A lot more sailboats will be racing next year on Gull Lake.
Gull Lake Sailing School Co-President Mary Jetland announced recently the school was selected to host the 2022 MC Masters Nationals, the first time it was chosen to host the prestigious event for sailors ages 50 and older.
“This regatta will bring top sailors from across the country to Gull Lake next summer. … It’s just this ongoing recognition of Gull Lake as this great sailing lake,” Jetland said of the June 2022 event.
Vince Driessen is the 2018 national winner of the MC Masters. The Twin Cities resident and Gull Lake sailing advocate has summered in the Brainerd lakes area for more than six decades.
“Masters is age restricted to 50 years old and older, and is often more competitive than the national championship event. The national championship would be a larger event — 75 to 100 boats for that four-day event,” Driessen said.
Gull Lake Sailing School
The school represents a sister organization to the Gull Lake Yacht Club, with deep ties to the area and initiatives to promote sailing as a community activity going back to 1947.
“Currently, there are about 20 MCs who race on Gull from June through August. Our fleet includes three very notable sailors who all learned to sail at the Gull Lake Sailing School. They all sail nationally, with Driessen winning the 2018 MC Nationals,” Jetland said.
Between 50 and 60 from all over the country are expected to sail at next year’s event at Gull Lake, located about 12 miles northwest of Brainerd and 12 miles south of Pequot Lakes.
“That brings families from all over, that brings sailors, that brings eaters — that brings all of the above — to the Brainerd lakes area. And then it also promotes the Brainerd lakes area through all these sailing association promotions, the MC Sailing Association,” Jetland said.
The association formed in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1971. The MC class has grown to be one of the top one-design sailboat racing classes in North America. The design maximizes speed yet provides stability with more than 110 active fleets nationwide, according to the association.
“The activity on the water — with the wind, with the sunshine — is one of the best nonmotor-powered activities in my mind that one can participate in,” said Driessen, co-president of the Gull Lake Sailing School.
The Gull Lake Sailing School and the Gull Lake Yacht Club hosted in 2019 the Inland Lakes Yachting Association MC Scow Invitational Regatta. Scows have a long history in the Great Lakes area, arriving in the New World with Scandanavian immigrants, according to Driessen.
“We have a beautiful body of water for sailing — spectacular,” Driessen said of Gull Lake. “There’s 1 mile of shoreline that’s a state park. It’s gorgeous. It’s not in a metropolitan area where the bodies of water are inundated with powerboats and wakes.”
Driessen speculated the Brainerd lakes area’s reputation as a tourist destination may have also had something to do with Gull Lake being selected to host next year’s competitive sailing event.
“Plenty of hotels, resorts on the water, lots of restaurants, other activities,” Driessen said. “And if there’s zero wind on the lake, sailors can go golfing. Or if there’s too much wind, you can go bike up and down Paul Bunyan Trail or head over to Cuyuna (Country State Recreation Area).”
Katie Arvesen, a woman in her 60s, has been sailing Gull Lake ever since she was a child, which may account for her recognition as the top female sailor in the 2015 MC Masters.
“It’s my favorite sport, and I’ve been racing with my family members since I’ve been a young girl and recently purchased my own sailboat and started to race and go around the nation to attend these Masters regattas and our Nationals regattas,” Arvesen said.
When Arvesen is not sailing competitively, she splits her time between Lake Shore in Cass County and her home in the Twin Cities.
“Even those folks that came up in their youth and they’re living in the Twin Cities or in Iowa or Wisconsin, they remember coming in and visiting our lake, and they want to come back,” Arvesen said. “They really like it a lot, which is great for our sport.”
Dave Anderson sits on the board of directors of the Gull Lake Sailing School.
“Gull Lake is an awesome lake for sailing on because it’s a large body of water with good winds from virtually every direction,” Anderson said. “And plus we don’t have the big powerboats to create the waves that some of these other lakes would have, so it’s relatively calm.”
The 61-year-old Edina resident spends his summers in the Brainerd lakes area and said hosting next year’s event at Gull Lake is a “feather in the cap of the yacht club.” Anderson said he has been competing against Driessen in sailboat racing since they were 13 years old.
“As you advance in your sailing prowess, you become one with the water and the waves and Mother Nature and the wind, and you’re gliding across the water, and there are few things better in the world,” Driessen said.
Gull Lake is a 10,000-acre lake with 46 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 80 feet, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s a very green sport in today’s world,” Driessen said of sailing. “It's easy to have a powerboat and push the throttle … but moving your sailboat at 20 knots in the face of a 25 mph breeze with 4-foot waves on Gull Lake, that is exhilarating and fun and relaxing all at the same.”