Dr. Ronald Woody
A lifetime dream took professor Dr. Ron Woody far from the restorative sciences department this summer – to Lake Michigan, site of the longest freshwater sailboat race in the world.
Woody, his son David and six other crew members sailed a 35-ft racing boat named Coyote in the 100th annual Chicago-Mackinac Race July 19 – 22.
Woody has enjoyed the hobby of sailing for most of his life. He keeps his sailboat at Lake Texoma and has sailed with his family in the Bahamas and the West Indies, among other locations. While in dental school, he owned a sailboat in Milwaukee. His love for sailing started when he was 5 years old growing up in Canada, after a neighbor taught him the sport.
The Chicago-Mackinac Race, affectionately known by sailors as “The Mac,” begins in Chicago, sails north up Lake Michigan, and ends at Mackinac Island in Lake Huron. Its location was part of its appeal to Woody.
“The Mac is sort of a culmination of all the sailing I’ve done in my life,” Woody says. “I’ve always wanted to do this race that I read about since I was a boy. Growing up around the Great Lakes, it was like going home.”
Woody and his crew placed ninth in their class, finishing the race in 54 hours. Of the 440 boats in the entire fleet that competed in The Mac, the crew placed 110th.
Although the race is long – 333 statute miles – seconds count. Woody says the boat that placed eighth beat them by 26 seconds.
“We use strategy, weather reports, and try to get the best wind,” he says. “But when it comes down to it, the race still depends on instinct and basic skills, and that’s what keeps it fun.”
That fun didn’t come without some challenges. Woody says they experienced gale-force winds and rain throughout most of the race. In the last third of it, the winds swept down from Canada at 30 mph. The crew continued to sail – day and night – through these conditions. Woody says the crew chose six-hour shifts for four members at a time, but on a 35-foot boat experiencing strong winds, no one got much sleep even when they were off duty.
Meanwhile, family and friends watched the Coyote’s progress online, a special feature for The Mac’s 100th race. Each boat had a transponder on board that relayed the boat’s position. People could see online how the boat fared against others, when it was estimated to finish and its location. Woody says some friends watched with such intensity, they’d call the crew when it appeared online that the boat was heading to the shore – a strategy known by crew members to make the best time.
In the end Woody was pleased to cross the finish line at Mackinac Island. He shaved 18 hours off his time in last year’s race. The crew celebrated by tossing Woody overboard into the chilly harbor, a tradition for Mac rookies.
What colleagues say about Woody:
Dr. Dean Hudson, associate dean of clinical affairs: In the 30 years I have known Dr. Woody professionally and the past 20 years I’ve had the privilege of working closely with him, he has consistently demonstrated a passion in three distinct areas. The first passion is for his family, the second is for the specialty of prosthodontics, and the third is for is avocation of sailing, which is legendary among his friends. It comes as no surprise that that he would add this current achievement to a long list of accomplishments in his personal, professional and nautical life.
Dr. Michael Ellis, associate professor in oral surgery: Dr. Ron Woody has faithfully served both the profession of dentistry and the specialty of prosthodontics his entire career. Following a decorated career in the U.S. Army, he chose to continue teaching and mentoring here at HSC-Baylor College of Dentistry. Along the way he has continued to assume leadership positions in his specialty and the American Dental Association, including his current position as a consultant for the Commission on Dental Accreditation. He also is a past president of the American College of Prosthodontists, the American Board of Prosthodontics and the Academy of Fixed Prosthodontics. Ron’s dedication to teaching is unsurpassed. His expertise is shared in an easy, approachable and unassuming manner, and we are indeed privileged to serve alongside him.