Catching the Winds and Waves

The Medicine Lake Sailing Club offers fun on the water for all skill levels.
Scott Forbes & Barb Kunz sailing on the "Valhalla" on a breezy day on Medicine Lake.

Minnesota might be a landlocked state, but that’s no excuse for not getting out on the water when the weather permits. After all, we are in the land of 10,000 lakes and Medicine Lake, the second-largest in Hennepin County, is right in our backyard. One local group— the Medicine Lake Sailing Club— is already taking full advantage of the lake during this summer sailing season and they invite anyone and everyone to join them.

Founded in 1974 by group of neighbors, the sailing club is about 50 members strong. On Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons, they meet on the northern shores of Medicine Lake to socialize, swap sailing tips and even indulge in a little friendly competition. No matter your sailing knowledge, skill level or experience, club members are here to teach you the ins and outs of the sport—which, they say, is much easier, more affordable and more accessible than you might think. Whether you’re a first-time skipper or a seasoned sailor, if you’re interested in joining the Medicine Lake Sailing Club, all you have to do is show up.

Plymouth resident Guy Wray has been sailing seriously with the MSLC for the last two years. “I live within a block and a half of the lake, and I thought, ‘What a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday evening after work,” he says of his first visit to the club. “It’s a great release.” He says that Medicine Lake is a local gem especially for sailboat racing, and a surprisingly well-kept secret. “I would say that 90 percent of Plymouth doesn’t know about Medicine Lake, and nobody really knows that there’s a yacht club there,” he says.

But right at the French Regional Park sailboat docks on the north side of the lake lies the MSLC headquarters, and the lake makes for perfect sailing conditions—particularly for newcomers to the sport. Unlike a lot of other area lakes, which get easily crowded due to their multiple entry points, Medicine Lake has restricted access, ensuring a peaceful and picturesque experience.

“What makes Medicine Lake unique is that it's ideal for sailing. You can't sail directly into the wind, so the longest part of the lake that we use when we're sailing, the predominant winds that are coming out of the southeast and the predominant winds that are coming out of the northwest make it ideal for setting up our racing course—a Windward & Leeward racing course," says Mike Misk, commodore of the Medicine Lake Sailing Club who has been a member since 2003.

"When it gets windy, we are literally surfing down the lake when we're flying the spinnaker [a type of sail], and that makes it that much more fun. The adrenaline kicks in, and everyone's having a blast,” Misk says.

Members emphasize that anyone is welcome to join them, regardless of age or ability. From 8-year-olds to 80-year-olds, just about every age group is represented in the club. “We have  high school kids, college kids and right on through to the old guys like me,” Wray says.

He encourages anyone with even a slight inclination to come see what MLSC is all about. He also recommends checking out the local yacht club when you take your next vacation. “The biggest secret in the sailing world,” he says, “is that you can walk into any yacht club in the world and say, ‘Who would like to take me for a sail?’ and somebody will take you.” That friendliness is a hallmark of the sailing community, and MLSC is no exception.

 Just bring a life vest down to the French Park docks, and any one of its members will be happy to take you out on one of their boats. “Come and see if you want to do it,” says Wray. “It’s as simple as that.”