Michael Winfrey, President of American National Bank and Trust, can’t remember a time when he hasn’t been around boats. His father had one when he was a child, and even though it was more about cruising around the lake, the love of being on the water was something he carried throughout his life. In 2009, at the age of 29, he was invited to crew during a race, and he fell in love with sailing. From the science of aerodynamics and trimming the sails, to the strategy of getting around the course competitively, taking different wind shifts, it’s a sport that continuously challenges him.
“I was hooked when I saw how sailboats can perform with a good crew and how competitive the sport can be. Every crew member has a specific job – it’s definitely a sport that requires teamwork, tactical decision-making, and understanding the science of sailing. I don’t think you can ever stop learning from it.” he says.
Michael’s home base for sailing is the Fort Worth Boat Club on Eagle Mountain Lake. It’s a hidden gem of a place — a family-friendly, full-service club that’s just 30 minutes away from his home in Fort Worth. The club offers adult and youth sailing programs through club owned boats; so someone who wants to learn more about sailing doesn’t have to own a boat to get out on the water. “It’s so much more than a marina. It has a wonderful history, dating back to 1929, with heavy involvement in National and International racing, including multiple America’s Cup syndicates. The members are amazing and love helping people learn the art of sailing on a basic or highly competitive level. If you’re interested in learning about sailboat cruising or racing, there is a fantastic resource right here in Fort Worth,” he says.
“Being on the water is a great way to unplug with family and friends — almost like a small adventure. It’s a way to put things aside and focus on what I’m doing at that very moment,” he says. He loves the camaraderie of his crew, consisting of 6 to 7 people, including his father, brother and his 14-year-old son who consistently attends the club’s youth sail camp.
Racing is one of the best parts of being a sailor for Michael. Besides his weekly races, he has other memories, including races in Galveston Bay and, his favorite, the Bayview Mackinac Race on the Great Lakes in Michigan. The longest-running race on the Great Lakes that has been held every year since 1925 - it’s a 290-mile race from Port Huron to Mackinac Island; Winfrey was asked to join as a crew member when the skipper, a fellow Fort Worth Boat Club member, asked him to fill in. This July will be his fifth Mackinac race—they’ve won 1st place the last two years and are going for a three-peat in 2023.