07-27-2017 Tri-City Area Sports

Kasey Kahne gets Brickyard 400 overtime win

Kasey Kahne is breathing a sigh of relief after grabbing his first win of the 2017 season in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kahne, who joined the NASCAR Cup Series in 2004 as a rookie, had been suffering a trophy drought since his last win in 2014. On Sunday, after three red-flag stops attributed to weather and accidents, Kahne brought home the checkered flag in the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400.

Kahne tallied his 18th career win over 14 years and earned his third top five finish of the season.

In the 20th race of the year, Sunday’s race featured 10 lead changes, 14 caution periods covering 55 laps, and two overtime runs. The race was originally scheduled for 160 laps on the 2.5 mile paved track but accidents that brought out the caution flag sent the contest into a seven-lap overtime period.

Sixteen drivers finished the event on the lead lap.

Kahne led 12 laps. Second-place finisher Brad Keselowski, whom Kahne passed to take the lead, led 23 laps. Keselowski has two wins and 10 top five finishes this season.

Ryan Newman took third place. Newman has one win this season.

Joey Logano nabbed his eighth top five finish of the year after he settled into fourth place. Logano has one win this season.

Matt Kenseth led 21 laps and earned his fifth top five finish this year. Kenseth is winless this year and is quickly running out of time to get that victory and shoot for a playoff spot.

The big story of the day was pole sitter Kyle Busch, who led 87 laps, getting tangled up with Martin Truex Jr. and sending both cars bouncing off walls and down the track.

Truex Jr.’s vehicle burst into flames and the driver scrambled to get out.

Erik Jones led 10 laps on Sunday but did not finish in the top five.

Drivers are at Pocono Raceway for Sunday’s Overton’s 400.  The teams last visited Pocono in June of this year when Ryan Blaney got his first career victory. Blaney just might have the edge this weekend. Check back to see who took home the trophy.

Sailing classes and races hit the open seas on Paw Paw Lake

Statistics regarding boating in the United States vary widely. According to one online sailing site, there are 15.7 million boats in use in the U.S. Approximately 12.7 million United States households own a boat, and 4.1 million individuals sailed on the waters in 2016.

Those numbers indicate a large population of people who have or should have taken sailing classes. Or, perhaps sailors learned at the knees of their parents or grandparents.

MIRROR IMAGE… As part of the Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club sailing school, kids took to the water in Opti (or Optimist) dinghy, Laser, or 420 boats to practice their newly honed skills. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

It is also indicative of a need for classes on boat safety, how boats work, favored tack, the meaning of nautical flags, and personal floatation devices – just to name a few.

In an effort to teach sailing to beginners, the Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club has been the site of classes for the past two weeks.

Youngsters have spent Monday through Friday learning sailing skills, nautical terms, and basic seamanship during two week-long beginning sailing classes.

The Yacht Club joined forces a few years ago with St. Joseph Junior Foundation to introduce youth sailing sessions to the Coloma area.

The first session of classes for youth aged 8-17 were held July 10-14, with the second session occurring July 17-21. All 10 classes were held from 9:00 a.m. until noon at the PPLYC. The cost to attend one session was $140.00 if children were pre-registered.

According to Jeff Phillips, past Commodore of the PPLYC, “Forty-one kids were enrolled.” Both sessions were full.

MISS SYD SKIPPERS… Paw Paw’s Jack Greve and Brianna Gerrity man the Miss Syd 18’ Buccaneer sailboat Sunday dur-ing a race on the waters of Paw Paw Lake. Greve is the Execu-tive Director/Curator at the North Berrien Historical Mu-seum in Coloma. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Children attending the classes had varying skill levels. Some had never piloted a boat before while some had experience driving a boat with family. But, the kids had quite a few things in common: they had to be able to swim, had to wear an approved life jacket, and were accompanied by instructors, either in their boat or in a safety vessel on the lake.

The program offered by the PPLYC is based on the U.S. Sailing training system, according to the Junior Foundation. All instructors during the two-week offerings were experienced sailors and U.S. Sailing-trained.

Training began in the classroom, where students learned required safety measures, basic knot tying, the use of sails, how to find wind, and basic seamanship.

The youngest sailors took to the water in Opti (or Optimist) dinghies. Older kids were placed in Laser or Club 420 sailboats.

Opti dinghies are generally eight feet long and are manned by one person, usually a youngster up to 15 years of age. The boats are slow, very stable, and perfect for beginning sailors.

Laser dinghies are a bit larger than the Optis. They can be sailed by one or two people, but generally are manned by one. The Laser typically has an overall length of 14 feet. Like the Optis, the Laser has one sail.

The third type of boat used for training new sailors is the 420 dinghy. This boat requires a two-man crew and has two sails. It is the largest of the three types of boats offered in teaching beginners how to sail.

As the week progressed, students hit the water to test their newfound sailing skills. Assisting the students and instructors in putting the boats into the water was Blan Page.

Page, 58, was born and raised in the Texas panhandle. He grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas and “didn’t know anything about sails and sailboats until I was 17 years old.”

