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Midwest Sailing's 'Mother Hen' Is Known to All

By Sam Wigness, SportsEngine, 10/11/18, 1:15AM CDT

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Candace Porter's contributions, influence over four decades of volunteering impossible to measure

“If I tried to tell you what her role is at the club I would be diminishing that role. Everywhere I go, everybody knows Candace. Everybody knows her because all their kids have been schooled by her."

Candace Porter was on a first date with an avid sailor named Dave when she boarded a 20-foot C Scow and embarked on her first sailing voyage.

Unfortunately, the high winds and choppy conditions on Lake Beulah caused the scow to collide with another one, creating a rather expensive hole in the boat.

Porter admitted it wasn’t the best first date, but she stuck with sailing, married Dave, brought five more sailors into the world and became an instrumental figure at the Lake Beulah Yacht Club and the Midwest sailing scene.

The 125-year-old Lake Beulah Yacht Club is home to 84 boats in four classes, including 32 C Scows that comprise the largest fleet of its class in the nation. From mid-May to early October – when Midwest lakes are sailable – the club races three days per week and relies on volunteers to staff events, govern itself and maintain its fleet. Porter, a 38-year member and volunteer, spends most of her waking hours doing something sailing related.

“All five of my kids sail, so every weekend somebody is on a boat,” Porter, a retired physical therapist, said. “This year I will have worked 20 regattas. I’d love to take my boat out for a pleasure cruise, but I literally do not have the time because I’m always watching a competitive race or on the water for something.”

Twenty nine-year-old Christine McNeil, Porter’s youngest child, said growing up in a house of seven sailors was wet, sandy and competitive. In the summer the kids were on the water at least five days a week at sailing school and walked the quarter mile to and from the club. McNeil said there constantly was – and still is – someone hosing down or putting a boat together in the front lawn of the Porter house.

If I can build a website on SportsEngine, anyone can build a website on SportsEngine.

                                                                                                             - Candace Porter

For the most part, sailing with each other, competing against each other and sharing equipment benefited the Porter children. However, in at least one instance, having multiple children on the water backfired.

“One day my sister and I collided and damaged both of our boats,” McNeil said. “That was an expensive day for the family. After that, my parents said, ‘If you are going to crash, crash into someone else.’ ”

In the sailing offseason, McNeil and her siblings ran cross country and track and watched as their mother devoted the same energy toward the program’s booster club that she did at the yacht club.

“When my older sister joined track, my mom decided it was a good thing, so we all ended up in track,” McNeil said. “She started this bead necklace sale, and we sold a ton of these things and made a lot of money for the boosters. She was always coming up with things like that and always attacked everything with full force.”

Through nearly four decades of applying this attitude toward sailing, Porter has volunteered in nearly every capacity imaginable. Her most notable roles include Commodore of the Inland Lake Yachting Association, editor of Scowlines, the association’s publication that reaches more than 2,600 people and the first chairperson of the Optimist (known as Optis) Regatta for sailors 16 and under.

Lake Beulah Yacht Club Commodore Steve Barth said Porter is like the Mother Hen of Midwest sailing.

“If I tried to tell you what her role is at the club I would be diminishing that role,” Barth, 60, said. “Everywhere I go, everybody knows Candace. Everybody knows her because all their kids have been schooled by her. People have seen her on the water from the time they were able to walk and sail Optis all the way into their adult lives.”

During Barth’s tenure as Commodore the club switched website platforms to SportsEngine. Porter stepped into the role of webmaster, recruited McNeil as her assistant and contacted SportsEngine in May 2017. In her initial conversation with Senior Territory Manager Jamey Kohlbeck, Porter said, “If I can build a website on SportsEngine, anyone can build a website on SportsEngine.”


Click to view the Lake Beulah Yacht Club site

With Porter at the helm, the Lake Beulah Yacht Club site is an incredibly robust, organized and well-designed website. The club’s hectic summer calendar is meticulously maintained and accessible to its members. Porter also transferred a decade’s-worth of racing results, documentation and photos for members to reference at a moment’s notice.

Perhaps the biggest impact the new platform provided was in registration. Before the switch, the club’s treasurer (a position Porter held for a period) collected, recorded and stored checks and registration documents by hand. McNeil recalls members dropping cash boxes off at the house for Porter to handle. Now operated through SportsEngine, the club’s annual registration is entirely online, which saves a tremendous amount of hassle for the club’s members and volunteers, aside from a few octogenarians that are still refining their computer skills.

“It would be hard to estimated how much time we’ve saved because there used to be so many people involved,” Barth, who held several positions on the ladder to Commodore, said. “From creating forms, to printing them, addressing them, stamping them then sitting around waiting for replies. It used to take multiple trips to the post office to collect them, then we’d manually record them and track who signed up for which classes. There ended up being a lot of hiccups and things to watch out for.”

The time saved through online registration has allowed Porter to focus more on promoting sailing at the youth levels, watching her own children race and sneaking in a few extra hours of sleep.

“I’m up to seven hours a night, which is about three hours more than I got before I retired,” Porter said with a laugh.

Despite her best efforts to fly under the radar, Porter was recognized for her devotion to sailing in 2017 with the US Sailing’s C.R.E.W. Award. Her efforts at Lake Beulah have also produced two Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year in Stephanie Roble (2014) and Annie Haeger (2015).

Haeger competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, when more than 15 club members travel to watch her race. Roble is making a strong bid for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with the same support system.

McNeil, who grew up sailing with Roble and Haeger, joked that there must be something in the water of Lake Beulah but knows that the club members’ success begins onshore.

“The club is like a family, it’s so supportive of anyone that shows the drive to take things up a notch,” McNeil said. “Beulah is very competitive, and very deep. The club just has the support and drive and passion to make sailors competitive. We also do a great job of fundraising and supporting sailors that way.”

Barth said there is a strong sense of community on Lake Beulah – both within the yacht club and outside of it.

“The philosophy on the lake is, ‘What can we do to improve sailing for everybody?’ ” Barth said. “We are always trying to improve people at the bottom, middle and top because if you improve your competition, you make everybody better.”

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