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Photo: Shannon DeCelle

Come Sail Away

Saratoga’s racing legacy isn’t just for thoroughbreds By Kathryn Lange

Summer in Saratoga has officially begun—the horses are off, the hats are donned, and if you’ve attempted to navigate the Northway on a weekend, you know the tourists have embarked on their annual northern migration. From polo matches to the flat track, the city’s thoroughbred traditions hearken back more than a century, and those traditions largely define Saratoga. But not far south, Saratoga Lake offers a much different kind of getaway. The lake is peaceful and pristine, and while you may not find occasion to tip your hat to Saratoga’s illustrious matriarch, you may find the little lake stirring with its own brand of racing.

Off the highway, back roads wind along the water’s edge, past flower-strewn fields and horse paddocks. A far cry from the boutiques of Broadway, here antique stores pepper the countryside, their shingles swinging from weathered barns and historic houses. And down a narrow gravel drive, just before you think you’re headed to the tree-lined recesses of nowhere, the woods open onto an expanse of lake, and the home of the Saratoga Lake Sailing Club.

Founded 51 years ago, the Saratoga Lake Sailing Club is a nonprofit organization created to foster interest in sailing, and to provide an array of resources for novice and expert sailors alike. While, as commercial entities, marinas provide dockage, service and staff for their boater-customers at a steep fee, the Sailing Club has a distinctly cooperative structure. There is no staff. The club’s members communally perform the upkeep of the club’s docks, and grounds, and the three-story house that serves as headquarters for the club’s events. Regular work parties find members setting moorings or cleaning the club’s industrial kitchen. In return, the members have voting rights—everyone participates in the club’s decision-making process. And the club is able to offer membership at a markedly lower rate than commercial marinas.

But what truly sets this cooperative apart from a typical marina is their extensive programming and singular camaraderie. Saratoga Lake Sailing Club is not just a place to park your boat. It is a well-balanced recreational, educational and social organization—as a weekend afternoon spent there will quickly prove.

The club is home to sailboats, and only sailboats. No “stinkpots” (as sailors are apt to call their gas-powered counterparts) allowed. And so it is home only to sailors, and there is a certain inherent amity between the wind-power loyal. Perhaps it speaks to their similar love of quiet solitude, or gleeful activity, or to their respect for harnessing the primal forces of wind and water. Regardless, even the most introverted sailor will unfold at the sight of an unfurling main or the mention of a 25-knot gust. Sailors will give and take advice in equal measure, and happily pop open a cold beer for a bedraggled mate. And here they have built themselves a haven.

Each year the club opens its doors and its moorings to 175 voting members—and even more sailors, considering that many are family memberships. The members range from senior citizens to tykes who toddle along the shore, nearly swallowed by their lifejackets. And they hail from nearly 50 communities in more than half-a-dozen counties, from Saugerties to Queensbury.

Their sailing expertise is equally varied. Some members are seasoned sailors who cast off their lines and fly smoothly across the lake, sails trimmed with precise perfection. Others are novices, learning to sail with the help of other members, or under the tutelage of the club’s US Sailing-certified instructors. SLSC offers multiple levels of instruction for children and adults—whether they don’t know the difference between a sheet and a line, or they want to polish their start tactics for the next regatta. Sailing instruction is open to members, and to the general public, who can get their feet wet, literally, in the club’s fleet of Flying Scotts or Lasers.

Once sailors have learned the ropes (so to speak), they can jump into the club’s active racing program; SLSC holds bi-weekly regattas. There are two types of sailboat races. In multi-class races, boats of different types are raced against each other, with each boat assigned a handicap to compensate for differences in design. In one-design races, sailors compete in boats of the same make. National and international associations regulate equipment to avoid arms races, ensuring that the races match sailor against sailor.

The sailing club and it’s members maintain eight one-design fleets, from Olympic-competition Lasers to beautiful 22-foot, full-keel Ensigns, and rocket-fast Hobie-17 catamarans. And, notably, British-designed 16-foot Kestrels. Notably, because the Saratoga Lake Sailing Club’s Kestrel fleet is the only Kestrel fleet in North America. When the Saratoga Lake Kestrel fleet hold their annual championship regatta, the skippers and crew are vying for the North American Championship title.

And this past Saturday, in steadily building winds, eight boats raced a five-race tournament in fierce competition for that honor. In a standard mark race, boats sail three legs of an equilateral triangle, testing their skill at three angles to the wind. They must all cross the same start and finish lines, and round the marks on the outside, but the skipper chooses the exact course he or she hopes will be most efficient. Conflicting tactical choices make race starts and mark roundings chaotic and exciting. Collision is often barely avoided, and a tight rounding can shift the lead in seconds.

Saturday’s race was close, and the fights at the mark were tense. But after the roundings, the eight skillfully-handled and equally-matched boats would fall into line, their heeling balanced with the elegant precision, synchronized like dancers.

