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Recreational Sailing: Overview

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"100 Years of Sailing on Storied Lake Minnetonka," by Frank G. O'Brien.
In Hennepin County History, vol. 18, no. 2 (summer 1958), p.3-6.
MNHS call number: Reading Room F612.H52 H4 v.18:2

Gerry Spiess Scrapbooks, 1971-1983.
Three scrapbooks containing clippings of world-wide news coverage documenting Gerry Spiess’s 1979 and 1981 record-breaking solo voyages across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the 10-foot sloop Yankee Girl that Spiess designed and built.
The scrapbooks, compiled by Louis Spiess, father of Gerry Spiess, also contain programs, pamphlets, posters, proclamations, and correspondence from honorary celebrations, speaking engagements, boat shows, and the dedication of Spiess Landing at Matoska Park on White Bear Lake. Also included are two clippings regarding Spiess’s first attempt at solo navigation in 1971.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Alone Against the Atlantic, by Gerry Spiess with Marlin Bree. 
Minneapolis, Minn.: Control Data Publishing, 1981.
MNHS call number:  G470 .S66

Pamphlets Relating to Yacht Clubs and Yachting in Minnesota, 1884-
Contains pamphlets and printed ephemera relating to yacht clubs and their activities.

MNHS call number: GV815- GV827

Gerry Spiess, videotape (19 min.) & teacher's guide
Produced by Independent School District No. 279.  Osseo, Minn.: 1981.
Gerry Spiess recounts his 1979 solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in "Yankee Girl" and discusses the emotional and physical preparation required for such a voyage.
MNHS call number:  Videotape 51



Recreational and competitive sailing has a rich history in Minnesota. In 1882, informal sailboat races were held on Lake Minnetonka as part of the festivities for the public opening of James J. Hill's Hotel Lafayette. That summer, the Minnetonka Yacht Club, one of the oldest sailing clubs west of the Atlantic, was formed.

In the 1890s, racing ice yachts, the fastest vehicles of their era, became popular. In a historic tie-breaking race against The Pepin Ice Yacht Club, Minnetonka Ice Yacht Club's 17-year-old Nan Bassett became the first woman to win an ice yacht race.

During this period, Minnesota boat builder J.O. Johnson developed an idea for a radically different type of sailboat. In 1886, his "Johnson Scow" debuted at a White Bear Yacht Club race and easily won first place. By 1904, Johnson Boat Works was in full production, and Johnson was recognized as a top sailboat designer.

Today, there are yacht clubs and teams throughout the state, including the University of Minnesota sailing team. One of our most celebrated sailors, school teacher Gerry Spiess, crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1979, and the Pacific in 1981, alone on his home-built sailboat, Yankee Girl.

Research Options

Guide Author

Linda Mork

MNHS Reference Staff

MNHS Reference Staff

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