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The History of the Leech Lake Regatta
What is and History of Leech Lake Regatta
Leech Lake Regatta is celebrating its 45th year!
A sailing regatta is a series of individual sailboat races. This year, the Leech Lake Regatta (LLR) is Saturday August 13 through Monday August 15. One race is held each day. Regattas are more than just a series of races; they are a sailing festival including food, parties and fun competitions for things other than winning races. The LLR is no exception. This year, the Leech Lake Regatta will include live entertainment on Friday and Sunday nights, a BBQ picnic, campfire singalongs and plenty of fun competitions in addition to the sailing races.
The first LLR was 1970. The story goes that while driving to participate in the annual LOWISA (Lake of the Woods International Sailing Association regatta), Jack Culley (of Sailboats, Inc.) drove by Leech Lake every year wondering why no regattas and very little sailing was taking place on this beautiful body of water. With an interest in growing the sport of sailing, Jack spoke with other like-minded sailors including Bruce Nicole (of Northland Yachts), about starting a sailing event on Leech. Jack and Bruce approached local Walker people including Gary Trimble, John Elsenpeter, Otto Ringle and others. Trimble was one of the original (if not the original) sailors on Leech Lake. The locals pitched the idea to the Leech Lake Chamber and Walker Rotary Club.
The first 4-6 years of the LLR were a great success, often attracting nearly 100 participating boats! The event was coordinated by the Chamber; the Walker Rotary Club provided a fish fry and nightly bar service. The race sailed to the south end of the big lake, to the back of Rogers Point and to Cedar Springs Resort, where all would anchor out, or pull up on shore to spend the evenings. In the early years, the LLR was always held around the 4th of July. Participating boats were small day sailors, catamarans and small trailerables. Eventually, larger boats started participating. The ARMY Corps of Engineers volunteered to launch and retrieve these larger boats with their crane. Early helpers with the LLR were many. The town of Walker was very enthusiastic in its support for the Regatta and building area tourist activity.
For about 20 years the LLR format was to start and end at Cochran’s Marine, with two nights spent at a location on the big lake. The locations on the big lake had included Cedar Springs Resort, Horseshoe Bay Lodge and Brindley’s Resort.
The Fourth of July weekend had become a very busy time around Leech Lake, making it difficult for the LLR to find host sites. In 1981, the regatta was cancelled.
LLR dates were changed to mid-August, yet the LLR still had trouble finding a host site. In 1990, the LLR was a series of simple triangle races on Walker Bay. This format proved to be very unpopular (folks can race this way on any small lake), and nearly killed the LLR.
In 1991 Brindley’s resort became the host site and the LLR slowly began to grow again. The harbor at Brindley’s was jam-packed with sailboats during the Regatta. It was something to see the harbor disassemble itself from the tangle of boats and dock lines previous to every race and reassemble itself at day end!
The grid-locked harbor at Brindley’s created problems for both the event and the resort. In 1995 Shores of Leech Lake became the host site of the LLR, and is where it remains still today.
The regatta committee thanks the Chamber and all of the local businesses that support the event.
Corrections or additions to this history would be greatly appreciated. Special thanks to Mark DeSchane for this history.
Shores of Leech Lake
Mitch & Mara Loomis
6166 Morriss Point
Walker MN 56484