20 July 2010
16 July 2010
The Chicago – Michigan City Race!
Well, another Friday, another Friday night race!
This was the 118th (I think) running of the oldest annual freshwater long distance race. For the past 6 years, the race has been run as a shoreline tour, with the same distance as the MI City race, but MI City YC finally had their crap together again to host a proper race, and we were off and running!
We had a truly ace crew put together for this race. Don, Ute, David, Andrew, Anna, Carly, Ryan, and myself would be working our way across the lake on this night.
We departed the harbor after some timing issues, but got to the starting area with a little time to spare, which was good, since the R/C had pretty much chubbed the starting sequence. Events later would reveal that they were working off of an old copy of the “SI’s,” and had the starting sequence off by almost 15 minutes for some of the starts. Nonetheless, the flags rule the start, and when we saw our section flag, we slowwwwwly, ever so slowwwwly, made our way to the starting line. There was barely 3 kts of wind, but we are getting better and better at light air sailing with our heavy air boat, so we went for a pin-end start.
There was some confusion on other boats in our section, and they were just a bit leeward, had rights, but none of them had the energy to take us up. We followed Sorcerer’s line past the pin, and squirted out in front of a number of boats in our section. That is the way to do it! Thus begun the long slow slog across the lake (The Queen’s Cup, this was not to be!)
After about 2 hours of sailing, the 4 Mile Crib was finally passing off the starboard side. Here, we started hearing boats drop out. First Goblin, and the a few other boats decided that since they were only ‘turning and burning’ when they went through the finish line, they would rather motor back from the crib than from MI City, and went back home to Chicago.
There were about 75 boats listed for the race across, but only 30 or so listed for the race back. Of course, Section 3 has the stalwarts of the fleet, so almost all our boats would be racing back. One of the complaints again the race, and the venue, is lack of attractions. Really, I do not know what they are talking about. There is a beautiful beach, and at least 5 miles of shoreline with it, just a 10 minute walk across the harbor. Decent food, a couple of restaurants, and, of course, the weekend festivals that Michigan City seems to host every time we come through. Best of all, we got to watch a cardboard boat regatta on Saturday! These were racers who had picked up their cardboard, designed and built, and painted, and taped, and styled, their own boats, and raced them against each other in a quite spirited competition, in the harbor. We watched the kids event, and it was a hoot! What a great time!
Back to the racing---
After nearly 3 hours and 35 minutes of racing East, Chicago was still seemingly a stone’s throw from our transom. The wind, however, did start picking up, and we were able to start really sailing. We managed to get about 5 kts of boat speed, and then slowly nearly 6 knots. I helmed for about 10 miles, and got us up and running while Don took a much deserved rest form his light air work. Around 2300, we could see a boat behind us that was slowly overtaking us, and the sail plan was impressive. We could see the square main sail, and as they passed us, we were hailed “Hey Maskwa!” So we were able to say hi to our friends on Caliente as the cruised passed us in the night.
Slowly the wind built, we had our workhorse spinnaker up, and we continued East. As dawn started to break, we had 3 miles of race left, and had 3 boats in our sights—2 from our section, On Edge and Sorcerer, and the T-10, Erica. We were slowly gaining ground on all 3 boats, but it was looking more and more like we would run out of lake before we passed them. Really, if we had another mile, maybe 1.5 to the finish, we would have passed them We passed Erica about a mile before the finish, and, well sailed boat that she is, they were the 1st Place T-10. All we needed was another 2 miles of lake!!
But, the race was over, and we dropped our sails and motored into the harbor. The finish line had been set up apparently backwards from the course we expected. However, the SSIs take precedence, so we knew to finish with the committee boat to starboard, even if it meant backtracking to the finish a little bit. At least 1 boat was DNF because of this. There were numerous protests and requests for redress from boats in the fleet. This does happen, and you can make all kinds of cases on how badly R/C can handle a race; WE were R/C for Sundays race, so we knew we did not want to make those big errors!!
Once in, we saw with falling hearts, quite a few boats from our section. In addition to finishing behind On Edge and Sorcerer, we saw Northstar, Michela, and at least one other boat from our section on the sea wall. Bummer. We ended up 6th in our section, but we had a great race over, and it was time to take a nap and have some fun in the sun!
The weather was excellent, so we cleaned up the boat, derigged, and got ready to party. Young David, Andrew, and Anna had to leave early, so they were sent off to the train, and Ryan got picked up, so Ute, Carly, Don and I were able to enjoy the cardboard boat races, swim in the perfect 75F water, and have fun making friends on the beach.
We were out by the “No Wake” zone buoys, and Ute mentioned, upon seeing one of the close by, that she had never been on a jet ski. The guy motored slowly by, and I waved him down, and said that our friend had never been on one before. He replied that she should take a ride, but didn’t offer! He then lopped a line around the buoy, and asked us where we were from. We replied “Chicago,” and he said that there was a lot of that around there. He was from Arizona, and wow, “I just tied my jet ski to that buoy!” Yup, he was on drugs.. some kinds of drugs, we decided. He swam up to the beach, and we could not figure out where we could tow his jet ski to, to mess with his head.
In the evening, after another nap or two, we had a great time hanging out with the gangs from Caliente, On Edge, and I am sure some other boats. Abby joined us late afternoon, and we all just had a good evening. Nothing too crazy, but a very good time.
