Come sail away

Posted on 20 Apr 2006 at 7:24pm
By Jim Provenzano Sports Complex

Gay teams cruise the waters at Chicago Gay Games

Sailing enthusiasts can enjoy a variety of nautical events at Chicago’s Gay Games VII. Two gay sailors have even taken their love of sailing to a global scale.


ROCK THE BOAT: From left, Heather Stewart, Deb Jacobs and skipper Sallie Lang after their 2002 Gay Games competition.

For the Gay Games, to be held July 15-22, Belmont Harbor near Lake Michigan will serve as the competition waters for 54 teams. Registration for sailing was among the first to be filled, as it was in the 2002 Games in Sydney. Sailing competitions include both spinnaker and non-spinnaker boats (a spinnaker is a large extra sail).

Heather Stewart was on one of the 10 teams from San Francisco that competed in Sydney’s Gay Games. She’ll be competing in Chicago with one of 14 San Francisco sailors on her recently named Team Doll. Chicago’s Games will use J22 boats (slightly smaller than those used in Sydney), and will observe different competition rules. Crews can be three to four people, but their total weight must be less than 605 lbs.

“They weigh us on a big scale, kind of like in wrestling,” Stewart says. “We have to go on diets. You want to be as heavy as possible and under [the] weight [limit].”

Sydney resident Anni Browning captained the gold-medal-winning non-spinnaker Sisterhoodlums crew in the 2002 Games. Browning met her Adelaide teammates through the gay Australian Sailing and Cruising Club, and became the team’s skipper.

“I had expected to get knocked out in the first round, but we ended up in the finals,” Browning says. “We won gold with two other boats for the top non-spinnaker team.”

With her hometown of Sydney being the host club for the last Games, Browning says that organizing the regatta was hard work. Two men who won’t be competing in Chicago are making sailing history nonetheless. Larry Jacobson and his partner, Ken Smith, are in the middle of a 6-year journey around the world on their 50-foot, 20-ton yacht, Julia (named after Jacobson’s mother).

“After our circumnavigation is complete, we’ll be the first gay couple to make such a journey,” says Jacobson.

With almost half of their trek behind them, the two men docked their boat in Turkey in March, and took a break to fly to Berkeley, Calif. They returned to their boat in April, and hope to finish where they started, at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, in summer 2007.

Jacobson raced sailboats in Long Beach from age 13, and later on the varsity squad at the University of California at Irvine, where, he says, “I was sure that I was the only gay sailor at the time.”

Their first navigation was simple, Jacobson says. “We started by sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, then turned left.”

Their journey skirted the California coast, then docked at Puerto Vallarta before making the daunting trek across 2,750 miles of the Pacific Ocean.
Along their two-year Pacific sail, the crew (they took on a few extra crew members for parts of their journey) visited Tonga, the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Fiji. Just outside of Australia, they lost the boat’s autopilot and suffered damage of the forestay.

Before they could dock and have repairs made, “We had to steer by hand late at night in pouring rain,” Jacobson says.

Another mishap included losing the engine’s transmission in Indonesia.
“We had to wait three weeks for parts to be shipped,” Jacobson says. “Things break constantly,” he adds, from pumps to rigging. “There’s also quite a bit of electronics to maintain.”

Originally scheduled to dock in Phuket, Thailand, only two weeks before the 2004 tsunamis that destroyed so much of southeast Asian shores, the crew instead docked at Bopat. Fortunately, they were well out of those seas when the waves struck. Weeks afterward, they found remnants of the devastation.
“We were a few hundred miles out [in the Indian Ocean], when we saw hundreds of uprooted trees floating by,” Jacobson remembers.

Jacobson and Smith began their return to Turkey in late April. They’ll travel across the Mediterranean Sea to visit European shores and the coast of Africa before venturing across 2000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean.

Jim Provenzano is the author of the novels “PINS” and “Monkey Suits.”
E-mail: sportscomplex@qsyndicate.com

DALLAS RAGE KICKS OFF 1ST GAME

The Dallas Rage, one of the newest expansion teams in the National Women’s Football Association, play the Oklahoma City Lightning on Saturday. This is the first game of the Rage’s second season. Dallasites might remember the Dallas Dragons, which after a change in ownership became the Dallas Rage.

Last year, The Rage was the first team to defeat the Oklahoma City Lightning in three years. Keep your eye on player #54, lesbian defensive lineman Twyla D. Smith, pictured.

Pennington Field, 1501 Central Dr, Bedford, Texas. April 22 at 7 p.m. $10. dallasragefoot
ball.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 21, 2006.

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