Date: Monday, July 4th, 2016 – American Independence Day
Time: 0900 EDT
Position: Western Lake Ontario 14 nautical miles northeast of Fort Niagara, New York, at the mouth of the Niagara River
Pride of Baltimore II is part of a “Millennium of Difference Race” (my personal description): two sailing vessels of the greatest difference of time of origin in the same race. This is the first of five Tall Ships Challenge® Great Lakes 2016 races. Two vessels are competing: the 9th-century-era Viking longboat, Draken, and the early 19th-century American Baltimore Clipper, Pride of Baltimore II — only a thousand years apart in sailing development. I wonder if this could be a record for spread of time between vessel origins in the tall ships races around the world. It surely is for such races here in North America.
Right now, the 19th-century Baltimore Clipper is demonstrating what it takes to be able to go to windward (the direction upwind, or toward where the wind is coming from) rather effectively. The Viking longboat is doing impressively well sailing windward with her single big square sail. I would guess that, on average, she is 20 degrees less weatherly and about a full knot and a half slower. Earlier in the race, the wind was favorable for heading to the first mark, meaning there was no need for Pride to go to windward. Draken was still slower, but not by much. When the wind went right aft, Pride had to reach away from the rhumb line course to the mark to keep blanketing wind her fore and aft sails. Draken merely shifted her single yard to square.
This race may not see its intended/desired end. Draken is classified by her official papers from her flag state of Norway as a “commercial.” As a visiting foreign-flag commercial vessel, the United States requires her to take a pilot when in the Great Lakes. Draken’s pilot must live aboard the same way as the crew does. The great, long open boat has a low headroom tent for a cabin. This tent is crowded with off-watch crew such that one cannot even change garments while in the tent. Draken’s crew must be fully prepared to live as any wilderness or remote/extreme expeditionary adventurer. None of the typically appreciated comforts of a well-found sailing vessel exist, meaning no “inside” comfort and shelter from direct exposure to the elements, no personal bunk with convenient personal storage space, and no sheltered eating or lounging or get-together area. Their only choice is lying horizontal, jammed close to others inside the tent, or being exposed to the elements and eating like a camper. The pilots are a bit taken aback by this.
Fortunately, the pilot on board for this race is game, up to a point. The race’s time limit is based on the need to change pilots 24 hours after the first pilot boarded Draken. That was 1600 hours EDT yesterday. That debarking location is to be the entrance to the Welland Canal at 4 PM today.
Lake wind has been around 5 knots or less all night long. The first race leg was 15 nautical miles eastward along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Pride rounded first at 0144 hours this morning; Draken about an hour and a half later — not a lot of difference between 1,000 years of marine evolution, at least from the perspective of reaching or running winds (winds from the side or behind). The wind patterns have meant sailing as close to the wind as possible since rounding the mark. As I write this, Draken is some 13 nautical miles behind us, going a lot slower, and not pointing as close to the wind. Going really close to windward using 5 knots of wind strength is not an easy thing to do for any vessel. Typically, in weak wind, a sail vessel must steer wider than with stronger winds. Pride has all of her go-to-windward sails up, some eight sails that fill up the sky above deck to 100 feet above her sparred length of 157 feet. Draken has the one sail for her 114 feet of very finely shaped longboat hull. In stronger winds, she must fly, especially when not having to worry about getting to windward. During the first leg she could go directly toward the mark with the wind abaft the beam. Pride could too, up to the point when the wind went directly behind, then she had to veer away from the direct route and create a strategic sailing plan for jibing her way to the mark. Pride had to sail more miles than for downwind Draken. Hence, the actual time difference between both vessels passing that mark was quite close. Now that the wind is ahead, both vessels must tack their way toward the finish unless the wind changes or time runs out. Pride’s more up-to-date sail plan and hull form give her the edge over Draken. But with a stronger and more favorable wind, we are certain that Draken would lead the way ahead of Pride.
Captain Jan C. Miles