We started out early for our R/C work, and found that Mi City had layed on a 40’ trawler for us to work from. We knew we did not have an orange section flag, so Don found one flapping in the breeze along the sea wall, and I am not sure who he sweet talked into letting us borrow it, but it was on board when we left the harbor. On the way out, we were sorting the flags for the start, and realized that we did not have a “Line flag,” the official committee boat end of the starting line. Well, conveniently, Ute had worn her orange shirt, so we grabbed that off of her and hoisted it up! We did not hear a single comment on the flag, so most likely nobody noticed… ;)
We got our races off, and then motored back in. Got our act together on Maskwa, and started motoring across the lake. The water temperature was almost 79F, so we took a quick break to stop and jump in; I think the motor was down for less than 5 minutes.
It was a great weekend, and we had a great time. Undoubtedly, having so few boats made the party in Mi City a little less rowdy, but we managed to have a good time after all. Their loss!!
Looking forward to the Mac Race, coming soon!!
Well, that started out interesting, and only got curiouser!
Your intrepid crew managed to find their way up to Milwaukee in time to get Maskwa ready for action. Don and Steve had arrived the day before, and Ryan, Carly, Abby, and myself too the train up to complete the crew. We had only 6, but we were ready for a long night.
We noodled around, and got Maskwa ready for action. Harnesses.. check! Tethers… check! Life jackets… check! Jack lines… check!
We motored out at the time we planned, and started getting the gauge of the starting line, and our competition. The starting line was about 1/4 mile long, directly perpendicular to the course to Grand Haven, Michigan. 63m iles of night racing awaited us.
Interesting note—there is a rule in their SSIs; If you are OCS (On Course Side, or over the starting line) within 1 (one) minute of the start, you would be assessed a 30 minute penalty added to your final sailing time. Yow! Let’s not do that!! It’s a 63 mile race; we can fall short of the starting line by a boatlength. No need to be terribly aggressive.
There was a decent wind out of the S/SE, so we had the #2 up, since we only had a couple hundred lbs of rail meat. As we were fetching to the starting line, a boat leeward of us came charging across the right 3rd of the fleet, and took everyone out of the picture. Then, they didn’t even start properly, they passed between the starting mark and the guard boat. What a maroon.
We had a decent start, given the circumstances, although we had to spot Captain Blood line honors at our end of the line.
We worked our way East, and slowly but surely, we picked off boats in our section, passing them to windward, just easing ahead. Finally as night was falling, we passed Captain Blood; The only boat we could not account for was RedRum; we knew that they were low of us, but we had passed forward at least 3 sections that started ahead of us, so we also knew our position going into the night was good. As far as we could tell, watching other boats, we had consolidated our lead, and were in 1st place in our section.
Nightfall ended, and we were able to get the spinnaker up. We had to head off North, or low of course a little bit, but the wind seemed to be clocking around, and we would be feeling our way up to our course again. The wind did not shift in any time that we needed, so we did another sail change, and this time we put the #1 up, as we were cracked off the wind a little, so we could have the larger sail up.
Interesting note when shorthanded.. when you have people doing double duties, everyone really pays attention. We had Steve trimming main and loading the pre-guy. We had Ryan raising the inboard end of the pole, then jumping the halyard, then falling off to bring in the jib, and then coming back to grind for Abby, who was flying the chute. Carly freed the spin gear, lifted the outboard end of the pole to clear the bow pulpit, helped the chute out of the bag for the hoist, and then went forward to bring the jib down. It was quite an effort for every sail change!
As night continued, we settled in and worked on working our way past a few more boats. The wind kept shifting back and forth, so we went between the #1 and the Spin a few more times, and then the wind clocked back enough to have the Chute up and maintain our course. The wind increased to the upper limit of the light air Spin, but we had great boat speed, and kept everything flying; we were a little high of course, but sailing at about 9 kts, probably a little bit more, so we were happy.
We decided to get the sail down, as the wind was making things a bit too interesting for our course, and the manpower we had. I went up to check on Abby, and asked her how she was doing. In the quote of the night, she said “I’m petrified!” IT was pretty hairy at this point.
Well, now we had an interesting problem. The boat than charged the starting line was below us, had a sprit, and was slowly taking us up. We certainly could not duck, and the wind had picked up to the point that sailing higher was certainly now an option. They were not passing us, since they were low of us, and sailing into our disturbed air, but they could point higher, and they had decided to take us up for some reason… just to play at night, I guess. We eventually luffed, and beared away, but it was pretty dicey for a while. We powered down to the #1 again, and made our course for the finish line.
Here comes the rain! The wind picked up to about 22 kts, and we were pretty hard against the wind. Don wanted to downshift to the #2, but I told him we had lost track of the halyards at the top of the mast; normally, this would not be a problem, but at night in heavy air, You really do not want a wrap up high with too much sail up. So, we soldiered on, and blasted through the finish line overpowered with our #1, but doing a healthy 10+ kts. No chance of getting the sail numbers of the boats in front or behind, so we started into the harbor, wet sails all around, wet crew, grinning and silly from the race.
Even going into the night in 1st place, as far as we could tell, we ended up 11th in our section. We are still not sure where or when they passed us, but we had very few lulls, so it is hard to see how that many snuck by, unless they were really low or really high. We finished the race at 0330, and had an average boat speed of 8 kts. That is a pretty good race!
Everyone stowed the gear, and then we all crashed for a while. We got the boat together, and then all of us but Don, had to leave. Crystal came up with Don’s car, so we boogied out of Michigan and came back home (quite a bit faster than 8 kts average!.) I was able to tell Don that his car develops a little him right around 135 mph, but it goes away again around 150 or so.
Great race, good times!!