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      Sail away: National Regatta kicks off

      For the first time ever, the City of Marquette is the host of the 2012 Ensign National Championship Regatta. Sailboat races kicked off Monday morning.

      Skipper Take Tsutsumi hopes the fresh waters of Lake Superior will be easier to sail on than the salty Pacific Ocean of his home country, Japan. But he's happy to be here either way, and it's all because he holds boat number 2012.

      "The chairman decided to invite the number 2012 to this Regatta without knowing that the boat is located in Japan," said Tsutsumi, who had reservations to travel all the way to the U.P., but decided the race is worth it.

      His team is one of dozens sailing into Marquette for the Regatta. This year there are 39 teams, an unusually high number for this type of competition. Organizers say the impact it has on the community is huge.

      Japan is among three other nations competing: the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.

      "This is really an honor and a responsibility to be bestowed on Marquette," said Regatta Chairman Neil Lynch. "Some events are here for just one day; we're here for a whole week, so that is very important to the city."

      They say it takes both luck and skill to maneuver a 3,000 pound sailboat. Organizers hope for ten races between now and Thursday. In this practice race, sailors familiarized themselves with the course, the wind and each other.

      "Team work is very important because if one person lets out the jib and then no one is there to pull it in, it's just flapping, and that slows you down," said Maggie Guter, a sailor with the Marquette Junior Yacht Club.

      And as one of the boats clearly shows it off in its name, 'Lickity Split' is the best strategy.