Mills Race 2021 – Full Recap

– by Jeffery Robb, Bill Collinson, & David Pailgo

On June 11th, myself, Dave Paligo, and Bill Collinson met up and boarded Ariel in Sandusky to set sail for the Toledo Yacht Club for the 2021 Mills Trophy Race. The weather was a bit foggy but forecasted to be partly cloudy to sunny and 75. The crew of Ariel dropped her lines and set sail for Toledo Yacht Club at about 10:05 and hoisted sails at 11:00am, and headed out of the Moseley Channel leaving Sandusky Bay.  Wind gods looked favorably upon the crew of Ariel with a healthy 12kts from the northeast, passing by the Marblehead Lighthouse and Catawba Island. After passing by Mouse Island, we trimmed her sails for a beam reach on a heading direct to the Toledo Lighthouse. Ariel was stretching her sea legs with a sporty 8kts speed over ground and put on about 50nm under her keel without even changing a tack.

Upon arrival at the Toledo Lighthouse, we furled in the sails and set a course for the Toledo Yacht Club. While motoring down the Maumee Channel into Toledo we took in the sights of the old coal loading docks and a couple of freighters along the way. We were warmly welcomed at the Toledo Yacht Club with a cannon salute. Once we got Ariel tied up to the dock it was time to relax and enjoy some much deserved dinner and drinks followed by live music on the front lawn of the club.

Friday morning we awoke along with several of the Mills participants and proceeded to make sure Ariel was ready for the night race. Making sure everything was in order, we checked all the lights, electronics, and safety gear. We untied the lines at 3:00 pm and departed the yacht club basin for the journey up the channel. Once we passed the historic Toledo Lighthouse we set a course of 140 degrees to the designated start area. It was at this point when we all realized that this was for real. Sailboats were on the horizon in every direction headed to the start area. Upon arrival we gathered with 112 other eager sailors with their yachts vying for sequence and position. Having considered the position of the start with the wind direction and velocity we developed a start sequence plan. At 5:35pm we were called into the sequence and with a few well positioned tacks we were running for start line. Being a bit early up on the line we executed a gybe and on our 2nd approach we had 10 seconds to eat. We ran the start line and were first over the line at the signal. WE ARE RACING! We were on a closed haul upwind run to the first mark at 5 miles out. Given the wind direction, we couldn’t run direct to the mark, so we beat upwind as tight as Ariel could trimming her sails in as far as she would let us. We ran up further past the first mark, as we witnessed some other boats tacking too early and missing the mark. We put some extra in the bank then tacked to starboard to make the rounding. Upon rounding the mark, we had a developing storm off to the northwest now on our stern and our minds. As we prepared to batten down the hatches for the approaching storm and lightning the weather alert sounded on the VHF radio. The weather alert was warning of the approaching storm with waves producing seas of 4-6ft with wind gusts to 35kts. This certainly got our attention. We proceeding to don our foul weather gear and secure everything on Ariel as we might be in for a wild ride. The time was now 9:15pm, as the sun was disappearing behind the approaching storm, the wind became still. The “calm before the storm” Ariel was now racing to the 2nd mark at a breathtaking 0.5kts SOG (speed over ground). As time passed so did the storm, passing and dissipating into the distance. We endured about two hours of drifting towards the mark.

At about 11:30 pm, the skies were clearing up and the stars were starting to show. The wind shifted and picked up to a nice 15kts. Ariel was now cruising at a swift 8kts. Racing towards the 2nd mark, which was the lighted green buoy off of Catawba Island, we had to maintain course for us to round the mark to our port side. Upon rounding the mark we set course back up to Mouse Island paying particular attention not to get in too close as water depths were of concern, and also paying attention to the other racing vessels rounding the mark. Now heading back north we had to round the Scott Point Shoal lighted buoy
to our port. Winds were maintaining a steady 12-15kts out of the NE. Our next heading was up and around Ballast Island for the final approach into Put-in-Bay Harbor and to cross the finish line. After a series of tacks we made our way around the northeast corner of Ballast Island and now we are running for the finish line. The wind was now directly behind us as we crossed the finish line at 5:12AM. Whew! What a race! As we were approaching the harbor and upon securing Ariel to the dock, we felt it was in order for us to enjoy a celebratory beverage @ 5:30am. We then proceeded to have a well deserved breakfast at Frosty’s.

This was an incredible opportunity to participate in the Mills race. The race exceeded our expectations – testing our seamanship, navigation skills, and racing tactics on the open water at night. We all took turns at the helm, trimming sails, and watching out for other boats. We put in a total 149.7 nautical miles under her keel. We are already looking forward to the Mills 2022! Stay tuned for more updates on Ariel and her crew as the race and cruising season is far from over…….

Note – In preparation of this sailing event we discussed in great length the Notice of Race, Sailing Instructions, our own racing strategy, and, most importantly, SAFETY PROCEDURES. Making sure we were all on the same page with safety procedures was very important. Sailing across Lake Erie at night could be an extremely challenging and dangerous feat. We all made sure we had the proper and functioning safety equipment on board. We discussed man overboard scenarios and what we would do in that situation. We were fortunate to have relatively calm seas and light winds the entire race.


