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A warm breeze and the glow of varnished mahogany — it’s the season for showing off wooden boats in all their splendor

Last summer, the 36th edition of the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance and Wooden Boat Week brought some of the finest examples of classic boat restorations and preservations found on this continent to North Lake Tahoe. Nearly 100 boats from Gar Wood, Hacker, Chris-Craft, Riva, Century and more were on display during the first week of August at Sierra Boat Company in Carnelian Bay, drawing a record crowd.

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The three-day event started with the VIP Preview Day. With a limit of 500 tickets at $100 each, VIP Preview Day allows spectators to roam the docks freely to view the boats and chat with owners. After the opening ceremony, the live music began, and gourmet hors d’oeuvres and libations were served. Throughout the day, ticket-holders were treated to private rides on some of Tahoe’s finest woodies in perfect summer conditions.

Boats of all periods were judged against an “as-delivered” standard. Last year’s Marque Class, “Boats of the Twenties,” had a total of 15 entries — an impressive number for an era whose boats are becoming increasingly scarce. A third of these were vintage racers, built for only one purpose: to win races.

“The collection of ’20s raceboats was the best that’s ever been assembled,” says Kirk Pumphrey, Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance chairman. Each racer has a colorful history of regattas, victories and foibles, which boat owners were happy to pass on to show-goers.

Perhaps the biggest news of the event was that, for the first time in more than 25 years, top honors of the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance went to a non-professional restoration. Jack and Linda Bingham won the 2008 Best of Show Award for Jac-N-Lynn, their 1956 26-foot Chris-Craft Continental Sedan (see accompanying story).

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“As far back as I can remember, the Best of Show Award has gone to a professional restoration job,” says Pumphrey. “It was pretty special to have that award go to an amateur restorer and also to a more common boat — a Chris-Craft from the ’50s. But at the same time, it’s a big boat — very complicated with lots of parts. Jack and his wife, Linda, did an unbelievable job.”

“This proves that it isn’t how much money you spend, but the effort and how one immerses and educates themselves in the hobby,” says chief judge Barry Ludwig. “Professional or amateur, what is important is doing research on the boat and learning about what is correct.”

As the 36th annual Concours d’Elegance drew to a close, winds began to pick up, as can happen on Lake Tahoe. The traditional “Roar-Off,” where the harbor comes to life and boats leave their slips, was looking like it might be doubtful. After a safety meeting and a stern warning from the Coast Guard, only the most adventurous boat owners decided to head out of the marina, drawing the usual crowd of cheerful onlookers and well-wishers as the boats said goodbye to their time in the spotlight — until the next Concours.

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This year, the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance runs Friday to Sunday, June 19 to 21. Friday is VIP Preview Day, and the Marque Class is “Blonde Deck Boats.” Visit for information.

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"A continental restoration"


This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue.



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