KNOT A ROOKIE… Blan Page, a former boat captain for the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center and longtime competitive racer in the Mobile, Alabama area, ties a knot Sunday as he pre-pares for the Paw Paw Lake sailboat races. Page serves on the Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club Race Committee. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Page would go on to join the Naval Academy, graduate, and spent six years in the U.S. Navy aboard a submarine.

Last Wednesday, Page could be found sitting in a plastic chair with a hat on his head as he watched the sailing school students from the bank in front of the PPLYC.

Sailing, Page said, “is an athletic sport,” as he watched the youngsters steer their Opti and loosen the ropes on the 420s.

Safety first aboard and ashore

Page, a Gulf Yachting Association member and longtime resident of Mobile, Alabama, helped put the boats in the water next to the Yacht Club for the sailing classes. Watching the kids he said, “You want to make sure a kid never has a bad experience on a boat.” To Page, that means teaching kids first and foremost about safety. “Safety is never to be neglected,” he said.

Classroom instruction during the sailing classes include the use of personal flotation devices, how to safely enter and exit a boat, and ways to be safe on the water.

Safety doesn’t just mean wearing the correct U.S. Coast Guard-recommended life preserver. Safety also includes telling people your plans – when and where you will be sailing and what time you will return – wearing appropriate sailing attire and footwear, and ensuring protection from the sun.

Safety also includes checking the weather before setting sail and keeping an eye on the sky during your cruise. Popup thunderstorms can occur and wreak havoc with an inexperienced sailor in an unfamiliar location.

According to the United States Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics, in 2016, the number one cause of boating accidents was a collision with another vessel, which accounted for 1,051 accidents resulting in 38 deaths and 708 injuries.

Of the top five accident types, the deadliest was a vessel capsizing. In 2016, there were 305 reported capsizing events throughout the 50 states, five territories, and Washington, D.C., which resulted in the deaths of 175 individuals and 200 injuries.

The vessel involved in the most drowning casualties in 2016, according to the Coast Guard, was an open motorboat. Two-hundred twenty-eight lives were lost. Drowning deaths in canoes and kayaks numbered 130 people, second-highest in terms of vessel types and casualty numbers.

The Coast Guard advised there are 10 primary factors that cause most boating accidents. Operator inattention caused 597 accidents, 45 deaths, and 373 injuries in 2016 in the United States. Operator inexperience was ranked as the second highest factor with 480 accidents, 62 deaths, and 301 injures.

Other factors causing accidents on the water includes: improper lookout, excessive speed, machinery failure, alcohol use, navigation rules violations, hazardous waters, and the force of waves or water.

SMOOTH SAILING SCHOOL… Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club hosted the second week of sailing classes for youth July 17-21. Kids learned basic sailing maneuvers, how to tie knots, marine safety, and seamanship during the classes. PPLYC, in conjunction with St. Joseph Junior Foundation, hosts youth and adult sailing classes each summer. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

The Recreational Boating Statistics, which is released yearly, found that most fatal boating accidents which occurred at a known time period happened between 2:31 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. and accounted for almost 30% of all accidents.

Federal regulations require all sailboats to have safety equipment onboard. Individual states often require additional safety measures, so be sure to check your state’s requirement before you hit the open water.

For sailboats of any size, a Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device is required for each person on board.

Kids under the age of 13 must wear their PFD unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin.

Sailboats are also required to have one buoyant device able to throw like a life ring or cushion and one sound signal, like a horn or whistle.

Depending on the size of the sailboat, additional safety measures can vary including the addition of visual distress lights and flares and fire extinguishers.

Sunday is Race Day

Page has 40 years’ sailing experience, much of it as a competitive racer on Mobile Bay. He is a former yacht club commodore and also ran a research vessel for Auburn University. “I’m much more at ease on the water,” Page said, smiling. Shortly after moving to Michigan with Julie, his wife of 11 years, Page found himself with some time on his hands and looking for a way to stay connected to the water. Jeff Phillips recalls how he met Page. “He walked into the Yacht Club and said, ‘Do you need someone to set courses?’”

Paw Paw Lake has a storied history of racing set in the waters. Postcards from the 1940s can be found showing two boats racing toward a finish line, and the July 26 edition of the Watervliet Record in 1957 heralds “Star Fleet Races” on the lake as part of the Michigan Championship Star Races.  The five-race elimination series was held over a two-day weekend.

With Page on board to set the course and handle Race Committee duties, the events are quickly becoming more popular as word spreads.

Boats of all classes are welcome, and on Sunday, July 23, four 18’ Buccaneer sloops trekked through the water along the four-tenths of a mile course.

Races will continue for the next three Sundays, all at 2:00 p.m. You will find Page out on the Race Committee boat decked out with a blue and white “RC” flag.

As the signal flags change from all white to the ‘P’ flag, to, possibly, the red and white flag that indicates a postponement of the race, Page will be watching the swells, the sky, and the boats.

Sailing, he said, “is all about balancing your boat between the interface between air and water, two fluids.”

