Sailors from across the country — and some from outside the U.S. — have flocked to Yankton.
And it’s for good reason, according to one official for an ongoing event that will bring hundreds of visitors to town.
"It’s a perennial favorite," said Ben Wells, the media coordinator with the Hobie Class Association, which will hold its Hobie 16/20 North American Championships at Lewis & Clark Lake this week.
Sailors and teams in each division arrived late last week, and will compete today (Monday) through Friday for a series of races (called a regatta). The top team in each class will be named the North American champion.
Yankton has previously hosted Hobie Cat national events (in 2008 and 2013), but this particular championship is on a grander scale, according to Wells.
"This will be one of the larger events we’ve hosted," Wells said.
Those past races in Yankton had between 20-30 boats, but this year’s North American Championships could see up to 75 boats, he added.
"We sail in Iowa and Minnesota, but when we come to Yankton, many of the sailors in our division will comment that it’s one of their favorite places to sail," Wells said.
The teams will be riding a catamaran — manufactured by Hobie Cat — that feature two parallel hulls connected by a single deck. The boats in this week’s event are classified by their length: For example, Hobie 16 are 16 feet long, etc.
As of late last week, there were 53 entries for Hobie 16s and 21 entries for Hobie 20s. .
Among the states represented in the Hobie 16s division: South Dakota, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. There are also teams registered from Canada and Puerto Rico.
The Hobie 20 division will have teams from states like California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Wells said there will also be a couple of teams from Cuba.
"It’s one of the biggest events that happens in North America, as far as Hobie Cat," he said.
The Hobie Class Association is broken into 16 divisions, and Division 7 (which includes both Dakotas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri) will be the host for this week’s event.
The fact that sailors from that grouping, as well as from throughout the United States, are in Yankton is proof that Lewis & Clark Lake is a popular destination on the sailing scene, according to Carmen Schramm, executive director of the Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce.
"(The other race locations are) all beautiful and they have their great traits, but what we’re hearing from this group is that Yankton is a great finale for them," Schramm said.
In advance of the event, the Chamber of Commerce, along with the Yankton Convention & Visitors Bureau, has been working with Hobie Cat organizers, Schramm added. The goal, she said, is to not only find ways to attract teams into town, but to also attract the general public out to Hobie Cat Beach, located near the marina along Lewis & Clark Lake.
It’s Yankton’s location, though, that truly separates it from the other stops on the Hobie Cat circuit, Schramm said.
"It is unique, and it’s one of those things that we have that you wouldn’t probably have on the rest of the river," she said. "This one just really works well for what they do."
Much like Yankton experiences with larger national and international archery tournaments, the Hobie Cat event extends for a full week. That means certain sailors will arrive early and may stay late, which consequently means they’ll be part of the local culture for more than just a few days.
"They’ll be here for a good amount of time, and we’ve given them information to try to get them into town," Schramm said. "Our hope is that they’re so impressed with the area that they make this a destination they would come back to."
Follow @jhoeck on Twitter.