BUFFALO, N.Y. – It’s almost impossible to drive over the skyway on a Wednesday night and not be taken aback by the magnitude of sailboats in Lake Erie. They all have one thing in common, their affiliation with the Buffalo Harbor Sailing club which has been sponsoring the races for decades.
The Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club officially cast off in 1977 and started with just a small group of men who wanted to take their boats out beyond the break wall. Cruising was too difficult to do on the choppy Lake Erie water, so they settled on racing.
Since then, the club has grown to over 300 members and at one time had over 100 boats on the starting line of the Wednesday night races. It has even attracted those who don’t even sail.
“A couple of guys got together and we got involved around 1978,” Bob Ihrig said.
He and his wife Joann are power boaters and up until this summer volunteered their boat to committee the races and serve as the finish line. The BHSC made them honorary members.
“Our club is very unique because we have everyone from millionaires to bar tenders,” Joann chimed in during the interview which took place on their boat where the live during the summer months.
Their contributions combined with the competitive fix boat owners seek has made for a Wednesday night tradition 39 years running.
“It is what I look forward to every week in the summer,” BHSC member Tom Lewin said. “In other cities each different venue (boat harbor) might have their own races. But not here in Buffalo. The lake channels down towards the river and all those boats come together under one club which is much better for sailing and much more fun.”
The BHSC has seen their participation level off over the past decade so now they have turned their focus on education. They offer programs that will teach you the sport of sailing and even how race.
“The goal of our training programs is to let people put their foot in the water, see how much they like it and then see how far they want to go after that,” vice-commodore of the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club Diana Augspurger said. She began sailing later in her life and was welcomed into the sport with open arms. She joined the BHSC board of directors to share that with the next wave of interested sailors.
So, whether you’re just learning about the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club for the very first time or if you have been charter member since the 70s, everyone can agree that the sailboats beyond the harbor wall make for a picturesque slice of history in the Queen City.