On Sunday, Phillips teamed up with Ryan Mix of Watervliet and Hammond, Indiana in the sailboat race. Mix’s grandfather John H. Mix was a past commodore at the yacht club.

In another boat, Jack Greve, the Executive Director and Curator at the North Berrien Historical Museum, shared skippering duties with his girlfriend Brianna Gerrity.

The duos sailed around the orange buoys bobbing in the water. Gerrity said, “It was a lot of fun. The wind was great!”

Mix echoed her comments. “It was bliss,” he said. “That was so much fun.”

Sailing School graduates to 501(c)3 status

Phillips hopes to ramp up the yacht club’s effort in attracting more would-be sailors to the introductory classes.  He advised that the Community Sailing Foundation (CSF) at Paw Paw Lake has been granted 501(c)3 status.

As a non-profit the group of volunteers hopes to bring more awareness to the sport of sailing. They intend to seek grants to facilitate the purchase of sails, sailboats, and dollies to move boats, as well as other equipment.

The CSF is also seeking volunteers and donors. If you have a talent for sailing, enjoy helping outdoors, or would like to assist the non-profit with their goals, please contact the Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club, located at 5099 Shoreview Drive in Coloma, by phoning (269) 463-6300.

Grand City Skiers take flight on the water

 The Grand City Skiers will return to the waters of Paw Paw Lake on Sunday, August 13 for a free water skiing show. You can catch all the action from the Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club, as the show begins at 2:00 p.m.

Stop by the club for lunch and watch as the troupe from Grand Rapids and its surrounding communities show off their skillful skiing as the water waves.

Performers will flip and zip above the water, as they showcase their talents. Fans will witness towering pyramids and performers of all ages as they dance their way along the banks of Paw Paw Lake.

Get to the yacht club early to snag your spot. The size of the crowd continues to increase each year!

Ladies Monday Night Happy Hour Golf League

 Monday, July 24 golf report from the Paw Paw Lake Golf Club:

Weekly Event Winner – Most bogeys, Katherine Rodriguez; Low Gross – Cheryl Hutchins with 44; Low Net – Cheryl Hutchins with 33; Low putts – Charlene Durfee with 15; Pars – Cheryl Hutchins on #1, #7 and #8, Anne Pudell on #3 and Colleen McKeown on #4 and #5.

KUDOS TO KRISTY… On behalf of the Watervliet Athletic Department, I would like to say thank you to Kristy Noack for taking the Press Box baton from Mike Leith back in July of 2014. There is an old saying, “It’s hard to follow a legend.” Mike Leith did an outstanding job for 25-plus years keeping the Tri-City area informed. His historical perspective and love for local sports was impressive. Kristy has not missed a beat and we should all be thankful she stepped up to the plate when Mike decided to hang up his cleats. Keep up the good work Kristy Noack; you are doing a great job!! (Copy & photo by Ken Dietz, WHS Athletic Director)

World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series at Hartford Speedway for “Battle of Michigan” this Friday

The Breakdown

A new challenge awaits the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series at Hartford Speedway in Michigan on Friday, July 28, as the series takes to the recently re-configured track for the “Battle of Michigan.” The Outlaws have raced at Hartford seven times in the past on the former half-mile, with this trip marking the first on the now-three-eighths-mile. In those seven races, a different driver has visited victory lane each and every time. This edition of The Breakdown sets the stage for the “Battle of Michigan” at Hartford Speedway, which serves as the series only visit of the season to the state of Michigan.

The track

Hartford Speedway is a three-eighths-mile, which was re-configured in the off-season from its previous half-mile layout. The track record of 15.623-seconds was established by David Gravel on September 21, 2016 on the former half-mile configuration.

Past winners

Shane Stewart won last season in the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series first visit to Hartford Speedway in five seasons. The veteran driver took the lead at the start of the race from the outside of the front row and held off eight-time and defending series champion Donny Schatz for the victory.

Joey Saldana was victorious at Hartford Speedway in 2011. Dave Blaney, the 1995 World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion won the series debut at the track in 1996, while three-time series titlist Sammy Swindell, also won that season at Hartford. Steve Kinser, the 20-time series champion, as well as two-time title winner Jason Meyers are also past winners at Hartford Speedway, along with Brian Paulus.

The players

The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series has 15 card-carrying members this year, led by Schatz. Brad Sweet is currently second in points, with David Gravel in third. Daryn Pittman recently moved back into the fourth position, with Shane Stewart rounding out the top-five. Jason Johnson currently is sixth in the standings, with rookie Sheldon Haudenschild seventh, Kraig Kinser eighth, Jason Sides ninth and Logan Schuchart 10th.

Also on the road again this year are veteran drivers Paul McMahan and Greg Wilson, as well as young drivers Jacob Allen and Clyde Knipp. Brent Marks is also contending for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award this season.

Veteran presence

Paul McMahan has made seven starts at Hartford Speedway with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series, racking up five top-10 finishes in the process. Jason Sides has made five starts at the track. Donny Schatz, while still looking for his first win at Hartford, has four top-five finishes in the same number of starts. Daryn Pittman has also made four starts at the track, picking up three top-10 finishes.