Racers get ready at last year's Frostbite sailboat race at Watauga Lake. (Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
HAMPTON — Those intrepid sailors from the Watauga Lake Sailing Club will once again celebrate the new year by braving the elements and cold water as they prove their mettle in the 14th Annual Frostbite Race.
The club’s commodore, Dennis Anthony, said there should again be about 10 to 12 sailboats, ranging in size from 26 to 34 feet, competing in the annual event. Each boat has a crew of about three or four.
Over the years, the race has been sailed in blizzard conditions and occasionally springtime conditions on New Year’s Day. Anthony said the forecast for Wednesday calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures on the lake to be around 50 degrees with 9 to 12 mph winds, which the commodore with 35 years of sailing experience described as “fairly decent weather for sailing.”
One difference from some of the earlier Frostbite races is the lake level. The Tennessee Valley Authority has lowered the lake to 1,945 feet in elevation this year, which is 14 feet below summertime full pool. Because of the lower level, Anthony said the course may have to be changed at the traditional turnaround point. There may not be enough water for the boats to circle the island, so a marker may be placed to designate the turnaround.
Anthony said the horn to start the race will sound at 1 p.m. The race starts at Lakeshore Marina and heads east up the lake. There are several good locations to watch the race that are accessible on U.S. Highway 321, including Watauga Point Recreation Area. The race usually takes two hours. The finish line is at Lakeshore.
Following the race, Anthony said the club will gather at one of the cabins at Lakeshore for the traditional hearty pot luck dinner while the winners are recognized and saluted.