sailed a little bit and he said they were going to get a catamaran to sail,” he said. “I thought it might be a fun thing to do so, I got one … and they never got one.
“My dad helped me set it up and then, pushed it off the dock. I said, ‘Do you want to get on?’ He said, ‘Heck, no. You don’t know what you’re doing.’
“I told him that it can’t be that bad. I just kept pulling strings until I figured it out. Then, I started racing with these (EMSA) guys just to get around some other boats. That’s when I really learned most of the stuff.”
McCallum started sailing that first summer by himself. He then went on his computer to search for any groups which sailed catamarans since there were so few on Lake Wateree. He found such an catamaran organization which sailed on Lake Murray.
“I tracked them down and started going to the races with them,” McCallum said of the sailors from the Lexington County lake. “A lot of those guys had been racing for 20 or 30 years and have been really helpful. They showed me what to do.”
From sailing solo, McCallum lured his wife, Martie Gail McCallum, into joining him on the catamaran and in EMSA races. Their 16-foot catamaran weighs about 270 pounds with a 30-foot mast. While it may look as if once the sails are up  that all you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, McCallum said there is plenty of work and sweat which goes into racing in a regatta.
“It can be very demanding,” he said. “There are a lot of sheet loads … a lot of pulling and stuff. My wife runs a lot and she does some extra weights when sailing season comes along. I drive and I have one sheet to pull and she has a couple. She sits at the front of the boat.
“With the new blocks and stuff, it makes it a lot easier, but there are still some pretty good sheet loads. It’s kind of physical in getting the masts up in the air. It’s not an easy sport, by any means. But it’s a lot of fun when the boat gets going and you are up on one hull and you can hang off the side. It’s pretty neat to watch.”
Best viewed from a boat, this weekend’s races will be staged in the area around the WSC. By rule, the races will start with the wind behind the backs of the vessels. McCallum said he expects boaters from the Carolinas, Georgia and, possibly, Tennessee to take part in the activities. There are expected to be two fleets split between the faster and slower boats.
The races, McCallum said, are about 45 minutes long, depending on the prevailing winds. Should the winds be blowing hard, officials will lay out a longer course. If there is a soft breeze, the course will be shortened.
McCallum said the stronger the wind, the much exciting the racing for sailors and spectators. “There will be a safety boat there,” he said. “The catamarans are faster than the one hulls and it’s not uncommon to see a boat flipped over on its side. We look out for each other, though.  It’s nothing to see a competitor help and stop another competitor during a race.
 “I’m hoping we have some good wind for the event so people can really see us do our thing and see us scooting around. It’s pretty exciting to watch. If you get about a 17 mile per hour wind, it gets little hairy out there.”
McCallum has tried to sell his fellow club members on catamarans, which are widely outnumbered by more popular means of traversing the lake. He will take friends out on his vessel, but they politely declined an invitation to try their hand at steering the boat.
“I’ve taken some of them out,” he said of his catamaran. “They won’t ever drive; they won’t try. People get a little intimidated because they’re kind of fast and they think that they’ll turn over easily.
“But the club members are really supportive. We’re a real small club and we don’t have a lot of members. Everybody’s just glad to see activity around.”
For those who may be hesitant about what a catamaran can and cannot do on the water, this weekend will give them the opportunity to see what the boats can do when piloted by experienced boaters. McCallum is hopeful that a good showing and a good time this weekend will be enough to sway his fellow multi-hullers to stage another regatta on Lake Wateree in the fall.
For Mac McCallum, though, this weekend is about bringing the EMSA boaters, WSC members and the public all together to see how much fun there is to be had with the organizations and, on Lake Wateree. In fact, the Wateree Sailing Club is using this opportunity to try and encourage more sailors of both sail and power boats to join the social organization. More information is included on their Website located at http://watereesailingclub.com.
 “I want to race in my hometown and to get some exposure for the club,” McCallum said of what was his mission in trying to land a regatta on Lake Wateree. “Sailing has been on the decline over the years. We’re always keen to add event to our calendar.
“I never intended to be a catamaran sailor, but it ended up that way. It could happen to some other people, too.”

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