Destination Gorge

With North American Laser Championships in town through this weekend, Cascade Locks is highlighted as world-class sailing destination

— Big-time sailing action is in Cascade Locks this week as the town host the 2012 Laser North American Championship from July 19-22. The continental championship is held in a different place each year and is in Cascade Locks for the first time in its history.

“We have about 160 racers, which in numbers is the biggest regatta we have ever hosted,” said Bill Symes, Columbia Gorge Racing Association president. “This race is the premier laser championship on the continent, and we’re thrilled to have it in Cascade Locks.”

To kick off the four days of racing and give brave sailors a preview of the local waters, CGRA held its annual blowout race from Cascade Locks to Hood River on Tuesday. For unseasoned Gorge sailors the combination of variable winds, strong currents and rough waters proved to be a true test of their skills.

Out of the 34 racers, first place went to Chris Barnard, 2012 U.S. College Sailor of the year. Bernard finished the 18-mile downwinder in 2:49:50, followed about a minute behind by Robert Davis of Canada.

“I came up here to do the North Americans and have heard about the legendary Blowout,” Bernard said. “I thought it’d be really fun to do a great warm-up event.”

Along with making the most of light winds at the start followed by staying in control of very strong winds the last leg, stronger than normal currents for this time of year proved to be a deciding factor in determining the top competitors.

“I did my best to stay in shallow water while staying in the breeze,” Bernard said of his strategy. “I had a bit of rough start for the first half and managed to grind my way back to get a hold on the lead about half way down the first run. There was a group of five of us dialed into the shore; they went back into the channel and I hugged the shore for a bit longer. Within about five minutes I had about two minutes of gap on everybody and that’s where I really made my big gain of the day.”

Symes said the history of the blowout dates back to the 1990s, but official records weren’t started until 2000. He said the record for the course is around two and a half hours.

“I’m still recovering from the race,” he said Wednesday, with little time to rest before moving on to helping manage CGRA’s biggest race of the year. “It’s a real challenge to put on a regatta with 160 boats from the Cascade Locks Marine Park. We don’t have the facilities of a typical yacht club so we’re sort of having to reinvent the event.”

What the Cascade Locks Marina lacks in infrastructure, however, it makes up for in scenery and reliably epic wind conditions.

“Cascade Locks is hands-down one of the best places in the country, in the world even, for laser racing,” Symes said. “You’re pretty much guaranteed wind every day, and the range the area typically gets is ideal for this kind of racing. On top of that the setting is spectacular, the weather is nice and the water is warm in the summer. It’s a great place to sail.”

Along with 150-plus racers from across North America, friends, families and coaches of competitors will be in the area through the weekend, making the event a significant source of tourism for Cascade Locks.

“I think people in Cascade Locks are starting to realize the benefits of having world-class sailing in their front yard,” Symes said. “It has taken a while, but more and more citizens are becoming supporters and participants of the program.”

Symes gave credit to the City and Port of Cascade Locks for their continued support of the program.


The championship started Thursday and wraps up Sunday afternoon. The base of activities and the best place to watch the action is from the Marine Park beach. For more details, visit

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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