Diamond Island Regatta raises $1,000 for Maritime Museum

Third annual race, sponsored by Royal Savage Yacht Club and Point Bay Marina, draws a record 26 boats

CHARLOTTE / FERRISBURGH, Vt. — A record 26 boats, hailing from Canada to southern Lake Champlain, took part in the third annual Diamond Island Regatta on Saturday, August 22. The benefit sailing race, sponsored by the Royal Savage Yacht Club (RSYC) and Point Bay Marina (PBM), raised more than $1,000 for the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) in Ferrisburgh, Vt.

The race, beginning just after 11 a.m., took competitors north from the start in Town Farm Bay to a mark off Cedar Beach in Charlotte, south to Diamond Island off the Ferrisburgh shore, and then back to the starting line. The fastest boats covered the 8-mile course in just over an hour and a half, on a near-perfect Vermont summer day, with blue skies and a light but consistent north breeze.

The day began and ended under the RSYC tent at the marina, starting with a pre-race breakfast for racers and club members and wrapping up with the awards ceremony at the club’s annual Lobster Fest dinner. At the ceremony, RSYC race director Doug Friant and LCMM executive director Mike Smiles thanked all of the competitors, Point Bay Marina and the two dozen RSYC volunteers for helping to make the day’s events possible. Friant also made a point of thanking Dale Hyerstay from the Lake Champlain Yacht Club (LCYC), who brought a committee boat and race crew down to Town Farm Bay.


Boats in the ‘jib and main’ class head upwind, with Camel’s Hump in the background, during the Diamond Island Regatta on August 22. — Brandon Johnson photo

Entry in the race was free, with most of the money for LCMM raised through the sale of donated items from sponsors, including duffle bags, Diamond Island Regatta hats and LCMM pint glasses. Additional money will come from sales to competitors of photos of their boats taken by race photographer Brandon Johnson.

In the race itself, competitors were divided into two general categories, those who sailed with spinnakers and those who sailed only with jib and mainsail (JaM). Boats came from the local Royal Savage Yacht Club, Lake Champlain Yacht Club in Shelburne, Malletts Bay Boat Club (MBBC) in Colchester, Valcour Sailing Club (VSC) in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and elsewhere on the lake.

There were 17 boats in the four spinnaker fleets, A through D, and nine in the two JaM fleets, A and B. The fleets were determined by each boat’s rating under the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) system, which ranks boats based on their speed potential and is used for most sailing competitions on Lake Champlain. Winners are determined based on corrected time, with the faster boats “giving time” to the slower boats. The six fleet winners this year, receiving trophies at the awards ceremony:

  • Spinnaker A: Odinn, a J-111, sailed by Kjell Dahlen, from the VSC, with a corrected time of 1 hour, 32 minutes and 19 seconds
  • Spinnaker B: Boomer, J-29, Jack Wallace, LCYC, 1:37:10
  • Spinnaker C: Sundance, Pearson 37, Tom Glynn, LCYC, 1:43:34
  • Spinnaker D: Mashnee, Buzzards Bay 30, Jan Rozendaal, RSYC, 1:39:10
  • JaM A: It Wasn’t Me, J-105, Branwell Lepp, no club listed, 1:52:51
  • JaM B: Mackinac, Pearson 32, Tim and Betsy Etchells, RSYC, 1:50:33

Spinnakers flying, the fleet heads south toward the eponymous Diamond Island in the race on August 22. — Brandon Johnson photo

The first boat to finish the race, with the fastest elapsed time of 1:29:48, was Corbeau, a Far 400 from VSC, sailed by Jean Pierre Turgeon. First to finish in the JaM fleet, in an elapsed time of 2:04:38, was Lepp’s It Wasn’t Me.

On corrected time, Boomer in Spinnaker B and Mackinac in JaM B were repeat winners from last year’s regatta.

