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The Villages
Sunday, May 19, 2024

Villager achieves life’s dream in yacht race

Villager Lori Matthews’ crew overcame perilous conditions and placed 2nd out of 56 boats in her first big yacht race earlier this month.

On the 33-foot Odyssey II, the Village of Pennecamp resident, along with four other men, sailed in The HooK Race which covers 189.04 nautical miles. The event runs along Death’s Door passage between Door County, Wis., and Washington Island and on in to Green Bay, ending across the bay at Menominee, Mich.

Matthews described it as a “skills and endurance race.”

Village of Pennecamp resident Lori Matthews
Village of Pennecamp resident Lori Matthews.

She and her crew had a wonderful time sailing as they took off the morning of Saturday, July 11. But that was only the beginning, before they knew what trouble was looming ahead of them.

By Saturday afternoon, the wind on Lake Michigan was not cooperating and Matthews’ crew found themselves stuck on still waters.

“There were flies biting us like crazy,” she said. “And the sun was beating down.” which Matthews’ crew endured the unfavorable situation and “hopscotched across the lake to catch wind.” For the most part of Saturday evening, Matthews’ crew alternated by manning the boat with different sails “under a moonless sky.” Additionally, there had been an emergency warning issued stating that severe thunderstorms were expected.

Unlike other boats that turned around, the Odyssey II faced the storm head on.

“At that point, there was no turning back,” she said.

With a combination of teamwork and gallantry, the crew was all hands on deck against the storm that brought “17- to 23-knot winds.”

The crew arrived at the Death’s Door passage, where Matthews said, “people have died” at Wisconsin’s Upper Peninsula as they tried to sail around it. To add to their fear, storms in the area caused disasters for boats ahead of them. Waves of 5 to 7 feet “were crashing over the bow,” a boat “had lost its mainsail block” causing the mainsail to flap violently, and another boat’s sail “went down quickly from the winds.”

After overcoming the tribulations of their difficult race, the tired but intrepid crew finally reached the finish line at 12:31 p.m. Monday, making their entire sail 50 hours and 1 minute. The team discovered they had finished in 2nd place in their division.

The team attended the Gosling Rum party, where many people took pictures of them, which left Matthews thinking, “this is really overkill for 2nd place for a 4th division.” But in a surprising turn of events, Matthews found out that her crew had placed 2nd out of all 56 boats.

Matthews was “shocked and overwhelmed” and called this her “life’s dream” after receiving the award. Growing up in Chicago and Clermont,  Matthews has always been passionate about boats and sailing. Each time she had received a call to participate in a yacht race, Matthews had to decline because of her commitment to accompanying her husband during his chemotherapy.

Finally, Matthews was able to participate in this year’s The Hook Race, which made her emotional. With only 10 hours of practice, she and a crew of men were able to  successfully and, most importantly, safely finish the grueling race and place second overall. On top of the happy ending, Matthews’ husband was able to accompany her as he flew his small plane from where the Odyssey II started and met up with his wife at the finish line.

“I couldn’t imagine it years ago,” said Matthews, but now she can proudly say that she accomplished one of her biggest goals. As for participating in future major races, Matthews prefers to join small time races instead and continue enjoying boating for fun.

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