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Okoboji Yacht Club Sailing

Sailboats with their white and colorful sails provide a beautiful sight on the blue waters of the Iowa Great Lakes. Some sailors are out for the pleasure of sailing - for the enjoyment, while other sailors are out to test their racing skills.

There are sixty-five sailboats in four classes registered to participate in the racing program operated by the Okoboji Yacht Club. Competitive sailboat racing for scows of Class C, MC, and X plus Ynglings are held from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend each summer.

There are many types of sailboats used for sailing pleasure on the Iowa Great Lakes. Being able to identify the four racing classes on West Lake Okoboji is important to understanding the racing action. Each class completes with other boats within its class. There is no interclass competition.

Okoboji races are on Saturday and Sunday morning, generally south of Manhattan Beach on West Lake Okoboji. Between 8:30 and 9:30 AM the race committee is out on the water measuring wind speed and direction along with surveying West Lake for potential course locations. Racing doesn’t start until 9:30 AM or later because the wind usually has not come up to racing speed until 9 AM or later.

By 9:30 AM the race committee boat is usually anchored and the pin boat has deployed an orange racing mark (buoy) to set the two ends of the starting line. The windward mark (orange) is set approximately one mile to windward. A second leeward mark (yellow) is set at two tenths of a mile to windward for the MC, Yngling, and Class X sailboats.

The starting sequence follows a three-minute format.


Flag Color

Warning Gun

Approx 9:30 AM*


Preparatory Gun

3 Minutes Later

Yellow with Black Square

Yngling Start Gun

3 Minutes Later

Yngling Fleet Flag

Class C Start Gun

3 Minutes Later

Class C Fleet Flag

Class MC Start Gun

3 Minutes Later

Class MC Fleet Flag

Class X Start Gun

3 Minutes Later

Class X Fleet Flag

If a few boats are over the starting line at their starting gun those boats will be Individually Recalled.  Should a large number of boats be over the line at the start, a General Recall will be made for that entire racing class. For a General Recall all the boats of that particular class return to the starting area and restart after all the other boats have started.

To non-sailors the wind direction and speed seems to be fairly steady. To serious sailors the wind is anything but constant. The wind is always shifting in small ways that can benefit the sailor smart enough or lucky enough to be on the good side of the wind. Since sailboats can’t sail directly into the wind, each skipper must decide if they will go to the right or left side of the course on their way to the windward mark. If the wind shifts in your favor you will be the first one to the windward mark, given comparable boat speed. Once the boats have rounded the windward mark, it is back downwind to the mark in the vicinity of the starting line.

For the first race all boats will go around the course twice, except the Class X fleet, which will go around the course only once. If weather conditions permit, a second race will immediately follow the first race. The main difference for the second race is that the sailors will finish with a windward leg, so the second race is 1.5 or 2.5 times around the course depending on the class of boat. The finish of the second race is into the wind. The first boat to finish in each class is given a one-gun salute.

When all boats have finished the last race, the temporary marks are picked up and the race committee boats head back to the yacht club headquarters on Manhattan Beach. Racing will be abandoned when winds exceed 20-25 miles per hour or if there is lightning. X boat skippers and crew are required to wear life jackets from the Class X preparatory signal until they cross the finish line. All OYC sailors are required to wear life jackets when the race committee flies code flag “Y” (yellow and red diagonal stripes) - generally when wind speed exceeds 12 miles per hour.

With a VHF Marine Radio, one can follow the action prior to the start on channel 68 and after the start on channel 72. Current weather broadcast by NOAA National Weather Service for the Iowa Great Lakes can be heard on marine radio weather channel one or 162.55 MHz.

Power boaters know that sailboats have the right a way and that boaters are responsible for their wakes. The wakes from powerboats can upset the delicate balance of a sailboat that is dependent on wind power. Sailors appreciate powerboats that give them a wide berth while they are racing on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Generally, sailboat races will be completed by about noon.

Participating in sailing is easy and fun. Quite often skippers are looking for crew – no experience necessary. Locate a skipper by their boat, boat roster on the OYC website, or by calling the club at telephone 337-0121.

The sailboats on Millers Bay Monday through Friday are part of the Okoboji Yacht Club Sailing School. Training is provided on the International Optimist Dinghy, Open BIC, Laser, and X boats. There is multiple one-week mini training sessions scheduled from mid June through mid August for ages six to eighteen. Students do not need a boat, live on the lake, or be members of the Okoboji Yacht Club. Students in the area for only a week can participate. More than 200 students per summer take advantage of the sailing lessons. Additional information can be found in the Sailing School brochure using the Okoboji Yacht Club website.

