Sunday, July 24, 2011

J/111 KASHMIR Wins Epic Chicago-Mac Race!

J/111 sailing under 1a at sunset on Chicago Mackinac Race J's Sweep Double-handed Podium!
(Chicago, IL)- This year's Chicago to Mackinac Island 289 nm dash was a tale of two races, the "haves" (the big fast boats) and the "have nots" (the smaller boats).  For the 361 sailboats entered (about 1/3 J/Boats), the first 30 hours after the starts at noon Saturday were near postcard perfect, Chamber of Commerce sailing. No bugs, plenty of breeze from the right angle, a kindly sea-state, warm air and brightly colored spinnakers punctuating the horizon as far as the eye could see. Nothing broken about this picture at all-- yet.  However, about midnight Sunday/ early Monday the dogs came howling off their chains and the lights went out. At the time, the 18-22 knots southwest breezes saw a large part of the Mackinac fleet sailing on port gybe headed from the Point Betsie turning point up through the Manitou Island Straits and headed to Grey's Reef Lighthouse- a 50 mile stretch of water.  Then, all hell brook loose and the maelstrom struck. Sheet lighting started illuminating the sky and it became a mad scramble aboard most boats to get the spinnakers down and either batten-down the hatches (and crew) or hoist heavy-air sails and press-on regardless through the storm.

J/111 sailboat- sailing downwind during Chicago Mackina RaceSailing on the J/111 NO SURPRISE was legendary Great Lakes yachtsman (and winner of multiple Mac Races), Dave Irish from Harbor Springs, Michigan.  Dave's commentary is both insightful and helpful:  "The race started with 230 miles more or less of running, from light to over 20kts of warm and pleasant wind. In the higher wind, with good sea running, we heated the angle significantly up to 150-155 TWA, and using the waves, sailed at speeds in the teens. We made significant gains on boats sailing conventional downwind angles. Fun and active too.

The real story of the race was the weather at the north end of the lake. The whole middle of the fleet, maybe over 100 boats, were hit with severe weather in the middle of the night, which resulted in the loss of two lives.  My call is that we had a 60 knot hit. The wind would move your body, it was necessary to hold on. The big wind was preceded by an hour of incredible electrical activity. It was clear we were in for a "pasting", but as usual it is difficult to tell when it will hit, especially when it's pitch black outside, and in the meantime there was racing to be done.

As the inevitable neared we got the spinnaker off, the #3 jib on, and of course Spinlock deck-vests on with tethers. The wind came and the boat laid down, rig near but not in the water. Lots of white water in the air and no clear line between. I won’t claim actual control, but the boat took care of us until there was a little moderation and it was possible for the crew to move and act.

Chicago Mackinac finish line tentReefing: We have only one mainsail reef, and it is 2.5 meters deep, big enough to make a difference. So two crew members proceeded to pull in the reef, one easing the halyard (on a winch), and one grinding in the single reef line, (also on its own winch). We had opted for the Antal cars on the luff so that part of the sail was under control as well. It is just a routine operation to reef the boat in those conditions, with no-one outside the cockpit. I think we partially rolled the jib. But within a short period of time the boat was all snugged down and we were back at work sailing towards Grey's Reef.

I have known fear on the water, but not this time, and not in this boat (have sailed over 60 years).  The J/111 was amazing.  It was under us, did not demand that we do dangerous things to manage it, and only had to be taken out of race mode for a few minutes. This weekend we race the Lake Huron Mac race, the boat arrived in Port Huron last evening, and we are ready to go. Bring it on, we have the weapon to play this game!"

From another perspective was the team on the J/111 IMPULSE sailed by George Miz, Peter Dreher and Mark Hatfield.  Said George, "This boat certainly had the fun meter pegged in the 'red' all of Sunday afternoon on the Mac. We had 3 consecutive drivers hit 18+ kts in 20-25 kts of breeze and in full control. The boat just likes to go fast with none of the drama we've dealt with on previous boats (George is a former Farr 395 owner)."

Adding to George's commentary was Karl Brummel on KASHMIR, stating that "the boat was fantastic in a variety of conditions. Saturday we were doing 6-7 kts boat speed in 4-5 kts wind with Code Zero. Sunday we were killing it 10-15 kts downhill in 20-28 kts wind with the 2A asym up.  Sunday, after we went storming by a well-sailed Farr 395 at 11-15 kts boat speed/ 155-165 TWA, I said, 'We should have named this boat HORIZON JOB.'"

Mackinac BridgeDuring the early stages of the race, it was apparent the strategies that were unfolding for the sailors headed north were the following:  a) sail the classic rhumbline of 21 degrees from Chicago to Pt Betsie,  b) sail West and up the Illinois/ Wisconsin shoreline in a "thermal" scenario based on various forecasters prognostications, or c) toss everything out the window (ignore all forecasts) and sail at least as high as rhumbline and head east overnight to be on the eastern lake/ west Michigan shoreline to take advantage of southerly breezes accelerating along the shoreline due to the massive heating of the Michigan sand dunes during Sunday's sailing.  Post-race analysis showed the best scenario was a combination of the 1st and 3rd options-- a very bizarre circumstance considering the pre-race forecasts from leading offshore weather routers that recommended staying west of rhumbline and away from the middle of the lake at night!  The boats that worked further east saw more easterly breezes (75-110 degrees) with more pressure until it went light, swung south and accelerated Sunday morning.  The boats that worked west saw the forecasted SSW winds of 7 to 14 knots and sailed mostly 6.5 to 8.5 knots all night long (albeit on a much longer routing).

