31 July 2013

2013 Ugotta Regatta, Harbor Springs, Michigan


Calm waters and dark skies in Little Traverse Bay
Ah, Ugotta Regatta at Harbor Springs…. Why do you treat us so bad?

There are gremlins that live in the water between Harbor Springs and Petosky, Michigan. They have our name, and they enjoy the visit.

Prep Work
We had a great crew for both days of the race. From the bow to the afterguard, we were looking in tip-top shape, with Doug and Jean returning for a few races, then Whale, Ute, Kate, Mary, Kristin, Kristie, Steve, Don,  and me. Experienced crew, all ready for action.

Ready for the start!
The Tour Of The Bay kicks off the Regatta, and this is the best reason to do the race. The venue is great, tucked into the bay at Little Traverse, hills on 3 sides, with the open expanse of Lake Michigan to the West (so the prevailing winds can get a good running start at us.)

The Tour is a 9-15 leg course, up, down, and across the bay. We have done this race many times, and it always serves up something interesting.

As usual, it was a dead calm that we motored out into, and that gave us a break to jump in the lake (the water temperature was higher than the air temp,) relax, scrub the underside.

The “Harbor Springs Virgins” thought that we were joking when we said “Oh, it is calm now, but it could easily be 20+kts of wind in the next 15 minutes; we need to watch the water to see it happen.”
Hold my feets so I don't slide!
So, then it happened….

We got the wind we wanted, that is for sure!

Dang fast boat
The Tour of the Bay went well, but a funny thing happened. We opted for a ‘2nd line’ start, since we were slightly slow and didn’t want to get pinched out on the line… and then we just stopped. It was eerie. The front line boats went rocketing off onto the first leg of the course, but the 5 boats that were 2nd line (in the 19 boat section,) all just stopped. It was like there was a wall between our boats and the race course. By the time we all sailed out of the hole we had gotten ourselves in to, the frontrunners were all 500+ yards ahead.  They were sailing along in 15-10kts of wind, and we were just accelerating out of being becalmed.

We would fight the rest of the 18 miles of the race, but there was just no way to make up that lost time. We had a great race, sailed well, managed to get sails up and down without  a hitch…. But we never made up that lost ground, and you can see the results in the finishes; the 2nd line starts all have markedly different times than the front line starters. Bummer.
The Sleds are off!
 That was ok, we had some partying to do Saturday night, and then a set of W/L races on Sunday to look forward to.

More pressure inshore!
Sunday dawned with not a calm in sight. We motored out in 15+ kts, and knew it would remain blowing. We had good sunshine, happy sailors, and we were ready for action after the previous day.

Race #1 went well, we just picked the wrong side of the course. The winds looked like they were favoring the center of the bay, and they were by direction, but the boats that ran to the southern end of the bay had a good 8 kts more breeze. You can cover a lot of ground with an addition 8 kts!.

Race #2 was the best of the bunch, and now that we knew the south shore was favored, we hit it hard. The J35 Touch of Grey tried to push us over at the start, but we managed to duck them properly and hit the start well. We executed our tacks and jibes, and managed to come in 4th, which would be our best finish of the regatta.

Race #3 started with great excitement, as we got into a battle at the starting line with Touch of Grey (again!) but this time when we got our bow under their transom, we pushed them up and over the starting line, and kept our bow clear so they had to return and re-start. They showed their experience by catching us on the upwind leg (they are a faster upwind boat than we are, in general, but downwind they don’t stand a chance,) but we consistently pulled away.
Hike out!!

Approaching the finish of Race #3, we had a tight group of boats, including a Henderson 30, an FT-10, and some other fast boats, all of whom owe us time, but we were flying along in Maskwa’s favorite air… 20+ kts of wind, following seas, and a happy skipper. Regularly over 9.5 kts downwind, now we were hitting the 10s, and managed to leap across the finish line surfing down a wave with 11 kts of boat speed. It was a great rush, we all had big smiles on our faces.

We didn’t end up on the podium for this race, but unlike many other years, we came away happy and ready for more. Everyone happy, everyone uninjured, nothing broken, and a good experience all around.

