Exploring Lake Superior: Sailing with Kicks
Every Wednesday evening, the sight of dozens of sailboats on Lake Superior delights both locals and visitors.
One of the boats that sails during the Wednesday Night Races is called Kicks. Kris Henry is the skipper.
“Kicks is a Tripp 33 sailboat. And we run an all-women’s sailing program,” she said.
They started teaching women how to sail when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the Wednesday races.
“We actually had a lot of interest right away because sailing seems like a really fun thing to do, right? And it is a fun thing to do. So we had a lot of interest,” Henry said. “We had probably 14 or 15 women that wanted to come with us, and we just let everybody come. So we — the first year we sailed, our boat was just packed.”
This year, they pared down participation a bit so the crew could have assigned roles during races.
“We have a race committee, and the race committee consists of a boat and then they have a couple of what we call marks. And those are like kind of big buoys,” Henry explained. “So they set a start line from the boat and then the buoy is a little ways away from the boat. And that is the the line that we cross, and we go to a mark that’s upwind. So you can’t sail directly into the wind. So you have to try to find the most efficient way to get to that windward mark, turn around it, and then come back, turn around the mark that’s near the committee boat again, usually back up again and back down across the finish line.”
If you see the sailboats from the shore, it may be difficult to tell what is going on. But there’s one simple way to keep track.
“When we’re going upwind, you’ll see white sails, black sails. When we’re coming downwind, you’ll see those big, colorful sails called spinnakers,” Henry said.
Henry also emphasizes that she wants the environment on Kicks to be conducive to learning.
“That’s why it’s important to me,” she said, “because I want to give my love of sailing — communicate that to other people and have them get the same love of sailing as I have.”
The Duluth Yacht Club runs the Wednesday Night Races.