Competitive Sailboat Racing on the Saginaw Bay Kicks Off in May

Each Wednesday evening from the middle of May through the end of September, a parade of sailboats heads out to the Saginaw Bay for comradery and competition. Currently organized by the Bay City Yacht Club, Saginaw Bay sailboat racing has occurred for about 50 years and attracts as many as 30 to 40 boats per race. According to race organizers, there’s always room for more, and you don’t have to have your own boat to participate.
Three racing series are offered every season for those who own a monohull boat 19 feet or longer or a multihull boat 23 feet or longer. The “Main and Jib” series begins May 23 with a 7:00 p.m. start. The course is 3.45 miles long and is marked by a circular arrangement of orange pencil buoys with a start mark in the center located about 2 miles from the mouth of the river. The “Spinnaker” series is offered on weekends and begins on May 26 with a 20-mile race to the G1 channel tower and back. Weekend racing occasionally also includes some longer distance races using the greater Saginaw Bay including a night race to the East Tawas State docks. The “Lightning Fleet” also races on Wednesdays. The series begins on May 16th and follows a shorter windward/leeward course about a mile from the river’s mouth.

“People who own boats only use them 20 to 30 days a year with the average owner using his or her boat only about 15 to 25 days each summer” according to Bay City Yacht Club Fleet Manager Bruce Niederer. “Coming out and racing gets you out on your boat more often, improves your sailing skills, is a great family activity and—most of all—it’s great fun!”

Saginaw Bay sailboat races are offered to novice and experienced sailors alike. They’re also available to those who don’t own their own sailboat, but would like to sign up as crew. A program to match crew with racing skippers is coordinated through the Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association.

Participants gather at the Bay City Yacht Club at 3315 Shady Shore Drive following each race to learn results. Participation fees, which includes awards and a party at the end of the season range from $30 to $85 per season.

A Skipper’s informational meeting is scheduled at the Bay City Yacht Club on May 16 at 7:00 p.m. The Bay City Yacht Club and Bay 104 FM are also hosting a Safe Boating Day event on the first day of National Boating Week May 19, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. All Tri-city boaters are welcome to bring their boat by trailer or by water to the Bay City Yacht Club to be inspected by USCG Auxiliary personnel.

For more information on the sailboat race series or to register a boat for a series or regatta, contact the Bay City Yacht Club at (989) 686-1130 or visit For more information on learn-to-sail courses through the Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association, call (989) 922-7245 or visit