Now we take a few weeks off, and come back for the Michigan City PHRFection Regatta.



24 July 2013

2013 Chicago to Mackinac (Part #3, a.k.a. The End)

Wash, Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
I guess we could say Sunday and Monday into Tuesday sounded like that. But more like "Drift, Calm, Breeze, Drift."

When I went off shift Saturday night, we were humming right along upwind at 6.5 kts; the winds showed no signs of lessening, and I fell asleep listening to the current of water flow past the hull.

I woke up to barely holding on to 1.0 knots. In fact, it rapidly fell to under that.

And there it would stay, except for short bursts, alllll the way through the finish.

Some things are hard to explain
George and I doublehanding Maskwa
The problem with slow boat speed, is that even moving around effects the speed of the boat. You need to make sure the boat is heeled properly so you are using the entire waterline, so you need everyone to hang out on one side of the boat (usually where the sun was beating down.) Speaking of which, we did not have a single cloud Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.

Regular Mac racers will recognize the biting flies. Of course, it was nice and hot, too, and with no wind, belowdecks it was a good 100+F, and nothing to cool you down; so you were out of the sun, but it was more hot and stuffy. Not always a fair trade.

Was almost a Stew Codpiece
We found that using the frozen solid packs of beef stew as coolers we could wear, we would bring our body temps down into normal range. Everyone was ready to sport the Stew Look

We managed through the shifts. We slowly worked our way up the lake; we actually had good boat speed for a few hours as we worked our way into the Manitou Passage, but then we were sucked into another hole.
Skipper by night
The good thing, is that we kept managing to sneak out at the top of the hole as it was developing. The winds would freshen from and out of the north, and we would always be on the tail end of the deal, but we did find a way to keep grabbing on to the wind.

It ended up being a 72 hour race. On the long side for SURE.

another sunset.... right!
Too much time to reflect
We all agreed that being on a slow boat on the Mac was certainly better than just about anything else we would otherwise be doing. So we enjoyed ourselves. You find games to keep your minds occupied, like come up with nicknames for each other (actually, we only looked for nicknames for Dave; a few of them stuck, too!)

We did not really see many boats from our section, which is unusual. Normally we go neck and neck with a boat from our section for at least part of the race, but once we were gone from sight on Saturday, that was it.

Don't even tell me I lost my toothbrush, too!
After passing under the bridge, it got really hard. We were 5 miles away, but we were doing 5 kts... then we were 4 miles away, doing 4 kts... then 3 miles away, doing 3 kts. It kept taking us longer and longer to work our way across the distances.

Looks like the crane is loading the Grand Hotel on board!

We had a big celebration at 1 mile to go, even though we were over an hour from the finish. We were staring at that lighthouse for quite a while! Thankfully we were south of the shipping channel when a
So close and yet so far
freighter came through; I am posting video of it here. You can hear us... you got a Lake Michigan Perfecta out of the video... a Lake Cargo Carrier, 2 sailboats, a Mac Island Ferry, and a powerboat that disappears just out of sight behind the cargo carrier.  Fun stuff.

We finally made it across the finish line, but with the TOT ORR set for Off Wind, we were physically behind many boats in our section, and winded up 10th out of 18, with #19 as a drop out. We sailed well, we had fun, and we finished.

We had great land support, with loved ones meeting us on the island. We all went various ways once we were off the island, but Maskwa will be back next year, ready and roaring up the course once again.

On to some more racing, now!



22 July 2013

2013 Chicago to Mackinac (Part #2)

Hi all!

So we all got down to the boat early on Saturday, to finish the prep work, and launch out to the lake.

Even though this was an 'early Mac,' we were ready to go. Kate and Mary Ellen had the food prep out of the way, Steve spent the morning tensioning the rig, we gave the waterline a good scrubbing, took some photos, all the usual stuff.

It was actually a relaxed morning. Loved ones came and saw us off. It was relaxed because we had done the majority of the prep work the days before. Maskwa was ready, and so was her crew.