Mills Trophy Race – 2021

– by Jefferey Robb

Had the awesome opportunity to race in the Mills Trophy Race this weekend on Lake Erie with the best crew and friends from Buckeye Lake, Bill Collinson and David Paligo aboard Ariel. We sailed 149.7 miles in total. Started the race off the Toledo Light House at 5:40pm Friday and sailed through the night to Put In Bay and crossed the finish line at 5:12 am Saturday. Placed 7th in our class and 40th overall of 112 total boats in the race. Here are a few pics of our journey.


It has been several decades since BLYC had an entry in the Mills Trophy Race.  It was great to see the Club represented on the course again this year.  In addition to the crew of Ariel sailing in the event, BLYC member Steve Harris was the Principal Race Officer for the 2021 Mills and BLYC members Don Harris & Mary Muryn also assisted on the Race Committee Signal Boat.  


BLYC Competing in the Mills Race

This weekend – for the first time in decades – BLYC will be represented in the annual Mills Trophy Race from Toledo to Put-in-Bay.  It was first raced in 1907 and has long-been a “must-do” for Lake Erie sailors.  The overnight, distance race is a test of skill, seamanship, and endurance as western Lake Erie is known for its unpredictable and wildly-varying conditions.

Through the years, a number of BLYC sailors have participated in the event, but it has been decades since our last entry.  That all changes in 2021!  BLYC member Jeffrey Robb, along with crew Bill Collinson & David Paligo, will sail Robb’s 46′ Hunter, Ariel, to Toledo later this week, to make ready for the start near the Toledo light on Friday.

From the official Mills Race site:

The Mills Trophy Race is held each year on the second weekend following Memorial Day. The race is open to the following classes: PHRF, JAM, Double-Handed, Multi-Hull and Classics. The three courses offered, depending on class and boat rating, all begin near the Toledo Harbor Light and end at a finish line off of South Bass Island (Put-in-Bay).​​

In accordance with the deed of gift for the Mills Trophy that the race be a test of navigational skill, starts begin in the late afternoon and sailing continues through the evening and night.​

​Upon finishing, the boats proceed to the reserved public docks in downtown Put-in-Bay. Regardless of the time of arrival, the gathering at the docks is festive occasion for all with both the winners and the not so fortunate trading tales of their night on the lake.​

Although the race is the centerpiece, Mills Week includes a number of other events. On the Friday evening preceding the race, the Mills Masters are invited to a special picnic in their honor. On Wednesday, the winners of the previous year’s race are feted at a banquet and awards presentation. Thursday evening is the famous Mills Party held on the lawn of the Toledo Yacht Club. This party is open to the public and offers an opportunity to see many of the boats which will race the next evening. Boats arriving on Thursday are welcomed with a cannon salute. A post-race party, held on Saturday afternoon at the Put-in-Bay Yacht Club, includes music, refreshments and the posting of the race results. Before heading home on Sunday, flags are presented to the winning skippers.

BLYC History with the Mills Race…

  • As BLYC Commodore, George F. Mooney, presented I-LYA with an 11″ silver loving cup trophy to be awarded at the 1911 I-LYA Regatta.  It was won by the crew of Bones out of Toledo Yacht Club.  On display in the TYC Trophy Case for many years, in 1983 TYC rededicated the trophy to the Mills Race.  Click Here to read Commodore Ron Gobel’s (TYC Historian) article from 2010 about the BLYC Trophy.
  • BLYC’s Steve Harris has served as the Principal Race Officer (PRO) for the Mills Trophy Race since 2015.

Ancient Mariners Cruise – Day #3

Day 3 – Wednesday, May 26 – brought rain to South Bass Island and the crew elected to stay in port and do some sightseeing at Put-in-Bay.  They visited the Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial and spent some time chatting with the re-enactors learning about the Battle of Lake Erie and Commodore Perry’s amazing victory.  

The crew also report that they spent some time at the wineries on the island.  There are two – Heineman’s Winery and the Put-in-Bay Winery.  Knowing this particular group of sailors, I think we can safely assume that they spent most of the afternoon at Heineman’s – after all, what better way to spend a rainy afternoon than drinking Lake Erie Wine at one of Ohio’s oldest Wineries?  One has to wonder… did they do the Crystal Cave Tour?  Yes, if you visit the island, be sure to take this tour through the world’s largest geode located under the winery.

Based on photos sent in by Jerry, they must have also stopped by the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society Museum (no doubt after enjoying a few brews at Hooligan’s Irish Pub next door.)  One piece of island history he reported that he found particularly interesting was that of the Hotel Victory.  First opened in 1882, and at the time the largest hotel in North America, it was completely destroyed by fire in 1919.  Today, the South Bass Island State Park occupies the former hotel grounds.  Ruins of the hotel are visible there today.  A must-see when you’re at Put-in-Bay!

