44th Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance revs up this weekend on West Shore | SierraSun.com

44th Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance revs up this weekend on West Shore

HOMEWOOD, Calif. — Every summer, Lake Tahoe is awash with ships of all shapes and sizes — speedboats, sailboats, yachts — dotting its impossibly blue, sun-splashed waters.

In August, however, there's a specific type of vessel from a bygone era that spills onto Tahoe: wooden boats.

Presented by the Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation, the 44th annual Lake Tahoe Concours d'Elegance — a gathering of the most powerful and pristine wooden watercrafts in the world — will be held Friday and Saturday, Aug. 12-13, at the historic Obexer's Boat Company in Homewood on Tahoe's West Shore.

"It's one of the most prestigious boat shows in the country — we call it America's premier wooden boat show," said Brian Robinson, head of boat entry qualifications on the Concours Committee. "We get boats from all over the country competing. We compare it to the Pebble Beach Concours (a gathering of rare and antique automobiles), but with wooden boats."

"There's probably more wooden boats on Lake Tahoe than any other place in the United States," added Richard Stout, foundation secretary of the Concours Committee.

'Racecar of wooden boats'

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Robinson said the 2016 Concours d'Elegance will feature roughly 65 boats, with the "Marque Class" of the show being a boating icon celebrating its 80th anniversary: the Chris-Craft Racing Runabout.

"We should have 17 of those in the water, which is more of those in any one place than you'll find anywhere else in the world," Robinson said. "They're a boat that have a strong cult following among boat enthusiasts. They were fast — sort of the racecar of wooden boats in their day."

Though first built in 1936, the Racing Runabouts didn't speed to prominence until late 1947, when Chris-Craft re-introduced the 19-foot watercraft with a split cockpit.

In fact, only 50 pre-World War II Racers were made in the initial two-year production (1936-38).

"There was a lull during the war years," Stout said. "But post-war, when people were looking for new boats, the Racing Runabouts were very popular."

The first post-war Racers, Stout said, were painted boats known as "Red and Whites" due to their distinctive color scheme. Later, in 1949, the all-varnished mahogany version of the Racing Runabout was born.

In all, a total of 503 post-war Racers were produced between 1947 and 1954, with the final hull shipping on July 16, 1954, to Truckee.

In terms of speed, the boats went on to set world record speeds in the one mile 225-E class (47.619 mph) and five mile 225-E class (45.330 mph).

Quite simply, the sleek Racer was a favorite on the lakes of California, receiving the most boats (more than 100) shipped to any state. The top destination, naturally, was Lake Tahoe.

'A prestigious get-together'

With Tahoe being arguably the world's mecca for wooden boats, the Lake Tahoe Concours d'Elegance annually attracts roughly 5,000 people to the West Shore for the two-day event, Robinson said.

"The docks are crowded," he added. "It's just a well-organized event — from the food to the sponsors to the boats to the wine — it's just a good time.

"Of course, Lake Tahoe in August is one of the prettiest places in the world — I think that's where we get the draw."

Additionally, Stout said the event is unique to all other boat shows because of its judging standards, which Concours is finding "a lot of venues are going to."

Essentially, using a 100-point scoring system, the Concours Judges seek to reward those who have restored their wooden boats to the highest level of authenticity and standard as they appeared when they were shipped to the factory, according to the Concours Committee.

Since multiple first-, second- and third-place awards can be won in each class, individual boats are judged on their own merit and only compared to other boats.

Keeping it fresh

And each August throughout its 44-year run, the majority of the wooden boats nestled in Tahoe waters are making their debut in the Concours d'Elegance.

"About 80 percent of the boats every year will be new," Robinson said. "It always keeps it fresh for the public, so they're not seeing the same things year in and year out."

Notably, to cap the Lake Tahoe Concours, a "Roar Off" will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday. This crowd favorite spectacle — the event's grand finale — consists of the boats on display firing up their engines and disappearing into the Lake Tahoe landscape.

Tastes, sights and sounds of Concours

Lake Tahoe Concours will include an array of tastes, sights and sounds all weekend.

Truckee-based High Pointe Catering will provide the spread for the Concours food court, and guests can also grab a bite at Obexer’s Deli.

In addition, attendees can bound to the Concours wine village, where for $25 ($30 day of) they can sample more than 40 different wines.

The two-day event will also feature a handful of booths, from Tahoe Luxury Properties (Lake Tahoe Concours largest sponsor) to Niello Porsche, the longest privately owned and operated Porsche franchise in the country.

This year, Lake Tahoe Concours will introduce the Gold Key Lounge, a 900-square-foot tent where guests can kick back and relax, sip cocktails and drink in premium views of Lake Tahoe and the fleet of wooden boats.

Meanwhile, providing music all weekend will be soulful recording jazz artist Erika Paul.

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If you go

What: Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance

When: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12; 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13

Where: Obexer’s Boat Company, Homewood

Cost: 1-day ticket $25 (day of $30); 2-day ticket $35 (day of $40); children under 12 are free.

Online: laketahoeconcours.com