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Captain's Log – Race 2: Fairport Harbor toward the Pelee Passage

Date: Saturday, July 16, 2016

Position: Bay City, Michigan

We started the Lake Erie Race off Fairport Harbor at 10 am on Monday morning. The forecast was challenging for all – a brief period of wind from the SW, followed by a flat calm, a 180 degree windshift, and then a building wind from the NE in the evening.

Pride and Denis Sullivan hit the line soonest, with them perhaps a bit sooner, but with Pride much closer to full speed. We quickly shot into the lead. Then things began to get challenging. The schooner When and If is racing this year- a beautiful, slim, weatherly yacht constructed for George Patton just before World War II. As the wind lightened, they began to gain. Pride is not often in the position of hearing a competitor’s bow wave get louder and louder; they slowly caught up in spite of our best efforts. The wind was hauling forward and getting lighter all the time. With the last of our momentum, we were able to squeeze up towards them until they were about 60 feet to windward and just behind. We were aided at this point by a phenomenon which few non-racers know about, but which I was counting on. A vessel’s wind shadow (the disturbance caused by her sails) actually extends quite a way to windward as well as behind and to leeward. Pride was able to get close enough, and When and If‘s genoa began to luff just as they were about to roll past. They dropped behind and to leeward. Then the wind completely died. Rather than drift in circles for hours, When and If decided to save their sanity and drop out of the race. I expect that Pride will have quite a challenge on her hands dealing with them in the future.

The wind eventually filled in from the NE. We were able to cross the finish line first, but I believe we lost to Niagara on corrected time; they have a great many more square sails than we do, and the majority of the course was sailed downwind, a very fast point of sail for them. Over the course of a multi race series, these things have a way of evening out. By the time 6 races have been sailed, we will have had such a variety of conditions so that the best all-around boat will be identified.

After motoring though the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair River, we got under sail again in the southern extremity of Lake Huron. We then sailed up around the “thumb” of Michigan and into Saginaw Bay, arriving in Bay City on Wednesday. The Parade of Sail into Bay City was on Thursday and it was mildly hair raising. The Saginaw River entrance channel is quite narrow, and at times, we had winds blowing across the channel at 25 to 30 knots. Niagara and El Galeon Andalucia, having even more windage than we do, chose to wait for calmer conditions before attempting the river ascent. We went ahead on schedule, but I had to wait for all traffic to clear the worst reach of the channel so I could run it at higher speed.

Bay City, as always, has been a well organized and gracious host. Next up is the Lake Huron race, set to begin on Monday.


Captain Jordan Smith