Complete results can be found here: http://rsyc.org/2015-diamond-island-regatta-results/


The reward at day’s end for the sailors and club members was the annual Lobster Fest and awards dinner in the RSYC tent at Point Bay Marina. — Brandon Johnson photo

Host Royal Savage Yacht Club (rsyc.org) is named for the schooner Royal Savage, which served as Benedict Arnold’s flagship during Revolutionary War battles with the British on Lake Champlain. Point Bay Marina is a full-service marina on Thompson’s Point Road in Charlotte (pointbaymarina.com).


Vermont, EPA agree on new phosphorus limits

The Environmental Protection Agency and the state have agreed on new limits to the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Champlain.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a new final draft plan to reduce the amount of phosphorus that drains into Lake Champlain by more than 30 percent in the next decade.

The plan seeks to curb phosphorus pollution by controlling runoff into the lake and its tributaries.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding announced the plan [August 14] at a joint news conference with EPA officials at the lake’s North Beach in Burlington.

“We stand here on Vermont’s most beautiful natural resource to celebrate that Vermont and the EPA have come to a meeting of the minds about the best way to clean up this lake,” Shumlin said.

The state has $10 million to launch the new project and anticipates several million dollars annually from federal, state and private sources to implement the plan, said Vermont Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz.

The state also has established a Clean Water Board to manage clean water funds for the project, Markowitz said.

The EPA will accept public comment on the plan until Sept. 15.

Three public hearings on the plan are scheduled for later this month:

  • Aug. 26, 6-8 p.m., St. Albans Historical Society, 9 Church St.
  • Aug. 27, 10 a.m.-noon, Doubletree Hotel, 1117 Williston Road, South Burlington.
  • Aug. 27, 2-4 p.m., Rutland Free Library, 10 Court St.

You can download a copy of the plan from the EPA’s website: http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/tmdl/lakechamplain.html

Work gets under way on new Community Sailing Center

This is great news for Burlington and Vermont:

The nonprofit Community Sailing Center in Burlington could break ground on a new building as early as September.

“The expectation is that the site work, closing of the area and doing some preliminary foundation work will be complete … before they close up shop for the winter,” sailing center Executive Director Mark Naud said.

The building is part of Waterfront Access North, a major public-private redevelopment project along the north end of Burlington’s lakeshore. The $9.1 million project also includes a new skate park and infrastructure improvements along Lake and Depot streets.

Crews broke ground on Waterfront Access North last August. Naud said workers have cleared the lot on which the new sailing building will sit. He hopes crews can complete the foundation of the building this fall.

“I don’t think that’s an unreasonable goal for us, at all,” Naud said.

The center projects the 21,000-square-foot building will cost $2.5 million to build. Burlington voters in March 2014 approved $500,000 in tax increment financing for the project.

Naud said the entire sailing center capital campaign, which includes dock repairs, new boats and other site improvements totals $5.75 million. The new building will include indoor and outdoor watercraft storage, a classroom, locker rooms and offices for the center’s half-dozen employees.

The Community Sailing Center not only gets lots of folks out on the water, it also uses sailing as the delivery vehicle for a great elementary school science program, which the CSC calls Floating Classrooms.

Senate bill would ban microbeads nationwide

More help is on the way in the effort to remove microbeads from the nation’s waters.

Following the lead of the Vermont Legislature, which voted earlier this year to ban the tiny plastic beads — used in all kinds of personal care products, from toothpaste to facial washes — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has introduced legislation to ban cosmetics containing microbeads nationwide.

“Every morning when we brush our teeth and when we wash our faces at night, we don’t consider these acts to be harmful in any way,” said Gillibrand. “But for many of us, myself included, the toothpaste, soaps and facial washes we’ve had in our homes are leaching into our water supply and damaging the local environment.”

New York and 13 other states are now considering legislation similar to that passed by Vermont in January. In one New York study, microbeads were discovered in 74 percent of water samples taken from 34 municipal and private treatment plants across the state.

Mike Winslow, staff scientist of the Lake Champlain Committee, says plastics have no place in our waterways. “There are numerous studies documenting the physical and toxicological effects of plastics in the environment,” said Winslow. “Some microbeads are the size of fish eggs and look like food to larger fish and other aquatic organisms, an all-too-literal junk food.”

