Lake Ontario 300

July 21, 2021 posted by admin

Achieving the goal can be right up there with winning the race.

Before the start of the LO300, Andrew and I had a chat about our goal for the race.  Brand new boat with untested systems and a very unknown performance range for sailing.  What sail should be up in what conditions and what could our boat speed be?  With no autopilot, we would be sailing solo essentially, with the ability to have a second set of hands for sail changes or rough conditions.  The watch rotation would roughly be every 4 hours.  We also had a good weather window on our side, at least for the first couple of days while we got settled into the routines. My personal goal was also to “go sailing again”. Its been years now since I have been racing on my own terms and to my own rules. I have missed it.

With all this on the slate, the goal was to sail clean and safe and finish the race. 

Race morning the air was light and very fluky but there was enough wind to be zipping back and forth at the start line charged up ready to cross the start.  This was the first race for me and Ellementary and it was also the first race since Covid!  There was an energy in the air like a spark of static electricity!  We were one of the smaller boats on our start line.  Elle is rated 60 PHRF pegging us against Beneteau 36.7s and the like.  Bigger rigs and longer waterlines.  Off the start we needed to bail out of dirty air.  2 boats were over early and after they cleared themselves we had a little hole to poke out and get some clean air while we worked toward the Clarkson turning mark.  The turning mark was only 3 miles away.  Then we would bear away for the long run to Ajax and onwards to Main Duck M9.  On our way to Ajax, the breeze was forward enough that we put the Code 0 up.  Others had their Asymmetrical spinnakers up but were carrying very tightly.  We thought the Code 0 was the right call…..we were wrong.  The fleet slowly pulled away from us, but without the perspective of how we should fair against the others, we weren’t sure if we had the right sail up or not.  Then the breeze went light….super light.  By now we had the A2 spinnaker up but we were all drifting.  Our competition was further ahead and still moving forward a little and we were stuck in a giant hole with the back of the pack.  Capitalizing on the opportunity though, we tested out the cooking system on the boat.

Starting with appetizers!  A little meat and cheese with a cracker is always a great way to warm the pallet up. 

The cooking appliances are a choice of either the Coleman single burner stove or my fantastic Jetboil.  I have done many many many many miles with this jetboil in the Mini Transat years.  Its simple and works every time. 

This Coleman single burner was where my solo sailing career started in my Thunderbird.  Ironically enough I set it up with the same mounting bracket!

Elle has a galley of sorts.  A sink and a surface with a shelf underneath to hang on to things.  To have a hot meal, either of the cookers needs to be engaged so it won’t flame up or tip over.  Then 2 cups of water get boiled.  With my “food bowl”, I pour my freeze dried contents into the bood bowl then add the boiled water and screw on the lid.  Each packet has an appropriate amount of time to wait and then its “bonne appetit”!

My first meal was a lovely pile of Happy Yak Linguina and Shrimp Rosa.  Very tasty.  Then it was back to business as usual.  Get the boat moving!

Light winds means you are constantly pacing yourself against anyone who is near you.  Any little stretch out on your neighbor means miles gained.  Slowly but surely we were picking our way through the pack with the A2.  Light and “sh….t” as they say 😊.  Then as we closed in on Prince Edouard County, the wind went forward as was forecasted. 

Very early the next morning we came around M9.  The kite went up and we started to pick up the miles.  Elle has the ability to be very fast if we can figure out what her potential is.  In racing we use polars.   Polars essentially give us a plan for which sails to use in which wind ranges and state what our target speed potential is for each of those circumstances.  We are developing our polars as we experience different conditions.  We have now learned that we can carry the A2 at 90° apparent when the wind is under 10 knots.  She’s a very flat sail with a very hi cut clew.  Unfortunately, we spent the next 150 miles with the wind dead down wind and with us gybing back and forth.  So the question is always….what gybing angle is optimum “VMG”.  VMG aka velocity made good is the speed you are moving forward in a straight line while infact zigzagging back and forth.   Your boat speed may be 6 knots lets say while you sail close hauled, but infact your VMG is 6 knots towards your target.  Its easy to manage when tacking.  The trick is to find the optimal angle to have the best VMG forward when gybing.  We are still learning our numbers on this boat, but I can assure you it isn’t 150°!  Way too deep.  However, we did pick up some boats along our kite run the whole length of the lake.

Coming in to Burlington, the wind was forecast to swing around to the south west and be right on the nose.  I kept saying all the way down to Burlington to watch for a shift.  Instead the wind was light and …… again.  But we kept watching.  Then, as if the play book had been written on the water, as we approached Burlington we could see the shift.  The smoke stacks and flags on land were showing the wind out of the south west.  The pressure on the water was dark and building.  Quick!  Take the kite down.  Kite came down, jib was unfurled and woosh, the wind shift came in at 20 knots.  With a couple of quick tacks we worked our way around the Burlington weather mark and reached off towards the PCYC finish line 15 or so miles away.  The weather forecast also was for thunderstorms, 25+ knots of wind, lightning and anything else that could role up its sleeves.  Our goal was to test the boat and have a clean race.  We had achieved that.  We decided to not blow up the A2 in a storm.  Code 0 was our plan B.  Yes, its an upwind sail but reaching was still an option and its a tougher sail and can take more wind.  Plus, its on a furler and if the weather gets really bad we can just role it up.  Yes, this was a compromise, but go back to the goal of the race.  Although we had gained some boats back, our goal was to put the boat through her paces in a long distance race and have a clean race.  It was not to blow up a sail.  We had also decided by this point that we did not need to do another lap around the lake.  The forecast for the next three days was a combination of 5 knots of wind and 25+ knots of wind in thunderstorms.  Andrew and I had very little interest in drifting around another 300 miles with an interspersed thunderstorm here and there.  Thursday’s forecast was for 35+ knots and lots of rain.  You all may remember Thursday….5 tornadoes touched down in Barrie and its surrounding area. 

Andrew and I had achieved our goal.  We knew what needed to change and we knew what was well on the road to working.  The water needs to be plumbed in, the fuel cell needs a better venting system, the keel trunk is still leaking but is manageable, the cooking works and the Happy Yak is delicious.  The nav works as is but doesn’t allow us to calculated VMG.  We don’t have an autopilot and definitely need one for double handing….nothing unknown there!

Next event is the Susan Hood, a short 75 Miles.  The goal is to press the boat fully crewed.  We will be 4 onboard.  Woohoo!  Here’s to goals, achievements, struggles along the way and having fun 😊


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