On shore, the ovens and barbecues were fired up for dinner, an endless row of baked potatoes stretched across the steel counter. Picnic benches buzzed with spectators swapping binoculars between them, doing their best to keep track of the standings. “Did they just hit? Did they take a knockdown? Who is that in the lead?” And after the races, a parade of tired, sweaty sailors took their place at the tables or flopped on the grass, awaiting dinner—and the eagerly anticipated announcement.

Times from the five races were calculated and re-calculated. Joe Choi, who held the championship title nearly a dozen times, had taken a knockdown in the fourth race, but his times were strong. This year, one of the competing boats was skippered by his son, and crewed by his daughter. The results came in. Choi had bested his children, but lost the title.

The proud 2008 North American Kestrel Champion: Walter Smith. The new champion, and former Tufts University sailor, accepted his grand trophy on the modest shore of Saratoga Lake. Smith and his wife Nicole are expecting their first baby in September. And when that baby learns to sail on Saratoga’s gentle waters, the proud father can say that in 2008, he was the champion of a continent.

Saratoga Calendar



BALLSTON SPA TOWN GAZEBO (Front Street, Ballston Spa, 885-2772). Thu: Sonny & Perley (6 PM).

CONGRESS PARK (Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-3550). Tue: Joan Crane and Steve Feinbloom.

SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Saratoga State Park, Saratoga Springs, tickets: 476-1000). Thu: Sheryl Crow, James Blunt, Toots and the Maytals. Fri: the Police, Elvis Costello and the Imposters. Sat: the Jonas Brothers, Avril Lavigne, Demi Lovato.

UPBEAT ON THE ROOF (Rooftop patio, Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, 580-8080). Fri: Reggie’s Red Hot Feetwarmers (7 PM).



July 31-Aug. 6

THE ALLEY BAR (Long Alley Road, Saratoga, 587-9766). Tue: karaoke with Mark the Shark.

ALMOST SARATOGA (2839 Route 9, Malta, 587-0048). Thu: Gary Brooks (6 PM). Sat: karaoke.

CAFFE LENA (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu: open mic. Fri: Jamcrackers. Sat: Ramblin Jug Stompers. Sun: the Blue Ribbon Boys with Julia Gottlieb.

CHEZ SOPHIE (Saratoga Hotel, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-3538). Fri, Tue: Cole Broderick. Sun: Cole Broderick (10:30 AM).

CIRCUS CAFÉ (392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1106). Thu: open mic with Nate Solomon. Sat: A-Man karaoke. Wed: George Boone Jazz Trio.

THE CLUB HOUSE (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D.

FIFTY SOUTH (2128 Doubleday Ave., Route 50, Ballston Spa, 884-2926). Fri: karaoke.

IT’S CONFIDENTIAL (38 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 584-0130). Thu: Jeff Walton (5:30 PM). Fri: Franklin McCare Trio (5:30 PM); Vivid (9 PM). Sat: King’s English (5:30 PM); Blue Hand Luke (9 PM).

MARE RISTORANTE (17 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-6955). Fri: Wylder.

MOUZON HOUSE (1 York St., Saratoga Springs, 226-0014). Tue: Masters of Nostalgia.

ONE CAROLINE STREET (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026). Fri, Mon: Sarah Pedinotti Band.

PRIME RESTAURANT (Saratoga National Golf Course, Union Street, Saratoga Springs). Fri: Happy Daze.

ROUND LAKE RESTAURANT AND PUB (Round Lake Road, Round Lake, 899-1060). Thu-Fri: karaoke.

SIRO’S (168 Lincoln Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-4030). Thu-Wed: piano bar with Roger Morris. Thu: Bobby Dick and the Sundowners (5:45 PM). Fri: Soul Session (5:45 PM). Sat: the Audiostars (5:45 PM). Sun: the Lustre Kings (5:45 PM). Mon: the Swingin Beats (5:45 PM). Wed: the Heaters (5:45 PM).

THIRTEEN (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 581-1316). Fri-Sat: DJ Kamikaze.

VENUE NIGHT CLUB (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D.



Cinderella Tales, Steamer No. 10 Theatre, Arts Center in Saratoga, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Through 8/17, Sat-Sun at 4 PM. $10. 438-5503.



Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/6, 8 PM: Philadelphia Orchestra, with pianist André Watts, will perform works by Kodály, Grieg and Beethoven. $18-$72.50. 587-3330.

Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. 8/3, 2:30 PM: The Saratoga Choral Festival will present an all-Mozart program. Also, the Society Hill Chamber Players will perform Dvorák’s String Quartet. $25. 8/5, 8 PM: Saratoga Chamber Music Festival opening night with pianist André Watts, performing works by Barber, Mozart and Franck. $36.50, $41.50. 587-3330.