Kristin and I had used the deck snorkel to get the bottom scrubbed, we rebuilt winches, cleaned and lubed them, checking for telltale shiny wear marks; everyone pitched in to scrub the boat from stem to stern, so we would have a clean house (to start out with, at least.) Gear was organized, sails were repaired, fitting were adjusted, the works.

We had a good section, although as I explained in post #1 on the Mac, there was a good chance if they scored the race as Off Wind, we would be at a disadvantage.

We motored out, passed in review of Navy Pier, turned to pass the check in boat, and then it was just us and the lake. Oh, and 300 other boat. And a Coast Guard Cutter. I am sure I am missing something.
Motoring out

We had 3 Mac "Virgins" on board. Mary Ellen, who has taken over for Carly as our bow girl, has been doing a great job calling the starts, and was on board for her first Mac. Kate, who came to us off and on last season, really started sailing hard this season, and won a good spot with her main trimming and positive attitude, and we invited our good friend Dave "Sabu" (a.k.a. Single Banger, a.k.a. Two Stroke, ) G, who comes to us from Denver just for this race. He has been sailing the NOOD Regattas with us for years, did a Tri-State a few years back. He sails his Sanata 22, Zen Tuna on the lakes in Colorado, provides excellent all around sailing skills, and is funny as hell.

Great crew to sail with!

We had our crew brief on the way out as we motored, and then we settled in and spent some time thinking about sailing.

The approach to the start went well, we had clear air, and away we went! We had bled off a little too much speed right before the start, thinking we were a hair early in the lighter winds (nothing like being over early in a 333 mile race!) and Crazy Diamond popped past us, but the rest of our section was low of us and not terribly fast.

We spent the rest of Saturday enjoying a fresh breeze out of almost exactly the direction we wanted to go, of course. But we were planning on a lull moving over the lake; pretty much every forecast had that included, so we wanted to be as far north in the lake as we could. We just did not have as much boat speed as we wanted. More is almost always better!
finally on the high side!

trimming from the low side
Slowly the boats that would finish ahead of us after 72 hours were working their way past us in the first hours after the start. Once we were up the lake, the solidified those positions, as the fresh breezes were coming from the north end of the lake, so they would get them earlier than we would.
Nite Hawk

In addition to all of that, we never saw greater than 10kts of wind the entire voyage. Usually some place in there we get a good breeze... we are a spinnaker boat, and we need some downhill sailing to really make hay. I think we had the chute up for a total of... oh... 4 hours?
1st Mac!!
Obviously not enough!

Saturday ended with us still moving along at a decent pace, but a little too far West of Rhumb for my taste... but we were concentrating on north, and that is where we went.

More to come, more to come!
preparing for the night...



21 July 2013

2013 Chicago Mac Race Recap (Part 1) -- a 'chat' about handicap systems

Flat... Glorious flat....

Hi All!

Well, it was the best of races, it was the worst of races... How's that for a classic start?

Ok, it was neither. It sure beat doing anything else for 72.5 hours, but it was a bit long and hot.

We hit our start right on the starting cannon. Perfect, except we had bled off a little too much of our speed, but I would say Mary Ellen called the line perfectly, in any regards. In this picture, Maskwa is the orange boat bumping the letter "N" in "Navy Pier." You can see roughly where the starting line would be (This was a few seconds after the start.) The red line is the Rhumb Line (most direct course towards the finish.) (land not included.)

This is a problem that has plagued us consistently with the boat; we just get creamated in light air. The slightly older boats with their 155 Gennies just scoop up that much more air to use to sail. If you look at the PHRF boats that tend to do well in light air, you will usually see that they have masthead overlapping jibs. That's just the way it goes.

Maskwa really starts to heat it up and come alive around 8 kts of wind speed. Between 5 and 8 we kind of wallow a bit, and below 5 we are forced to really put some heel on the boat to lay her over with no pressure in the sails.

So, off we went!

They were using the Off Wind handicap from ORR, which puts us at a wild disfavor over some boats we regularly race against. For instance:

Under LMPHRF, we rate a "72." Our 0.917 rating for OW ORR means that for all the time we race, our corrected time will be 91.7% of what we sail (kind of like a major league batting record, except fast boats can score higher than 100%.)