Jerry also reports the crew visiting with Mother Mary, Priest-in-Charge at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on the island.  Whether they were in dire need of a blessing, or perhaps maybe she joined them for 4 o’clock club at Heineman’s is not known.  But, Mother Mary is a staple of island life and, as Jerry put it, “a phenomenally interesting person.”  Don Harris is a regular parishioner at St. Paul’s while on the island during the summer months.

Sounds like they enjoyed quite a bit of what Put-in-Bay has to offer.  I’m sure that the Ancient Mariners would agree that, should you have the opportunity, you should really plan a visit to Put-in-Bay this summer.  The island is far more than the bars & drinking for which its often known on the mainland.  Perhaps during the week of July 18-22 when BLYC will be represented by a phenomenal group of young sailors at I-LYA Junior Bay Week?

This morning, Thursday, plans were to sail back to Huron, return the boat, and make the journey back to their home lake – Buckeye Lake.  Forecast is for a wicked northeaster (yes, on Lake Erie, it’s northeaster, not nor’easter like in New England) to blow in later tonight and continuing well into Saturday night – A good time to be headed back, for sure!

As Commodore Gus Schell (’51) used to say anytime after returning from a journey,
“It’s always good to be back at BLYC.”

National Safe Boating Week – Thunderstorms

This week is National Safe Boating Week.  Each day, we will post a video on a safe boating topic.  After they have been live for a day on the front page, they will be archived in the SLOG.

Click Here
to visit the SLOG for previous posts

Ancient Mariners Cruise – Day #2

After a walleye dinner at Mossback’s and a night on the boat at PIBYC, the Ancient Mariners enjoyed a beautiful Lake Erie sunrise on Tuesday morning which brought stiff breeze and a great day sail out and around Ballast Island and over to Kelleys.  As Jerry reported, “We sailed out and back – It was too nice of a day to go in.”

The breeze was 11-15 knots out of the southeast making for great daysail around the islands – hitting 7.5 knots of boatspeed with the rail in the water – SPORTY!

  Watch the video below…

Another night at Put-in-Bay and today, the crew plans to sail over to Kelleys Island to enjoy all that it has to offer ashore, stay the night, and then sail back to Huron on Thursday.

Before leaving PIB, however, they made a stop by the docks in Squaw Harbor.  Your editor received the following photo this morning with the caption… “Boarding Party”

Well, it’s good to know that SummerzCool is still safe at her moorings.  Hopefully, they didn’t find the stash of rum!  LOL

BLYC Ancient Mariners Cruise – Day #1

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Day One of the BLYC Ancient Mariners Cruise began with picking up White Pine at Harbor North in Huron.  Last fall, there was some confusion with the reservation causing this year’s trip to be delayed until spring.  TJ and the entire crew at Harbor North are great to work with and, in appreciation for the group’s flexibility, they helped kick-off this year’s Ancient Mariner’s cruise by presenting the crew with a complimentary bottle of rum.

To quote Jerry, “Yo, Ho, Ho, etc.”

White Pine docked at PIBYC

Winds were light at best, and the crew motored White Pine from Huron to Put-in-Bay where they secured dockage at the Put-in-Bay Yacht Club.  A fresh walleye dinner at Mossback’s was in order and the crew settled in, hoping for better winds today.  Today’s forecast is for 10-15 kts out of the southwest and should make for some great day sailing around the bass islands.  

Tomorrow (Wednesday), the crew is likely to sail off to Kelleys to enjoy another island, then back to Huron on Thursday.

Stay Tuned…

Chuck Bendig

Don Harris

Rick Henderson at the helm

BLYC Ancient Mariners Lake Erie Cruise

Monday, May 24, 2021

This morning, May 24, 2021, the BLYC “Ancient Mariners” – Chuck Bendig, Jerry Besanceney, Don Harris, Rick Henderson, Russ Long (Hoover SC), and Tom Shain left the protected waters of Buckeye Lake to travel to Huron, Ohio where they will charter a 41′ Hunter, White Pine, for the week for their annual Lake Erie Cruise.  The itinerary for this year’s trip was still being finalized as COVID-related restrictions still prohibit entering Canadian waters.  However, they left the dock this morning and plan to cruise at least to Kelley’s and South Bass Islands (Put-in-Bay), returning to Huron on Thursday.

They plan to send in daily updates on their adventures and we will share them with you here on the SLOG.  Forecasted winds are light and variable for today and tomorrow, then building overnight Tuesday through their return to Huron on Thursday – it could get “quite sporty” out there.

Click Here for the Report from their 2019 Adventure

On a related note, the Annual Mills Trophy Race is being sailed on Lake Erie the night of Friday, June 11th this year.  This is an overnight, distance race sailed from Toledo near the mouth of the Maumee to Put-in-Bay.  For the past several years, BLYC’s own Steve Harris has been the PRO for the past several years and several other BLYC members have helped on Race Committee too.  However, it has been decades since there was an entry from BLYC racing the event.  That changes in 2021!  BLYC member Jeffery Robb, along with crew Bill Collinson & David Paligo are entered in the Cruising Class aboard Robb’s 46′ Hunter, Ariel.  We wish them all of the best in the event.  They’ll certainly share a report with us for the SLOG at the conclusion of the event.