Children’s Museum at Saratoga, 69 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs. Wacky Wednesday After-School Kids Club on Wednesdays, 3:45-5 PM. Ages 6-10. Free with museum admission. 584-5540.

Radio Disney KidZone at Saratoga Polo on 8/3, 8/10, 8/17, 8/24. Kids can meet the ponies and more. Call for details. 584-8108.

Saratoga County Arts Council, 320 Broadway, Saratoga S prings. Around The World Summer Camp! 6 week-long courses. 8/4-8: Mexico; 8/11-8/15: South Africa. Ages 5-7, M-F, 1-4 PM. 584-4132,

Steamer No. 10 Theatre at the Saratoga County Arts Center, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/3, 8/9-10, 8/16-17, 4 PM: Cinderella Tales. $10. 438-5503.


Museums & Galleries



Saratoga County Arts Council, Member Exhibition Hall, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Adirondack Light and Adirondack Reflections. 8/1-31. Reception 8/2, 5-8 PM.

Saratoga County Arts Council, Arts Center Gallery, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. 25 Years of the Travers: Poster Art by Greg Montgomery. 8/2-31. Reception 8/2, 5-8 PM.

Saratoga Hospital Medical Library, 211 Church St., Saratoga Springs. 583-8301. Rocky Roads: Coast to Coast View. 8/131.

Saratoga Springs Amtrak Station, Station Lane, Saratoga Springs. 437-6877. Sen Ba: War Horses. 8/1-31.

Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs. 584-7860. Photographs by Andrew Derk. 8/131.

Saratoga Springs Visitors Center, 297 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 587-3241. Saratoga Springs Alive!, oil paintings by Cynthia Whitman. 8/1-31.



70 Beekman Street Art Gallery, 70 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs. 542-6688. Sporting Life: A Solo Show by Adriano Manochia. Through 9/5.

Ivy Associates, 140 Broad St., Schuylerville. 695-3440. R. Jane Bouchard: Assemblage Sculpture. Through 8/13. Paul Bouchard: Sculpture—Painting. Through 8/13. Reception 8/2, 4-8 PM. Artist talk 8/5, 2 PM.

New York State Military Museum, 61 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs. 581-5100. Worth a Thousand Muskets: Civil War Field Artillery. Also, Battleground for Freedom: New York during the Revolutionary War. Also, World War II: United for Victory. Also, Fiery Trial and Sacrifice: New York and the First World War. Ongoing.

Riverfront Studios Fine Art Gallery, 96 Broad St., Schuylerville. 369-3280. Summer Suite. Through 8/30.

Saratoga Automobile Museum, 110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 587-1935 ext. 20. 8/2, 9 AM-3 PM: The Art of Ferrari, a showcase for the renowned Italian car.

Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. Opener 15: Amy Sillman: Third Person Singular. Through 1/4/09. Opener 14: Dean Snyder: Almost Blue. Through 8/31. Also, Elevator Music 12: Jessica Rylan. Through 9/20.




Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs. 8/6, 7:30 PM: Poetry reading with Steven Huff. 583-0022.


Farmers Markets

Ballston Spa Farmers Market, Wiswall Park, Ballston Spa. Thursdays, 3-6 PM; Saturdays, 9 AM-noon.

Saratoga Farmers Market, High Rock Park, High Rock Avenue, Saratoga Springs. Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.


Fairs & Festivals

Ballston Spa Film Festival, Ballston Spa. 7/31-8/3: Films, music, parties, experimental-film expos, forums. Visit for details.

First Friday, downtown Ballston Spa. 8/1, 6-9 PM. Performances and exhibitions. 884-9913, 885-6302 or

Turning Point Parade, Schuylerville. 8/2-3, noon until dusk: A weekend of activities at Fort Hardy Park, including carnival rides, food, entertainment, crafters, activities and demonstrations, and fireworks. 695-3932.


Et Cetera

Saratoga County Arts Council will present Ghost Walks Haunted History Tours of Saratoga Springs at 7 PM every Friday night through October, and Saturday evenings in August and October. $10, $5. Call for details. 584-4132.

Saratoga Race Course

Open daily through Sept. 1, except Tuesdays

Location 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-6200.

Admission $3 grandstand, $5 clubhouse; children under 12 free; reserved seating sold separately. Travers Day $5 grandstand, $10 clubhouse.

Parking $10 per car at the trackside and $5 across the street at the Oklahoma Training Track. General parking is free.

Racing Nine or 10 races a day; pari-mutuel wagering on every race.

First Race Post Time is at 1 PM (except Travers Day, Aug. 23, when it’s noon; and Aug. 29, when it’s 2:45 PM).

Major Stakes Races The Alabama Stakes (Aug. 16); The Travers (Aug. 23); The Woodward (Aug. 30).

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