Membership in the Okoboji Yacht Club is open to everyone. You do not need to live on the lake or own a boat to be a member. Many of the 450 OYC members are not sailors, but enjoy the social program. Sailing information is available from the club at 337-0121 or find Okoboji YC information on the Internet at

2022 Okoboji Regatta

North American Yngling Regatta - August 5 - 7, 2022


Most Competitors will come from Lake Minnetonka, MN and Alpena, MI (Lake Huron)

Four Okoboji Racing Classes:

Class C Boat 001_edited.jpg

Class C - Scow Type

Single Main Sail
20 feet in length
Sail ID: letter P plus 1-3 digits
Sail area 216 square feet
Registered OYC boats: 15

The “C” is a highly maneuverable cat-rigged (main sail only) scow that has been the most popular of all the scows over the years because of its versatility. As an exciting tactical racer for 2-3 people, it has plenty of sophisticated gear and enjoys dozens of very competitive racing fleets. Yet, one person easily skippers it.


Class MC - Scow Type

Single Main Sail

16 feet in length
Sail ID: four digits
Sail area: 135 square feet
Higher sail number is a newer boat
Registered OYC boats: 30

The MC’s appeal is as a racing scow that can be sailed single-handed by an average-to-large person in all wind conditions, yet has room for additional crew for the smaller skipper in a heavier wind. With its cat rig (main sail only) and large rudder, it is easy to sail and very maneuverable.

Summer2005 Yngling 049_edited.jpg

Yngling Class - Keel

Main, jib, and spinnaker sails
21 feet in length
Sail ID: USA with 2-3 digits
Higher sail number is a newer boat
Sail area can be up to 415 square feet
Registered OYC boats: 8
Sailed Internationally

Generally sailed by two people, but could be three in a heavier wind. The Yngling is an attractive, fast, and seaworthy keelboat. Under spinnaker it is a lively performer, happily surfing waves. Sturdy construction produces simple and inexpensive maintenance, and a durable hull: Thirty-year-old boats are still competitive!

Class X_edited.jpg

Class X - Club Boat

Jib and Main Sail

16 feet in length

Sail Area: 110 square feet

Registered OYC boats: 8

The X or "Cub" boat is a hard-chined, pointed bow, centerboard boat that was designed primarily as a safe and uncomplicated trainer for beginning sailors and racers. Over the years, this same basic design has provided thousands of sailors with their start in the sport and it continues to be the predominant club racer in the Midwest exclusively for boys and girls up to 16 years of age.

OYC Asks Power Boaters For Cooperation:

The Okoboji Yacht Club race committee have asked power boaters to be considerate of the wake they generate when moving near the racecourses on West Lake Okoboji. The wakes from powerboats can upset the delicate balance of a sailboat that is totally dependent on wind power. Racing sailors will appreciate powerboats that give them a wide berth while they are racing.

Power boaters can help by reducing to a “no wake” speed when in the vicinity of the racecourse or passing behind the sailboat fleet. Powerboats generate the largest wake at a medium speed.

The boat chop on Okoboji is critical to sailors when the wind speed is between 4 and 12 MPH. Below 4 MPH there is not enough wind to race and above 12 MPH the white cap waves mitigate the boat wake. The most critical sailing areas are those near the starting and finishing line.

The regatta race committee will make very effort to arrange the racecourse so there is room above and below the course for powerboats to pass between the course and shore. Accomplishing this can be very challenging to get a mile length or more for the course and still leave plenty of room for powerboats. The race committee will make very effort to stay away from Smith’s Bay and other high traffic boating areas.

2021 ILYA Championship Regatta

What a week! Okoboji Yacht Club pulled out all the stops for 16 A Scows, 41
MC Scows, 35 E Scows, and 50 C Scows. The skippers, the crews, their
families, their friends, the ILYA Race Committee and Judges were treated
like royalty by our hosts. Their volunteers were tireless. Their preparation
and execution were spot on, and their excitement to have everyone visit and
enjoy the club and its environs was evident everywhere. AND the VIP of
VIPS, invited to every regatta, but often a fickle guest, The WIND, not only
showed up, but stuck around from the beginning to the end!

This was evidenced by the A Fleet's 6 Races, the MC Fleet's 7 Races, the E

Fleet's 7 Races and the C Fleet's 6 Races. Every last drop of silver polish
was utilized and all of the ILYA's spectacular trophies were awarded to
sailors who were able to enjoy wind and the water of Okoboji.
As far as the racing went, it was competitive and exciting with the As, Es
and Cs going down to the wire. The A Scows and E Scows had past
champions repeat, while the C and MC Scows boasted new winners.

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