(Mississauga, Ontario, Canada)- Every year, the western Lake Ontario offshore yacht racing fleet looks forward to what many consider to be the start of their offshore sailing season-- the 76 nm overnight race called the Susan Hood Trophy Race held on Memorial Day/ bank holiday weekend and hosted by Port Credit YC. It's billed as "the coolest race on the Great Lakes"-- and for a good reason, too! Especially with heavy rains, strong winds and thunder greeting the fleet immediately before the start of the race. Some veterans of the race would say this is "normal" Lake Ontario weather in late spring for Canadian sailors!
Overall, the J/Teams had an impressive showing in both IRC and PHRF Divisions. The J/145 SPITFIRE was 1st in IRC 1 Class. The J/35 CRIME SCENE (Steve Trevitt) took 1st in IRC 2 Class followed by past race winner, the J/109 BLUE STREAK (Robert Eckersley) in second. Another J/35 JAEGER (Leszek Siek) took 1st in IRC 3 Class followed by the J/92 SWITCH (Andrew Sharp) in third in class. The J/120 THE CAT CAME BACK (Graham Toms) was 1st in PHRF 1 class by over an hour! In PHRF 2 Class, J's swept the top three with yet another J/35 SHORTHANDED (Michael Pietz) taking first by over an hour, followed by the J/109 LIVELY (Murray Gainer) in second and the J/35 ZONE (Ken Bruce) in third. Then in PHRF 3 class, the J/105s took first and second with MANDATE (Terry McLaughlin and Rod Wilmer) winning by nearly an hour and a half over BELLES & WHISTLES (Gordon McIquham). It was a truly remarkable performance by these J/Teams-- congratulations to all! With seventeen J's sailing in a fleet of 95 boats (J's being leading brand with 18% of fleet), they took home the lion's share of the silverware- taking 6 of 11 class wins (over 50%!) and 11 of 33 possible trophies on the podium (33%!).
Thanks to Jonathan Bamberger, owner/skipper of the J/145 SPITFIRE, for the report on this year's Susan Hood Trophy Race. Said Jonathan, "As you will have seen it was a very successful race with 95 boats and, of course especially successful for the J's . Below is the report on the race as published by the race committee. For your background, it is a night time race starting at 7:45 pm and, being early in the season the lake temperature is still cold (52F) so full ski gear is often required for the 1.00-4.00 am watch!!
As to Spitfire's race - Leg 1 was a 19NM mile beat. The wind was still unsettled after the line squall before the start and we had 10-18kt winds with regular 10-20 degree shifts. We spent the first hour covering Gaucho (a Farr 44) and then took a different tactical decision on one of the wind shifts and Gaucho disappeared into the night. The foredeck crew got some good headsail change practice as the wind weakened and then strengthened again. At the Burlington Mark we saw Gaucho's lights behind us as we headed off on a tight code 3 spinnaker reach for the next 30NM leg. Gaucho either couldn't carry their spinnaker as high as our asymmetric or chose not to and they again disappeared. We enjoyed the reach averaging 9 kts which included several miles under headsail as the wind came forward. A 2.00 am a chili dinner and coffee kept us warm and alert as did watching for shipping exiting the Welland canal.
The last 25 NM leg had very variable conditions starting under code 3 spinnaker and then switching back and forth between our #1headsail and code3. By 5.30 am as it got light we were in fog, flying our code 0 when we saw the ghostly sight of the top 10 feet of Gaucho's rig appearing above the fog slightly downwind and ahead of us. The fight for line honours was on but the wind was fading fast. Gaucho climbed up to our windward under headsail as we steadily caught up with them. As we approached shore the wind fell aft and Gaucho switched to spinnaker and we also peeled to our code 3 for the final minutes and we ghosted over the line at 1.5 kts and 24 seconds behind Gaucho! Amazing race!"
The Race Committee's description of the race follows: "The 2013 Susan Hood Trophy Race will be remembered as the largest race since the early 1970's with 95 boats at the start including 3 IRC divisions and a J/105 Fleet. As a major line squall came through during the skippers meeting there were flashbacks of last year's race that was postponed due to high winds. But after Ron Bianci's excellent weather briefing and the help of WRI WX weather system's updates the race started in unsettled winds which were up and down and straight out of the west with light showers, making Burlington a true Susan Hood beat. Depending on what division you speak to there was wind at the Burlington Weather Tower and there was the usual doldrums. For the most part winds picked up and held steady for the run to Niagara, which were west, south west making for an excellent overnight spinnaker run. But once again for the bulk of the fleet the winds went light at the Niagara mark once the sun started to come up in the early morning. The lead boats that made it back before 9am had good wind at the finish, for the next two starts it was a long series of light wind shifts for the last five miles that caused many painful light spinnaker jibs, peels to jibs, back to spinnaker and as time went on the later starts converged into the growing group of yachts trying to finish in light winds. It was a challenging finish that definitely had an impact on finishing orders with so many boats in proximity to each other after 75 miles of racing.
A special thanks to Susan Hood for showing up to our skippers meeting and our Saturday Flag presentations. It's always a great honor to have our namesake at our event, she is a wonderful lady.
Congratulations go to SPITFIRE, the J/145 skippered by Jonathan Bamberger, who came in 24 seconds behind the Farr 44 GAUCHO and corrected over to take first place IRC division one and First Overall in IRC.
This year was an amazing race for the Susan Hood Trophy and it is worth mentioning that the top boats in the running all held an amazing time difference on the rest of their division. They went hard and did not let up from start to finish. In some cases 49 minutes ahead of the next boat in their division holding the similar PHRF ratings.
Terry McLaughlin and Rod Wilmer on the J/105 MANDATE from Royal Canadian YC in Toronto were one of those yachts that won their division with a finishing time of 0:12:35:29 over 30 minutes ahead of the next J/105-- making them this year's Susan Hood Trophy Race Cup Overall Winners! Excellent race gentlemen, well done! For more Susan Hood Trophy Race sailing information