Sailors battle through frigid conditions for annual race

Published 4:58 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2018

One Carter County tradition continues to keep its title valid to kick off the new year.
Watauga Lake was bustling with traffic Monday afternoon for the 18th annual Frostbite Race, sponsored by the Watauga Lake Sailing Club.
Seven sailboats battled through the elements, including arctic-like temperatures and wind, and the team of James Little and company were able to come away with a fifth straight victory during the contest, finishing the race from Lakeshore Marina in roughly 52 minutes. The winning vessel was a Holder 20.
Monday’s race was one of the ages, according to Billy Becker. That veteran of the race mans the Mia Su 2 vessel and came away with second place honors following the race.
“It was record cold temperatures,” Becker told the Elizabethton Star. “It is absolutely the coldest race I’ve been part of.”
Temperatures never reached 20 degrees during the race with Becker adding there was a “nice, steady wind” that went as high as 15 knots and averaged around eight knots during the race.
Becker recalled during the race an instance of when his coffee spilled and by the time he had to clean it up, it had already frozen to the boat.
But through it all, the race’s popularity would not be deterred by Mother Nature’s winter chill.
“We had a staggered start with seven boats,” Becker said. “And that really surprised us. We were thinking with the weather that we wouldn’t have that many.”
Another eye-catching detail to the race, according to Becker, was that two of the seven boats that participated were first-time participants in the race.
“There wasn’t as many people out, of course due to the weather, but we had people set up along the bank to watch the race,” Becker said. “It’s a great thing to see the support the race receives each year.”
Utilizing the resource provided by Watauga Lake is not only important for the longevity of the race, but for the county as a whole. While the Hampton area tends to see a spike during the warmer weather at different landing areas, the sailing community continues to grow — attracting visitors and residents alike to the area.
“If anybody has an interest in sailing or wants to see what it’s like, just about anyone from the Sailing Club would be more than happy to show you,” Becker said. “We offer sailing lessons and different events during the year, including a sail for our local veterans. It’s always a fun time and I’d encourage anyone who wants to learn more to get involved.”
Visit to find out more about upcoming events and activities offered by the club.

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