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy has said he supports Gillibrand’s push to ban microbeads, and hopes that manufacturers will not wait till the federal legislation passes to reconsider including microbeads in their products.


Bringing some perspective to talk about septic system spills

So it turns out there are sewage overflows, and there are sewage overflows. There has been a lot of talk lately in the media about challenged municipal septic systems, and how much effluent they are spilling into local waterways, and eventually the lake.

A lot of the talk can be traced to sometimes hyperbolic press releases issued pretty much weekly this (very wet) spring and early summer by Lake Champlain International. The organization, which organizes fishing derbies, has become one of the loudest advocates for cleaning up Vermont’s waters, though it doesn’t really do nuance.

The Burlington Free Press’s Joel Banner Baird did folks a favor by examining these claims, and what he found was that, while no sewage spill is a good thing, the specifics of each spill matter.

Mike Winslow, a scientist with nonprofit Lake Champlain Committee, notes that most fecal pathogens do not accumulate in river and lake water — unlike other pollutants such as heavy metals and nutrient phosphorus. Nor, when our micro-organisms hit a body of water, do they tend to migrate far.

It’s a mistake to equate the potency of a sewage spill only by its gallon value, Winslow said.

Typically, the volume of sewage in a municipal system remains fairly constant, he said; “the excess that’s causing the flows is the addition of relatively clean rain or groundwater.”

The significance of sewage spills might be sometimes exaggerated, Winslow said, but complacence can be just as harmful, particularly when it comes to identifying and tracking the passage of pharmaceuticals and other chemicals through our bodies and into bodies of water.

“There is no way to talk about sewage going into the river in a good way,” he concluded.

The problems come from so-called combined systems, in which both storm water and sewage are processed in the same plant.

There are lots of things to worry about when it comes to the health of the lake, and outdated combined sewage systems are certainly among them. But the significance of these spills pales when compared to the effects of phosphorus pollution, from agricultural run-off and stormwater.

We should certainly fix these out-of-date septic systems, and in a perfect world we’d tackle all of the contributors to lake pollution. Right now, the focus needs to be on keeping phosphorus out of streams, rivers and the lake.

A beach-closing because of a short-term E. coli contamination is one thing; phosphorus pollution that turns an entire section of the lake into a potentially toxic soup of blue-green algae for most of the summer season is another thing altogether.

State of the Lake 2015 buries the lede

The Lake Champlain Basin Program came out with its latest “State of the Lake” report this week. This is a great document with tons of useful information on the health of the lake and its watershed. Unfortunately, the headline in some news outlets was that 98 percent of the lake’s waters are of excellent or very good quality. This came from the opening paragraph of the report’s summary at the LCPB website:

Although the water quality trends in Lake Champlain are cause for concern, it is important to know that more than 85% of Lake Champlain’s water is consistently of excellent quality and another 13% of the water is usually in quite good condition. In the remaining 2% of the Lake, conditions are seasonally alarming. The most compromised parts of the Lake are St. Albans and Missisquoi Bays, where excess nutrients and other factors trigger blue-green algae blooms in summer, and the South Lake, where the water tends to be quite muddy.

While this may be objectively true — you don’t need to spend much time on the main lake to know that the water looks quite clean — it doesn’t really help folks understand the challenges facing the lake. More to the point is the news, in the second paragraph of the summary, that phosphorus levels in 10 of the 13 areas of the lake are above targets adopted by Vermont, New York and Quebec. And that levels are rising in many of the segments, particularly in the north and south.

Missing the most important bit of news — called “burying the lede” in the news biz, the “lede” being the first paragraph — happens all the time, but more often when newsmakers themselves choose to put less important stuff at the top of their summaries. Editing matters. Given the importance of reducing phosphorus levels to the health of the lake, and all of the attention, time and money being devoted to this issue, you would expect that it would be right up front. So, great report, but its impact was not what it could have been. Seems like a missed opportunity.