The drought may be taking its toll on California, but it came with a surprising silver lining for the Whiskeytown Sailing Club's 50th annual Memorial Regatta.
The 85 entrants represented a 50 percent jump in participation from last year's 54 sailors. Regatta co-chairwoman Nancy O'Brien said the sharp rise in participation was largely from people who couldn't compete at their usual lakes because, unlike Whiskeytown, they've dried out.
"This is the first time in a long time that their lakes are so low that they can't even have a sailboat race," O'Brien said. "A lot of people called over the last couple of weeks asking, 'Is your lake full?'"
Among the drought-stricken sailing destinations was Huntington Lake, near Fresno, home of the High Sierra Regatta, which was canceled this year after more than six decades without a lapse because of the drought.
While sailors may have been happy just to find a lake that would take them, Whiskeytown wasn't without its challenges Sunday as the competitors finished up the final three races of the weekend. Strong winds gripped the waters as some sailors capsized and others just called it quits before the same could happen to them.
Even Bay Area residents Andrea Nelson and Gail Yando had to take breaks from the wind that's a trademark for their homeland. "We had about half of the fleet stay on the beach because of the wind," said Yando, of Richmond.
She and Nelson - members of "Byte Fleet," an all-female sailing crew - took a break themselves on Sunday, but set out to get back in after a short spell on the beach.
It was Nelson's first race with her new boat, the idea being for her to test it out on water without the dangerous ocean current.
Still, "It's plenty challenging," Nelson said with a laugh.
"I had a great time yesterday and a little bit of a challenging time today, but that was the wind, not the people," she said.
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