Under LMPHRF, Spitfire rates a "63." (So they would owe us 9 seconds per mile raced.) Their 0.902 rating means they will correct to 90.2% of the time they spend on the water.

Here is how those 2 handicaps play out head to head. We race against Spitfire all the time; we pretty much know if we should be passing them or yielding to them.

Let us suppose a good 40 mile race; we race across to our destination, and Maskwa and Spitfire finish at exactly the same time. There is no doubt, there is room for more than 1 boat in the finish line, it does happen.

We average 5 kts, finishing the race in 8 hours (because we want to play nice with the math.)

Here is how those races would finish scored under both systems:

So, in the PHRF scored race, you can see how Maskwa would have won by 6 minutes. In the ORR scored race, you can see how Spitfire would have won by over 7.5 minutes. Same race, two different scoring methods.

Now, PHRF also has a Time Over Time scoring system that can be used as opposed to a Time Over Distance system, but you get the idea.

One of the problems is that it scores you over total sail area available, and we have a massive spinnaker, whereas Spitfire has a little fractional chute. When we are going downwind, we have quite a bit more sail area. When we go upwind, however, Spitfire does lose some sail area, but Maskwa loses quite a bit more.

Another consideration that was brought to my attention some time ago was that ORR also bases a high percentage of their handicap 'weight' on having 20 kts of wind over a large section of course.

Considering that we never saw more than 10 kts of wind the entire 333 miles of the race, It is hard to justify that formula. True, we can best many of the big jib boats sailing with 20 kts upwind; we are still carrying our full jib, and they have most likely gone to their "2" or even their "3" by that point. (We would probably have our "2" up, but it is just a heavier, less roachy "1." Great sail, and our favorite upwind sail... we know when we are carrying that sail, we are probably passing boats.)

Having said all of that----

Every handicap system has a failure or three. One Design racing seems like the most simple, but even then they have to ok sail purchases, design changes are not permitted, etc, and people still cheat! How lame is that?

So we have to live with what we are given, we have to race the wind we have, not the wind we want. And this was certainly a race where we wanted more wind!

I'll end part #1 here, and come back with some of the fun and shenanigans we had on our 72 hour, 23 minute, 27 second journey.



12 July 2013

2013 Chicago Race to Mackinac!

Hi Maskwa Friends and Family!

We've been working diligently on boat prep, (parts always need replacing, things wear out, etc…) and
with only a few small items to knock out, Maskwa is ready for the 2013 Race to Mackinac!! (
We have a mixed crew of veterans and newbies, consisting of (first, the veterans…)

Don "The Bear" -- Skipper, Owner, Tactician, Driver, Strategist (he can do what he wants, he pays the bills!)
Scott -- Crew Chief, Naviguesser, Driver, Jack of Most Trades
George "Splash" -- Driver, Trimmer, Comic Relief, Jack of All (sailing) Trades
eSteve -- Trimmer, Halyard Jumper, Rigger
Nicole -- Trimmer, Spin Flyer

And the Mac Virgins of 2013!
Kate -- Trimmer, Cook
Mary Ellen -- Bowgirl, Trimmer, Cook
Dave "Sabu, The Water Boy" -- Trimmer, Mastman, Rockstar

(wow, we have 3 people we need to throw in the lake!)

Everyone brings more than one skill to the table. We are all practiced, bloodied, we have tasted victory, and we are ready for the Big Race.

If you would like to track us, here is the link to Yellowbrick, a global race tracking company that provides the transponders that they will use to track us as we travel the 333 miles from Chicago to Mackinac: http://gae.yb.tl/chicagomack2013 They are supposed to have an update time of 15 minutes, so you can really see how we do!

Yellowbrick also has a race tracker application called "RaceViewer."  There is a fee associated with following a race on your phone, however, VC or one of the sponsors picked up the tab, so you can download and follow us on your phone for free.

Maskwa is in Section 5. Our start is this Saturday, 13 July, at 1220. You can wave to us as we 'pass in review' off of Navy Pier 'round about 1130, or follow us online as we head up the lake.

A big thank you also goes out to our friends and families for supporting us in this crazy sport.

See you on the water!!