Beth Richard was 11 years old when her dad bought a 12-foot sailboat for her and her two siblings to use in Clifton Lagoon. He gave them just two lessons: how to right the boat when it tipped and how to fill the sail. By the end of that summer, Richard was good enough for solo voyages through the mouth of the Rocky River and out onto Lake Erie.
This summer the 52-year-old computer chip-design engineer returns from California to Lake Erie as the skipper of SFST Team Lightning Bug during her first Gay Games sailing competition.
For Richard, it's a charmed homecoming. She learned to race at Edgewater Yacht Club, where the regatta is being held. Although she won't be working with her regular crew — which includes her spouse Teresa — Richard is looking forward to teaming up with veteran Gay Games competitors, including her cousin Suzi Conroy.
"Cleveland isn't known to be the big gay metropolis like San Francisco or Provincetown, Massachusetts, or Key West, Florida," Richard says. "I think [it's] going to change people's attitudes about Cleveland."
The team will sail in the competitive division of the regatta, racing a Lightning sailboat (a 19-foot long, 700-pound dinghy) around a series of buoys to earn points for top positions. They'll sail three times a day for five days. While the women won't race together until the games, they have been training individually.
"I'm racing my Lightning and sailing as much as I can to really get tuned in to proper sail trim for speed," says Richard. "I'm working on stretching and fitness as well so that I'm not totally dead after five consecutive days of racing."