Words and Pics by Elena Marotti
I’m part of a group of experienced, seasoned, nostalgic windsurfers in Texas, and every year we hold what we call the Dinosaur Races. This is a regatta using the Original Windsurfer, circa 1970s and 80s. The dinosaur namesake is due to the age of the equipment – or maybe ours? The regatta is held on Pasadena Lake (a.k.a. Mud Lake) near the Johnson Space Center, just south of Houston.
The regatta is open to all who want to have a good time. Participants are generally from the Houston-Galveston area, but people from other states attend regularly too, even international participants from time to time. Some of us locals round up the dinosaurs in the area, clean them up, brand them, and get them all nice and ready for the event. Invariably, some dinos are too brittle to sail and need to be retired during the roundup. Not to worry, they go to a better pasture and end up as lawn ornaments or lawn furniture!
The event is usually held in the Fall and consists of two days of sailing: the first day is a windsurfing pub crawl to the different establishments around Clear Lake; and day two is race day.
This year we added a very unique side activity. We were able to schedule a visit to NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) – an immense pool containing a full-scale mockup of the International Space Station where astronauts practice their Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA). During the early morning special tour, we got to visit the pool deck and were able to see astronauts training in their space suits!
After a morning looking to the stars, our scheduled afternoon shenanigan that day was the windsurfing pub crawl. Unfortunately, the wind was low so we could not get to all the locales that we usually frequent on the lake. However, the sailing was still a lot of fun and challenging, going through channels, marinas, and between boat docks to make it to the watering holes. The dinos handled the wind shadows and current admirably. As sunset approached we made it back to the Clear Lake park launch. We had a great time!
Saturday was race day, and we had a beautiful sunny day, warm water, and a great group on the water. By mid-morning, all the dinos were saddled (rigged) and ready to go. They were even joined by a little dino. Technically a llama – we called it ‘llamasaur!’
We had nine races total on an M course. We split the group into three fleets: heavy, light, and women’s fleets. We had a rotation system so that everyone got a different dino to ride each race: some were fast, others were… not so fast. One dino I used had a floppy boom, the centerboard kept popping up – I was ready to shoot it to put it (and myself) out of its misery!
Did I mention the party barge? We had two fleets on the water for each race, and one fleet sat on the party barge waiting for its turn in the rotation. With the first upwind mark right at the party barge, whatever group was on the barge at that time became the heckling group. We took that job to heart!
We all had a fantastic time, but pizza finished us off.
1st place: Barbara Belt
2nd place: Jennifer Simmonds
3rd place: Heather McKeon
4th place: Amy Ellison
1st place: Dave Moffat
2nd place: Tom Ryder
3rd place: Wade Callen
4th place: Kenny Pavlica
1st place: Joe Marotti
2nd place: Cliff Tudor
3rd place: Gary Lee
4th place: Joey Mouton