Saturday, August 13, 2016

J/Teams Dominate LO-300!

J/33 sailing Lake Ontario 300- Scotch Bonnet Race J/33 WEE BEASTIE Crushes Scotch Bonnet Race!
(Port Credit, ONT, Canada)- This year’s Lake Ontario 300 Challenge proved to be one of the classic challenges in the history of the race. One of the slogans used to promote this race was a guarantee of high winds, low winds, head winds, aft winds, cross winds and no winds! 

And, in this year’s edition, hosted by Port Credit YC, that all happened to provide challenging conditions on both the Scotch Bonnet (200 nautical mile) and the Main Duck (300 nautical mile) courses. These conditions were matched with amazing night sailing, or drifting as the case may be, under a full moon and warm conditions.

Light winds at the start provided a long spinnaker run after rounding the Humberview Mark (the first mark after the start) that then proceeded to die after the sun set. Boats that followed meteorologist Ron Bianchi’s advice and staying in shore were blessed with slightly better winds and were rewarded. Sunday morning the winds slowly filled in from behind which kept the fleet relatively tighter than year’s before on both courses. As the day progressed and yachts on the Main Duck Course came up to Main Duck Island the storm front produced severe winds with some of the toughest waves possible on this lake. Scotch Bonnet Racers got hit with the bulk of the storm that came through late Sunday giving them high winds, waves and rain to round Scotch Bonnet Rock and head to Niagara. Sustained winds through Sunday evening and most of the day Monday meant long tacks into the Niagara R2 Buoy. As the day progressed the winds settled to easterly and the waves settled into a manageable rhythm that continued to settle into the evening. Boats in the middle of the lake and further back in the fleet were treated to steady winds. The return trip from Niagara to PCYC varied with the time of rounding, but winds came up out of the north and held overnight. Light winds.

The Scotch Bonnet fleet finished on Monday along with a few of the larger boats who were competing on the Main Duck Course. Most MDC course boats finished on Tuesday and some on Wednesday under brutally light conditions again.  In general, J/crews did incredibly well in the race with such a wide variety of conditions.

The J/133 HOT WATER skippered by John McLeod won the Main Duck Island IRC 1 class by over an hour over some of the most respected offshore sailors on Lake Ontario.  Similarly, in the MDC- IRC 2 Class, the J/35 JAEGER skippered by Leszek Siek took second in their class, just missing out on their class win by just 45 minutes.  Murray Gainer’s J/109 LIVELY again won here class in MDC PHRF FC 1 by over three hours corrected time- a stunner of a win!  Then, the sole J/crew sailing the Scotch Bonnet course, the J/33 WEE BEASTIE co-owned by Sean Matthews and Jim MacIntyre won SBC PHRF 1 Class and Overall!  Here is the story from the WEE BEASTIE boys:

“With a short crew of just three, including fellow Highland Yacht Club member (Brad Dent) the J/33 formerly known as “Daybreak”, was put through her paces as she faced a variety of wind conditions including the most ideal lake breezes of 8-10 knots to absolute calm to gusting winds of 25-30 knots.

J/33 Wee Beastie wins Scotch Bonnet Race overallIn the Non-flying Sails division, WEE BEASTIE III had to cover roughly 300nm non-stop around the eastern two thirds of Lake Ontario, starting at Port Credit Yacht Club, rounding a little stinky piece of bird guano-covered rock known as Scotch Bonnet Island off Prince Edward County, across the lake length-wise over to Niagara and back to Port Credit.

Off the start at about 11:00 AM, Saturday, July 16, the winds were light to moderate, which WEE BEASTIE III just ate up and she was ahead of Sula Sula, a C&C 115 that rates roughly 20 sec/mile faster than her, during most of the transit to Scotch Bonnet Island. The wind completely died mid-morning Sunday but, thanks to wind and current updates and reports from shore team Bonnie Reib and Jennifer Overbury, WEE BEASTIE III was able to take advantage of a 1.5kn current and light breeze near shore that pushed her well ahead of Sula Sula.

Mid-morning Sunday, the rounding of Scotch Bonnet Island seemed to take forever and anyone who has sailed anywhere near the island will know very well of the horrible stench that wafts downwind from the bird-covered bit of rock. After finally getting clear of Scotch Bonnet, the trip over to Niagara saw continually building wind as the J/33 just cooked along the rhumb line at a steady 7-8 kts.

Then, a few miles east of the Niagara Buoy, the wind really picked up. Just after nightfall, a steady 20-25 kt wind filled in that had shifted to directly on the nose. On starboard, the newly building chop was manageable, being mostly on the beam, but port tack was madness as the boat slammed into waves that were straight on the bow and barely a boat length apart. It seemed to take forever to get to that mark. By now, the crew had reduced sail to just the #3 alone and the boat was still doing 5-6 kts upwind. If they could just get around the Niagara buoy, they could bear off and reach back across the lake to Port Credit. It seemed to take forever. By now, it was well into night, but an almost full moon at least provided enough light to see the really bad waves before the boat hit them. Still, not much to do but slam into them and hold tight. The crew had long since lost sight of their nearest competition, Sula Sula.

Finally, they rounded the Niagara mark and turned toward Port Credit. The wind was still a steady 22-25 kts and the boat was cooking along under just the #3 at about 7 kts. With the moonlight, the crew could see building clouds to the west. There had been forecasts of unsettled weather, as a low front was expected along with a strong jet stream. Sure enough, they started to see lightning. So, they just hoped that they could outrun the now-building storm as they headed north while the storm headed east. It was a big one. Lightning lit up the clouds from top to bottom as the J/33 flew across the lake. Fortunately, the storm skirted further south and helmsman Sean Matthews was saved from that ever-nagging, “What the heck do you do if that sucker comes right over you?”

At some point during the night, the wind had subsided to the point where the crew decided to hoist the main. In the meantime, a boat had crept up to their leeward quarter in the dark, but was now only able to hold her position once WEE BEASTIE III got the main up. So, who was this mysterious boat?  None other than Sulu Sula!  Sure enough, as daylight came up, the crew of WEE BEASTIE III could make out the unmistakable stripes along the side of the big C&C 115. The two boats now made a “bee line” for the finish, flying across the lake at a steady 7.0+ kts on a close reach.

Right up until the finish, about 48 hours after the start, WEE BEASTIE III fought a good fight with Sula Sula, but unfortunately gave up line honours in the last kilometre of the 300nm race. Nevertheless, the C&C 115 owed them plenty of time and WEE BEASTIE III took first in division and first in fleet for the Scotch Bonnet Race!”    For more Lake Ontario 300 Race sailing information