MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Strong winds turned a weekly sailing regatta into a rescue effort on Lake Minnetonka Saturday morning.
Boaters were taken by surprise when the winds picked up and created very rough conditions.
Large waves and strong winds were too much for even the experienced sailor. Four people had to be rescued by law enforcement, the rest made it to safety on their own.
Calm waters lapped against the shores of Lake Minnetonka on Saturday afternoon, but not far from land were the remnants of an early morning storm.
“We’re going to go try to retrieve our boat from the rocks,” Steve Bernstein, whose sailboat capsized on Lake Minnetonka, said.
Bernstein is one of several boat owners who won’t set sail anytime soon.
“It’s a bad day for the power play boat, but, we’ll do what we can and put it back together,” Bernstein said.
The damage to his boat is due to strong winds that picked up unexpectedly during Saturday’s regatta on Smith’s Bay.
“It was more than boats could handle. These boats aren’t made for that,” Hendrik Vroege, whose boat capsized, said.
Within minutes from the start of the race nine sailboats ran into trouble in at least three different bays. Four capsized, sending people into the water.
“The odd thing is, it went on for so long. This wasn’t one of those squalls that lasted 15-20 minutes. It went on for half hour and the wind kept going and going,” Mark Werley, who went into the water, said.
An unknown number of people went into the water. Some were able to make it to shore, but others had to be rescued.
“Homeowners who had seen the quick storm come in, and went out to help their fellow boaters,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said.
Extremely choppy conditions made rescue difficult.
“I was in the water for 45 minutes, maybe an hour,” Vroege said.
“We’re doing fine. Honestly, what I was worried about was hypothermia at that point,” Werley said.
All those who made it safely to shore say every sailor knows capsizing is always a possibility and, on Saturday, life jackets saved lives.
“I don’t get on a boat without putting one of these on, because, anything like that can happen at any time,” Werley said.
Bernstein wasn’t rescued, rather rode the waves into shore. Authorities say got out of the water without major injury
“Today was a memorable day,” Vroege said.
Along with law enforcement boaters at a nearby marina helped with the rescue effort.
If you want to keep an eye on wind speed or the wave forecast, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office has water conditions on its website.