Friday, February 24, 2012

World championships held on ice of Chain Lake

Mother Nature was unable to shut down the 2012 World Ice and Snow Sailing Association (WISSA) Championships in St. Ignace this week, but she sure made a lot of work for event organizers.

“Our community stepped up to the plate big time,” said Executive Director Janet Peterson of the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce. “I don’t even know if I could venture a guess how many volunteers have helped out.”

With participants from nearly a dozen different countries traveling to St. Ignace for the week-long championships, the ice of Lake Michigan proved to be far too treacherous. Faced with the cancellation of an event that is only held every 17 years in the United States, the people of St. Ignace not only went to Plan B, but had to make it up on the fly — moving all activities to nearby Chain Lake.

“We need this; we want this,” said Peterson of the motivation behind the hasty move.

WISSA features a variety of different races with participants wearing skis or hopping on snowboards and utilizing massive kites, giant sails and hand-held wings to capture the wind for each event.

While the United States and Canada were certainly represented, some participants traveled from the other side of the world — Finland, Russia and Sweden — to compete in St. Ignace.

“These folks come from all around the world,” said WISSA Spokesman Dan Shires, speaking from the heated tent where the athletes warm up and eat their meals on the ice of Chain Lake.

Niles Book of Marquette was one of the participants, admitting he wasn’t likely to win.

“It’s more of a fun thing for me,” said Book. “I’ve been doing this most of my life.”

Book, who usually travels to Teal Lake in Negaunee to practice his sport, said with the Seven Meter Slingshot he has hit 40 mph when conditions are right.

“This is a good day for me,” said Book on Wednesday of his chance to compete against the best in the world.

Peterson said the competitions will run through Saturday with the basic schedule calling for participants to begin gathering on the ice around 10:30 a.m. each day to lay out the course.

“It depends on the wind (direction) and what races they’re going to run,” said Peterson in determining the set up of the course.

An access road behind Little Bear East is being used for spectators looking to view the races.

Shires, who also is involved with the North American Ice and Snow Sailing events, said St. Ignace will play host to one of its events next winter between the third and fourth weeks in February.

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