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In its day, racing from port to port provided the best -- and often the most fun -- competition for sailors. After a day of exciting racing across the lake, crews would party in a distant port, wake up the next day groggy, and then race to another port. A few races still follow that theme, but for the most part, competition among Buffalo sailors usually takes place on the local race course.

Bill Bredenberg, vice commodore of the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club, wants to bring back some of the fun and excitement of racing away from home.

"When I started sailing in the early '70s, racing port-to-port was what real racing was all about," Bredenberg said. "And sailing around buoys was for the little boats. The real competition is racing to another port."

In hopes of reviving port-to-port racing, Bredenberg has organized the inaugural BHSC Labor Day Cruise.

"There are a lot of people who have never sailed beyond the breakwater, and they're missing so much by not going to different ports and seeing what's out there," Bredenberg said.

He wants the Labor Day cruise to combine the excitement of racing with the pleasure of cruising.

"Our goal is to get people interested in trying something new." said Bredenberg, who added that he expects the cruise/race to become a yearly event.

The BHSC Cruise starts at Buffalo on Friday, with boats racing to the Buffalo Canoe Club. On Saturday, racers will head from BCC to Port Colborne. And on Sunday, sailors will finish back in Buffalo. The committee boat will do two starts, one for serious racers and one for casual racers.

Area sailor John Pettis said the cruise/race is ideal for someone like himself. Pettis, the owner of an Irwin 30, said he is looking forward to spending a few nights aboard his boat while participating in the unique format.

"This sounds like a nice relaxing way to get away for a couple of nights," he said. "Instead of just cruising, you actually have to sail fast. Putting racing and cruising together in one format sounds like a nice mix."

Entry to the event is open and costs $10. BCC will provide guest moorings and a pig and corn roast dinner will take place Saturday night at Port Colborne's Sugarloaf Marina. Bredenberg will operate the committee boat and follow the fleets to keep an eye on racers. For more information, call Bredenberg at 849-1487.

New boat on the scene

The U.S. Coast Guard has added a state-of-the-art boat to its Buffalo fleet. The $1 million 47-footer can clip along at 30 mph, twice as fast as the 44-footer it replaces.

"With the station's load of more than 350 cases a year, and a heavy involvement in fisheries enforcement on the international border, there was a clear operational need for a boat with the 47's capabilities," said Paul A. Preusse, the Eastern Great Lakes Coast Guard area commander. The Textron Marine and Land System-built boat can easily handle some of the worst weather Lake Erie can stir up. The boat can cut through waves 30 feet high while facing 50 mph winds. The new boat will carry a crew of four and perform search and rescue, law enforcement and marine environmental protection duties.

Touch of class

The 22nd Antique and Classic Boat Show takes place Sept. 11-12 at the Buffalo Launch Club, 503 East River Road, Grand Island. This boat show is one to catch for people who appreciate the beauty and elegance of classic wooden boats.

Surviving Labor Day

According to Boat/U.S., at least 40 people die in boating and personal watercraft accidents in the U.S. during the Labor Day weekend. Boat/U.S. offers four tips to bring you back to shore alive: Wear life jackets; don't drink and boat; don't overload your boat; and get a weather forecast before heading and out and keep a sharp eye out for changing weather patterns.

Boat/U.S. notes that personal water craft users face special problems. While making up only 11 percent of all registered boats, PWCs account for more than 35 percent of all boating accidents. To stay safe this weekend, Boat/U.S. recommends that PWC users watch their speed and don't jump wakes, keep a sharp lookout, make sure to stay well clear of other boats and be sure that everyone who operates a PWC is aware of safe boating rules.
Paul Stephens, a lifelong sailor and free lance writer, is the boating columnist for The Buffalo News. His column appears Thursdays.

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