Mid-June on Lake St. Clair marks the annual Canadian Club Regatta, hosted by Windsor Yacht Club. The race is a medium distance nighttime affair that stretches from WYC at the mouth of the Detroit River, north and slightly west to the Point Huron lighted buoy, then back toward WYC for a total of 30.5 nm.
In its 49th year, the race brings many boats and crews from the Lake St. Clair area that participate in the Detroit River Yachting Association. In addition, it is an early-season shakedown for boats that typically will race in either or both Mackinac Races later in the summer. This was the case for us on the Farr 11s Trompe Le Monde, and since our program is evolving (read: a vast multitude of projects in various stages of completion), it was worthwhile practice!
A full day of boat work led to a helter-skelter rush to get crew onboard and headed to the course from Bayview Yacht Club, across the river. Once on the way, it took a few trips in reverse gear to clear the weeds from the various appendages hanging off of our bottom—two rudders, two daggerboards, and a long, deep keel. With boatspeed restored, we arrived at the starting area—late! After starting slightly on the back foot, we were in a long tight reach alongside the J/130 Pendragon to leeward. We owed them time, and with 15nm to go to reach the top mark, we were going to have to work to get ahead.
We’re still optimizing our sailplan for a variety of wind conditions and strengths. Now in our second year, we’ve started to apply some lessons learned last season, and we’ve added tools to give us additional options. For example, we shortened our Code Zero height and installed a new halyard. This allows the zero to run with a non-overlapping jib for additional upwind power. Since the boat loves sailing off the wind, this is a helpful concept for long closer-reaching legs. Unfortunately, the wind direction on this evening left us in a tight spot and we would need the third and fourth legs to help consolidate our positioning.
Recall that the Canadian wildfires and their associated smoky haze have plagued the summer visibility this season. Once boats reached the top mark, obscured by darkness, haze, and the simultaneous arrival of boats from various classes, it was somewhat comical to “hear” a mark before actually seeing it! Imagine the sounds of winches spinning and crews yelling at other crews for room piercing the dark evening. You look toward the sound, and the silhouette of sails surrounding a little green flash confirms the position of the mark. In truth, we had visuals on the mark for most of the second half of the leg, but in the darkness, with other boats, one green flashing light becomes many green lights and can easily get misplaced.
Around the top mark and headed for the bottom of the course, we had the right angle for the zero and J1. We were rewarded with boat speed that matched wind speed, and boats that were once ahead, began vanishing behind. This all feels great in the moment, but you know there is an impending reckoning of corrected time lurking in your future. In sailboat racing, sometimes the best you can do is all you can do, so it was pure concentration until the finish, where we had to settle for 5th in class and 9/14 in the ORC division.
Next for us is the Bayview Race to Mackinac, followed by the Ugotta Regatta at Harbor Springs. For our family, this is a special time of year. We have had a family lake home in northern Michigan for the past 35 years, so these sailing events give us an excuse to get together and slow down for a few days, trade sails for pontoons and paddles, and brandish fishing rods before returning to work and school in August. As the kids get older, we especially cherish these times together, however brief. It’s another testament to the enjoyment time on the water brings us, and the memories it creates. To any fellow competitors who may be reading, good luck out there, and see you on the island!