Calm waters, clear skies allow for smooth sailing


With his love of being on the water and being solely controlled by wind, mechanical engineering student Nicholas Priaulx said he started to enjoy sailing in high school.

He now continues his passion every Tuesday and Saturday with other University students, gliding across Minneapolis’ Lake Harriet in the University’s Sailing Club.

Club member and instructor Don Millman said he found the club’s Web site online and joined in 2001. With more than 3,500 hours of experience at 65 years old, Millman said he is the club’s “old blowhard.”

“Sailing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” Millman said. “My favorite part of teaching is taking people who know absolutely nothing and are frightened and confused and turning them into proficient sailors.”

No one is really sure how long ago the club began, but Millman said it could have begun more than 30 years ago.

Today, 56 members meet regularly to sail on Lake Harriet, but only half of the members are students. The club is also open to the public, and organizers hope the group increases to 100 members as the summer weather improves.

The cost of membership is $150 for students and $200 for nonstudents. The price includes sailing lessons and use of the club’s boats all summer.

Only some current members had sailing experience before joining the group, but lessons start for beginners with sailing basics.

“We teach people how to rig a boat, how to put on the sails,” Millman said. “We also teach people how to leave a dock.”

Depending on how fast a person picks up the basics, he or she can eventually take a skipper’s test. Students take written and on-the-water trials to test their proficiency with boats.

Once students pass the test, they become skippers with special privileges.

“Once you skipper out, you can take the boats out on your own,” said Kevin Roberts, the club’s treasurer.

This means after a person passes his or her skipper test, he or she can take the club’s boats out on Lake Harriet anytime without an instructor’s supervision.

Roberts said it takes most new sailors approximately 16 sessions to be ready to become skippers.

“It takes about half the summer,” he said.

Skippers have free access to the club’s eight boats. Most of the ships have been donated or purchased, Roberts said.

Priaulx said most members enjoy sailing recreationally, but approximately 10 members compete every weekend in races at the Lake Harriet Yacht Club.

The club has activities scheduled throughout the summer and fall.