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!!