LH 99 Report
1999 Lower Lake Huron Solo
As with any sailboat race it starts with the skippers meeting. It was very nice to see the faces of old friends and equally gratifying to see some new faces.
As usual the meeting was filled with good-humoured bantering. Some revolved around the actual distance of the course, the weather predicted and of course the fleet splits. Some of the competitors took advantage of the S.Y.C's Friday night barbecue. The competitors drifted away to their own preparations for the next day's race. Dave Evans, Phil Rubright, Dr. Kevin Hogan, and myself retired to the local pub for further strategy discussions. As is the way we got involved in G.L.S.S., business and many positive ideas were passed around. I digress, back to the race report.
Saturday dawned with a beautiful sunrise and a 10-knot wind from the W.S.W. with the forecast of winds clocking to the N.W. 15 to 20 knots. Sound familiar?
The start committee was provided by the combined race committee of the P.H.Y.C./S.Y.C. clubs. Jean Chorestecki, the P.R.O. of the S.Y.C.,was accompanied by her husband John, two members of the P.H.Y.C. and Lana Walsh the wife of one of our first time competitors. Many thanks to Jean and her crew of volunteers.
All of the starts were hotly contested. Even Hans Andersen who was the only competitor in the JAM division was at the favoured end of the line and dead on the starting gun. All of the fleets got off cleanly towards the first mark. The wind was just forward of the beam and providing speeds on my boat of 6 to 6.5 knots.
As I approached the first mark I noticed the spectator fleet that had assembled. Murray McNeil and his wife had come out to watch their son Scott sail his first solo event in a Mumm 30. That's right, I said a Mumm 30. As I turned the corner I set my 3/4 oz. spinnaker for the run to Kettle Point. Initial speeds were 5 to 6 knots on a dead run. After adjusting the chute and tidying up the foredeck I snuck a look behind me to watch the fleet involved in their various states of mark rounding. It was an inspiring sight to see.
Bill Dembeck on Artemm J was the first boat to catch me, closely followed by Scott McNeil on Canned Heat. The wind started to die, which is becoming a nasty tradition, and I had to switch to my very old 1/2 oz. chute. By this time many of my competitors had closed the gap on the lead I had established. Bill Dembeck commented after the race that he didn't know what I was doing to my heavy chute to make it look so out of tune.Then he realized I had sailed into a hole and had also followed me into it. Some cursing was heard from the vicinity of Artemm J. A frenzy of activity was happening on all the boats as everyone adjusted for the dying and very shifty winds. Competitors took different strategies for their sail to the next mark. Some reaching left,some reaching right and some sailing dead downwind for the mark. But where was Scott on the Mumm 30? The answer is, gone. Some comments were made that he was being very anti-social by sailing away from everybody.
The common themes for this leg were heat, humidity, flies and slow speeds. Also, people were picking up hitchhikers, small yellow and green finches who landed on the boats for a rest and to feast on the carcasses of the various insects on the decks. I was disturbed when they landed on my light spinnaker sheets and their minimal weight still caused the sheets to drag in the water.
The mark at Kettle Point came into view through the haze and the fleet was converging on it from all their different angles. Except for Canned Heat that was beating back up through the fleet. This brought about some more good natured remarks from the competitors, primarily those sailing in Scott's fleet. All of the roundings that I could see were done well. Not a good story in any of them.
Various tacks were taken after the Kettle Pt. mark. Some people tacked out into the lake and some people just hardened up towards shore. The tack towards shore was the way to go. The wind had begun it's turn from a westerly direction all the way to an easterly direction. This allowed the boats that had hardened up on port to make great gains and also get their spinnakers up first. Harold Beaton on On Beat made out the best of all the boats. As Dave Evans commented, "Harold just took off and gained about 30 to 40 boat lenghts ". I believe this is one of Harold's moves that provided him with the second place overall.
The wind again went light after the shift and the flies returned. This did not bode well. Some chatter was heard on the radio about estimated times of arrival and commitments that had to be met. Several boats decided to retire early and started to motor home. I always hate to hear this because as soon as this happens it usually only takes about another 1/2 to 1 hour before the wind picks up.And guess what,1 hour later I was doing 5 to 6 knots. It was a wonderfull sail to the finish line for all the boats still in the race. Canned Heat was the first boat to finish, followed by Bob Van Eck's Tango. The race committee was kept busy after that with more boats finishing in the dark. To compound the problem there was a race coming down the lake into the river. Boats were traversing our finish line on their way down the river. Also you have 20 or 30 fishing boats, freighters and you are flying a "kite" that has to come down gracefully. I almost kissed a freighter and Artemm J.'s "kite" didn't come down so gracefully. All of the boats still in the race were finished by 10 P.M., which is slow, but it beats last years times.
Everybody regrouped at the S.Y.C. clubhouse for Harold's hamburgers and watermelon. People were also seen replenishing the liquids they lost during the hot and muggy race. Finishing times were entered into the black box and the final results were tabulated.All of the skippers were roasted to varying degrees as they received their flags.One comment was that Harold should get a special handicap for being over 65. And they didn't mean a credit.
We had 3 new competitors this year with 2 completing the course. Congratulations to Jim Gee on Whistling Oyster for participating. One step at a time Jim. Congratulations to Dean Walsh for his second place finish in his first solo event. And lastly, congratulations to Scott McNeil for his first place finish and first overall finisher in his first solo event.
I would like to thank everyone for making this year's event a success. Stay tuned for announcements concerning next year's event. I have some proposals that I hope will increase the participation for this event.
After I locked up the clubhouse I headed for my truck in the parking lot. Murray McNeil, Scott's father, was ambling that way also. As we were about to leave Murray said to me "Mark, your group of Singlehanded sailors is a very nice group of people." That alone made the day an unqualified success.
Mark S. Gutteridge