The Lake Ontario 300 is finished and completed as of late last night. Most boats finished head into the wind from Niagara with the nice wind that came up yesterday afternoon. Later into the evening the winds were variable and at the end of the day, there were four boats that rounded to compete in the Lake Ontario 600 Challenge.
What a difference is was overnight with high winds averaging up to 30 knots with matching sea's. After 3 days of light winds, this is a huge change for our Solo sailors. Around 1:30 am Revival pulled out of the race and early this morning Pearl abandoned the race. Both racers had excellent cause, but no injury or damage. Revival had damage - broken forestay - but he is fine.
Currently Upstart, skippered by Bert Barret, has rounded Ford Shoal and is doing a steady 5-6 kts up to Main Duck in a tight reach. Jeannie, Jeoffrey Roulet and crew are on a nice beam reach averaging 6.5 kts heading into Ford Shoal .
The following is an account that was send by text from Brent Hughes, which describes the evening perfectly and is an excellent read for many sailors that takes you through sound logic:
My phone, text and email has been pinging non-stop since I called the LO600 Race Committee at 7am to inform them that Pearl is retiring from the LO600, and heading to Sodus Bay YC, 15 nm from the Ford Shoal buoy, where I’m sending this message from.
I thought it would be easier to type it once and send it out, then to send multiple messages to multiple people....so please accept my apologies if you’ve “heard some of this before”.....
Firstly. I’m ok. And Pearl is ok. No injuries, no breakages, no minor catastrophe led to my decision to retire from the second lap of the lake, this year. It was just a decision made. This was my 10th solo circumnavigation of Lake Ontario on Pearl, and my 19th circumnavigation of the lake in the LO300/LO600. This was also my FIRST ever retirement from a distance race in my life....so the decision was not taken lightly.
But there’s two main adages that I like to live by; the first one I read in a sailing book years ago, and it states “An accident
Is nothing but a series of incidents that go unresolved”, as in....small problems get bigger, and compound or cascade quickly, thus leading to an accident.
The second was said to me by Wally McMinn, from the GLSS, my mentor when I started sailing solo with the group. He said, “sail hard and sail well, but if things go wrong, ALWAYS, keep enough energy to make is safely to a port.
Both scenarios have this just played themselves out, and I believe I’ve done the right thing. First, the lightning, storms, and massive (and I mean massive) wind shifts Monday night kept me up, awake, and on my toes all night long.
Second. when the promised wind filled in from the NW early Tuesday morning, I realized that Pearl had dropped 10 boats in the fleet, and that my competition had significantly closed the gap on Pearl. Hence, I hand steered (on no sleep), from 0500 until the very windy upwind finish at PCYC at 1405hrs. Job complete. 1st solo SH2, 1st overall solo (both divisions), and 8th overall in the PHRF Sperry Cup standings. Happy.
I planned to start the second lap, pop the kite, set the auto for 103 degrees for 130 nm....and get some rest. But that’s not what happened.....
Third. It was VERY puffy at the start/finish line at PCYC so up went the A3. It didn’t last. Within 10 miles I swapped it the much larger A2. It too didn’t last. The wind came back....with a vengeance! And shifted more N than NW. Down came the A2, out went the Genoa.
Fourth. the waves build quickly. The wind built as well. Quickly well beyond the forecast. All good. No issues. Fun, so far.
Fifth. just after sunset, I went to start the motor to charge the batteries. I’d maintained a half hour charge schedule every 6 hours throughout the first half of the race. Because the auto helm had been “working”, I cut this in half, to 3 hours..... I went to start the motor. NOTHING.
Sixth. Uh oh. Try battery 1 again. Nothing. Try battery 2 (house), nothing. Try both. Nothing!!!!!! Darkness coming. I shut off everything. Even the main battery switch. Wait 5 minutes.....at this time I see a ship behind me (no issue, just see him in the downbound lane, I’m just north of it). And, lucky me, at exactly the same time, a light comes over the horizon in the upbound lane (I’m just south of it) but I NEED to get this going. I say a little sailors prayer , turn the power on to battery 1, turn the key, And there’s the slightest movement......finally it roars to life!!!!! Crisis averted.
Seventh. But....the two ships. I check Marine Traffic, hail both, let them know I’ll stay between the lanes and not be an issue for them. All good. Both captains appreciate it......but (again), the waves are now....big! The upbound ship is very slow coming into it. The downbound ship is very slow to pass as I’m surfing up to 11 knots under whites.....I’m stuck hand steering (while charging the batteries), between the lanes (and thus high of my course to the Ford Shoal marker by 20 degrees), for an hour and a half.....
Eighth. I finally get to turn down. Now it’s really blowing. I reef the mainsail. I take in half the Genoa on the Furler...but I am careless in my tie off (more on this).....
Ninth. Both Upstart and Pearl are hailed by a cruising boat, a mile or so (????) to leeward, informing us his course is 115 to Sodus Bay (ours is 105 to Ford), all good...but I cannot get a visual on him with the far off lights of Rochester (any of you that know this shore knows there’s a ton of random lights here). All good, but.....
Tenth. I’d like to fix this knot in the Genoa Furler line, furl it completely, and get a smaller headsail and the headstay rigged...in order to do that, I need to turn dead downwind, blanket the Genoa with the main to ease the load, and work out the knots in 10 ft swells....but I can’t get a visual on the cruiser, and don’t want there to be a bigger problem (read accident) with him, so I soldier on.
Eleventh. I’ve charged the batteries for 2 hours now. Allow the auto helm to run for 1 hour while I have 3 catnaps, and start the motor. The starting battery is A-OK, but when I switch to “house”, the RPMs drop big time, telling me there’s a real big drain here!!!
Twelfth. So....now it’s 3 am. I’m 40 or so miles from Ford Shoal. Again. All is still ok.....but you can see how these incidents are compounding.... I do not have enough fuel to run the engine to charge the batteries every hour for the next two days (remember I’m entering day 4). And I do not have enough personal “fuel” to hand steer too much more without some serious rest!!!!
Thirteenth. The Ford Shoal marker is just that. A Shoal. A big nasty Shoal 4 miles from Oswego Harbour, with a small window for the rounding. Should these incidents all become an accident near there.....then I have a real problem.
Fourteenth. The wind is going to continue out of the N and NE for a while yet, with a long slog (30 miles) back up to Main Duck. Then go west......see what I mean???? Lots of waves. Lots of wind. Charging issues. Fuel reserves. Personal fatigue.
This all has the potential to get un-fun really quickly......my decision was made. But I kept quiet about it until I made the call at 0700 to the RC. At 0700 , still 10nm from Sodus Bay, I called Monica and told her, altered course to dead downwind and fixed my Furler issue. Then I sailed right to the harbour entrance before I engaged forward gear on the engine, officially ending my LO600 session......
The kids and I are heading to the 1000 Islands in 9 days. Pearl is in one piece. I’m in one piece.
My initial goal of finishing the LO300 was completed. The win was the icing on that cake.
So the LO600 Solo is left unfinished for Pearl in 2018. I’m ok with that. 10 of us signed up this year. I was the 8th to retire (!!!!). There’s two left; please keep cheering Bert Barrett on Upstart (double handed) and Geoff Roulet on Jeannie (fully crewed) to the finish line.
I made the right decision. I am sure of it. The incidents did not become an accident. And I had enough personal fuel to get to shore.....but not much more. I am very tired. Very very tired.
I’m going to now have a giant shot of Jameson, alone, raise a toast to good seamanship....and then go to sleep.
Thank you all for your support.
Brent and Pearl
Sodus Bay YC