The Importance of the Inland Lake Yachting Association


Lucy Zinn

Creating a family through sailing

A regional sailing association that’s mission is to develop and encourage amateur sailing throughout the Midwest. The Inland Lake Yachting Association has accomplished that mission since its beginnings in 1897 and saw its purpose come to life during the first regatta that was held in 1898 up until now in 2023 where the origination is now celebrating its 125th anniversary.

The ILYA is the organizing authority for regattas of 52 member clubs that are located in the Midwest and surrounding areas. The A scow was the first class that sailed and over the course of the ILYA history there have been multiple different boat types, versions, and fleets that have been sailed in regattas, but as of the present day, there are seven fleets of boats, the A Scow, E scow, C scow, MC scow, X boat, Optis and the M15 which is a new fleet. The E scow will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in Madison this coming September of 2023, which is a big milestone for that fleet.

Young sailors can appreciate the Optis and X boats to not only focus on the sailing but the social aspects of the regattas. David Berg, Executive Director of the ILYA shares that the association is, “proud of our ability to essentially have great parties and great fun where not only the kids get to meet each other but the parents as well.” He continues to share that as sailors get older they become more committed and passionate about being a part of these regattas. The community and members of the ILYA are pleased that these regattas are “not only championship quality but also very entertaining for our members.”

The backbone of the foundation of ILYA is family. “The ILYA has fleets, sailors, and clubs who are all members but in general I like to think about it as we are one big happy family”, says Berg. Four to five generations of sailors have been participating over the years which makes for special and wonderful opportunities for grandparents to not only watch their grandchildren sail but to sail with them. The ILYA has held numerous generational sailing teams where family members compete together and against each other. Teens sail with adults on different scow classes than they may normally sail. It widens opportunities for sailors of all ages to have these monumental experiences. 

“I think it’s the special sauce for us, it’s the connection to the family, the yacht clubs, and the lakes that sail. It’s the cross lake friendships that have developed, some people meet their future wife or husband thirty years ago when they were sailing X boats”, expresses Berg. Sailors, participants, and members can truly say they have had outstanding experiences while sailing different classes of boats, watching the racing, and socializing at ILYA regattas. This community knows that for the rest of their lives, they will be a part of this strong association that they will always be able to call family and home.

This photo captures what the ILYA is all about, family. Photographed on the boat are Amanda Swaggert, her daughter Anna Swaggert, and her father Bill Allen, former sailing gold medalist. They are cheering on their family and friends as they cross the finish line first at the National E scow blue chip regatta.
This photo was taken in August 2022 during the inland championship regatta. A Scow races are just as exhilarating to watch as they are to compete in.

The Future of the ILYA

The ILYA community was looking for a new boat for junior sailors to maintain their enthusiasm after coming out of the X boat, and also a boat for adults to learn, race, and gain skills to sail larger scows.

In 2020 the M-15 was born. Minnetonkas M-15 fleet captain Tim Regan states, “The M-15 has universal appeal. It has never been so easy to sail in a fast boat.” This boat is comfortable, affordable, lightweight, simple, and lots of fun.

Within the X fleet almost 50% of the skippers are female, unlike other ILYA fleets where that percentage is low. Regan describes the M15 as, “the best boat for women sailors, they have been dominating the podium on a national level.”

The boat has potential to strengthen and bring in new ILYA clubs. For example, Lake Harriet added 11 boats and Minnetonka will have 19 this year, if more clubs adopt the M-15 as a fleet, they are more likely to join the ILYA regattas.

Regan expresses his belief that “this new boat is exactly what our sport and the ILYA needs to continue igniting a passion for sailboat racing.” The M-15 will sustain its existence for a long time.

This photo is from the first M15 regatta in Sarasota, Florida where conditions were exceptional and ended up being a smashing success to start for the M15 fleet.

Impact of the ILYA

ILYA sailors from the Minnetonka Yacht Club were asked to reflect on and answer the same question: What does the ILYA mean to you? Each of their answers resembles what the ILYA is about and how it has made an impact on and within this community.