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Indianapolis Sailing Club: Geist fixture for 60 years

By Mark Ambrogi 

Karen Chagnon wanted to give her son Chris something to do after moving from Omaha, Neb., the summer before he spent his senior year at Hamilton Southeastern High School.

“At the time I lived in a house near the sailing club,” said Chagnon, who joined the club in 2008. “I was looking more for my son than myself. But it turned out I was the one that was hooked.

Chagnon, a 47-year-old native of England who moved to the United States 18 years ago, is serving as the Indianapolis Sailing Club’s commodore, the second woman in the club’s history and 61st overall. The first female commodore, Carol Gebhardt, served in 2001 and is now the club’s treasurer.

The focus of Indianapolis Sailing Club, which was founded in 1955, has been on racing.

“We’re focused on getting people out on the water, whether you are socially sailing or racing,” said Chagnon, who now lives near Broad Ripple. “We want people to learn the skills it takes to enjoy racing and sail boating.”

Chagnon has a keelboat, a bigger sailboat she uses to race. She also serves as a crew member in the Lightning sailboat in the one design sailboat class.

Indianapolis Sailing Club participants range from 8 years old to those who are still active sailors in their mid-80s, long-time member Paul White said.

White, 77, still races frequently and is heavily involved in sailboard race management.

“I’m the boss on the water making sure things happen correctly,” White said.

White, who was the 30th Commodore in the club’s history in 1984, joined the club in 1971.

White will be principal race officer for the Y-Flyer in the Junior National and Senior National, which will be held at the Indianapolis Sailing Club on June 22-26. White said national regatta has been held at the club several times.

In 2008, White and his wife Kay, who live in Lawrence Township, won the International Regatta Y-Flyer in 2008 in Sudbury, Ontario. His son Steve, 52, learned to sail at the club and now has had a handful of sailboats in North Carolina.

“The club has continued to grow through the years,” White said. “You lose members but you gain members as well.”

Chagnon said there are 323 members.

“The club is still a little bit male-dominated but there are a lot more women participating and becoming members,” Chagnon said.

There are keelboat races on Wednesday nights, and Sunday afternoons are more for one design boats, Chagnon said.

The club’s racing season begins with Laser Regatta on April 11-12. One special race is the Old Oaken Rudder between Indiana University and Purdue on Sept. 12. Racing dates continue until late October.

“The thing about this club is everyone is a volunteer,” Chagnon said.

On March 28, the club holds a spring clean-up where many volunteers clean up the clubhouse, the deck and the grounds.

“We spend a whole day out here getting ready for the club,” Chagnon said. “We never want to make sailing something that is unaffordable to do, so we try to make it affordable for everyone so to do that you have to volunteer.”

White said the members are motivated by love of the sport.

“It’s passionate people doing what they like to do,” White said.

Unusual sailing story

Marcus Rogers lived in San Francisco, San Diego and Newport, R.I., which bills itself as the Sailing Capital of the World. However, Rogers didn’t learn to sail until he moved to Fishers.

The 47-year-old joined the club six years ago after inheriting a wooden Lightning sailboat from an uncle who lived in Muncie.

“I didn’t think I had the know-how to sail,” Rogers said. “This is a great way to build your confidence up because it’s on a little pond like this. The club is all about teaching people how to sail.”

Rogers said he met long-time sail club member Howdy King before he joined the club. King had given him advice to fix up the boat he inherited.

“He said you ought to sail with us, I did and I was hooked,” said Rogers, who served as membership director in 2014.

“I guess you could say it’s become a passion. It gets me out of housekeeping.”

Rogers’ 7-year-old son Joseph helps as a look-out during his father’s keelboat races. Joseph also has his Hobie sailboat, a wide, short sailboat. Rogers said it’s a positive activity for his son.

“It’s better than him sitting in front of the TV playing video games,” Rogers said.

Indianapolis Sailing Club

Address: 11325 Fall Creek Rd., Indianapolis.

Website: Indianapolissailing.org

Junior sailing camp is designed for ages 8 to 16, starting June 8 and running through July. Non-members are welcome, but members get a reduced rate. For more information, contact michelle.sarber@gmail.com.

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