Turnback Canyon Regatta & Lago Fest
On Saturday May 5th about fifty sailboats of all shapes and sizes will line up for the annual Turnback Canyon Regatta on Lake Travis. The race, put on by Austin Yacht Club, started in the 1950s.
The long distance competition is the biggest event of the year for the Club which was founded in 1951 on Lake Travis.
A host of volunteers pitch in to bring off the race. People like Larry Ratliff who’s managing the race committee. His team sets up the course, keeps score and ensures a safe and fun race on the water.
People like Constanze Heitkoetter who’s in charge of dinner Sunday night after racers sail back to Austin. She and the Road Runners youth sailing group is cooking up a giant batch of jamabalaya and other goodies for the crews who are sure to be hungry.
The racers start not far from Mansfield Dam on the east side of Hudson Bend. From there they sail up lake for about 18 miles ending at a finish line near Lago Vista’s Bar K Park. To add to the excitement, the city of Lago Vista is putting on its annual Lago Fest (‘Boats, Beats, Arts & Eats”) at the park.
The event is open to the public, but you must register with the Club if you want to take part in the race.
Crews will spend the night at the park, sleeping aboard larger boats or pitching tents in the park if they arrived on smaller beach cats or dinghies.
Members are thankful again this year for a lake with enough water to race all the way to Lago Vista. In recent years the race was either cancelled or severely curtailed by a parched, drought-stricken lake. It’s been a good run since 2016 when the race returned to its full, long distance event.
A Busy Sailing Month on Lake Travis
Sea Scout day sails, weekly Friday Night Beer Can Races and Free Sail Sunday’s fill the month. April finishes strong on Lake Travis with the Texas State Sailing High School Championships.
Below is a great widget from Windfinder that forecasts wind direction, speed, air pressure and air temp at Bob Wentz Windy Point Park.
Austin Yacht Club
Commanders Point Yacht Basin Marina
Sail & Ski Yacht Club
Lake Travis Sailing Charter Operators
Lake Travis On The Water Pub Crawl
Lake Travis Marinas
Lake Travis Fuel Docks
Lake Travis Lodging
Sailing Paradise – Getting to Know Arkansas Bend
Carlos leads the pack, paddling away from the sailboat like Daddy Duck and his five ducklings. We are anchored at Arkansas Bend, having sailed there from nearby Hurst Harbor. It’s a lovely warm afternoon and we’ve invited our friends to sail with us on Lake Travis.
Smiles and laughter abound.
Arkansas Bend is like that. It’s a calm respite from the sometimes rambunctious main body of Lake Travis. In the two main coves bordering the park it’s easy to anchor behind the protecting hills.
Down But Not Out
One of my best memories of Arkansas Bend is from summer 2012. The lake was very low (for those keeping track, 640’ versus the 668’ it stands at now.) I was having lunch at Iguana Grill (now Lucy’s on the Lake). Overlooking the lake I was delighted to see sailboats coasting by. Like many of my fellow Austinites I figured it was just too dry to sail. Was I wrong. Right then I decided to start searching for our next boat. We had been boat-less for five years after our daughter was born.
This past Independence Day friends joined us to watch fireworks at Arkansas Bend. It was a great protected place to see the fireworks put on in Volente. Although it’s a few miles away, we could easily see the fireworks.
Don’t be the guy we saw last summer.
One of those very large – I’d say 80 to 100 feet – houseboats was chugging along Lake Travis and cut the corner at the Bend just a little too short. A few minutes later my friend Andre texted a picture. The aft end of the vessel was riding low. They had steered too closely to the northern edge of the lake. That area is very shallow and easy to run aground, especially when the water is just high enough to obscure the rocks, but not high enough prevent running aground.
Enjoy the beautiful, peaceful Arkansas Bend but go slow and watch out!
If You Go
I think Arkansas Bend is best experienced by boat, but if you decide to go by land you’ll find the Travis County Park on the north shore of Lake Travis near the city of Lago Vista. It has two miles of shoreline and boat ramp. On shore are several picnic and camping spots. $10 for day use per vehicle.
Map the Park: 16900 Cherry Ln, Lago Vista, TX 78645
Note the park shoreside activities are closed until late 2018 for a major renovation project. The coves and shorelines are still accessible to boats during this time.
About the Author: Steve Ward lives in Austin with his wife and daughter and enjoys sharing his love of sailing. Steve owns SailATX a sailing charter co. on Lake Travis and is an active volunteer in youth sailing and a member of the Austin Yacht Club. Email Steve at steve@sailATX.com or visit sailATX.com.