J/109 one-design sailboat- sailing Chicago Mackinac RaceOff the starting line for the J/111's it was clear the fleet was split on strategy as outlined in the 3 approaches to the race above.  KASHMIR sailed by the team of Brummel/Henderson/Mayer that won Class 3 started at the starboard end with a Code Zero and simply sailed down rhumbline and ultimately worked further east.  Near them was Steve Dabrowski's and Tom Edman's team on NIGHTHAWK that finished 7th.  Going north/northeast just west of rhumb was NO SURPRISE sailed by Dave Irish that finished 3rd, but Dave made it pay by sailing more aggressively downwind (as mentioned above) when the wind hit the high teens/ low twenties and they moved into "planing mode" to pass other boats like they were pylons on a race course.  Near them was Thomas and Carol McIntosh's team on MISTY that finished 10th, sailing a bit more conservatively than most and apparently not taking advantage of "planing mode" to make large gains.  Headed the most westward, heading due north after the start were MENTAL and IMPULSE.  MENTAL was sailed by Paul Stahlberg, Richie Stearns and father Dick Stearns, taking the northernmost route and finished 14th (modified based on a time award for helping with the rescue efforts of the capsized boat WINGNUTS).  IMPULSE, sailed by George Miz, Peter Dreher, Mark Hatfield started north, but bailed at Sheboygan and played gybe angles across the lake to Pt Betsie, ultimately sailing for over 80 nm on starboard gybe at speeds up to 18 knots before having to gybe down the Manitous Islands channel northeast of Pt Betsie, finishing 11th in class.

The story was much the same for most other classes as they all faced the same trade-offs.  In the J/105s, Marty Symond's PTERODACTYL was 1st, followed by Mark Gurney's BUZZ in 2nd, Clark Pellet's SEALARK for 3rd, Tom Petkus' VYTIS in 4th and Mark Nichols' CERTARE in 5th. A very strong class showing overall.

The J/109s had a tough fight for first overall. In the end, it was MERENGUE's David Southwell and Jack Dau 1st.  VANDA III's Jimmy Mitchell was 2nd, yet again getting top 3 division finish over multiple Mac's in a row.  Third was David Gustman's NORTHSTAR.  Fourth was Don Meyer's CERTAINLY and fifth was Peter Priede and Roy Stewart's FULL TILT.

J/105 sailboats sailing Chicago Mackinac Race doublehanded winnersThe Double-handed Division saw an epic performance by a group of 35 foot J's (seen right).  Amongst the three J/105s, OCH! (Brendon Docherty and Patrick Lindenhurst) won the class, followed by GONZO (Ken Ganch, David Pikowitz) in 2nd overall and PHANTOM (Scott Vukovich and John Kalanik) was 7th.  The J/29 TFWB RELENTLESS (George and Kimberly Petritz) was third overall and a J/35 NEMESIS (Timothy Kent and Dana Felton) was 8th.  A remarkable performance for these J sailors considering the challenging conditions for two people to race full-on for 289 nautical miles.

Section 1 had the J/125 and J/145 speedsters (seen below).  They saw the right conditions for outright speed and they took advantage of that fact, sailing their fastest possible VMC angles while headed up the track to Pt Betsie.  The J/125 JEANINE III sailed by Jack Roeser was 6th and the two J/145s, Bill Schanen's bright red MAIN STREET finished 4th and Chris Saxton's VORTICES was 5th.

Section 2 saw the J/133 RENEGADE sailed by Thom Papoutsis finish 12th.  Also sailing in this tough group were two J/130s, Pete Stott's SALSA that finished 14th and Doug Petter's WILLIE J that sailed well to get 8th.

Also sailing in Section 3 with the J/111s was Mitch Padnos' beautiful J/124 SUFFICIENT REASON, getting 5th in a very tough class--- as we said before, this team sails hard, fast and have fun doing it!

J/145 sailboat- Main Street sailing Chicago Mackinac RaceAmongst the Section 4 fleet were four J/120s, including Matthew Songer's PERSEVERANCE that ended up a well-deserved 2nd, Tim Matheson and Glen Estill's ELUSIVE was 7th and Robert Klairmont's SIROCCO 2 was 12th.  Included amongst the 120s was the J/46 WINDRUSH sailed by George Hender, sailing perhaps more comfortably than all of us put together to get a respectable 11th in class.

Section 6 was the "J/35 class" and, sure enough, the "clowns" led everyone home.  Bruce Metcalf's BOZO'S CIRCUS was 2nd, leading the other J/35s.  Larry Taunt's BAD DOG was 7th, Larry Schell's TOUCH OF GREY was 10th and Jack Andree's HOUQUA was 16th.  The J/100 JUST MESSIN sailed by Adam Esselman was 4th.

For the Section 7 gang, you just can't keep a good woman down.  Yet again sailing a great race was the J/110 LADY K sailed by Mike Stewart to a well-earned 4th overall.

Finally, in Section 9 the two J/30s had a rough go considering the storm elements.  Nevertheless, persevering like their Disney movie namesakes, RAFIKI's Greg & Stephanie Moll from Milwaukee, WI finished 6th while INNISFREE's John Nesling from Toronto, ONT ended up 13th overall.  For more Chicago-Mackinac Race sailing information