The Lake Effect
The Lake Effect
Every year, hundreds of boats and htousands of sailors take on the Bacardi Mackinac Race. We brushed the salt off our seaboots and went to find out what we'd been missing. From our November/December 2006 issue.
Our bow team deals with whatever sail changes we throw at them with aplomb. Spinnaker, light headsail, small jib; we rotate through the inventory many times. By afternoon, as the wind moderates, everyone is burned-out. Our skipper, Fran, has a cast on her arm from her fingers to her upper arm that prevent her from steering, but she manages to keep the rest of us full of food and drink. Everything's looking good; the crew is working well together, we haven't broken anything, and if the breeze stays up, we might make it to Mackinac early the next morning.
When it comes to distance racing, I'm superstitious. Even if I'm navigating, I won't give an estimate of when we'll be finished. It's just asking for trouble. At some point during Sunday afternoon, as we're romping along, someone utters the words I won't. Late that day the wind dies for a long, long time. Most everyone goes to sleep and the wind gets so light we talk seriously about taking down the main to allow uninterrupted flow to the spinnaker. The leftover chop from the day's stronger breezes makes steering difficult, but it gets worse, as a swarm of biting flies takes up residence on board. By sunset, the wind drops even more; I drive the boat with one hand clutching the wheel and the other a fly swatter. At about 80 miles from the finish line, our GPS estimates we'll finish in four days.
At around the same time, the shears are whirring inside the Pink Pony, and Shaver's hair is floating. Thanks to breezy conditions on its part of the racecourse, Windquest has taken one hour and 12 minutes off Equation's record of 25h:29m. "We were looking at a forecast of zero to seven knots," says Shaver days later. "The guys were all mumbling 'record pace, record pace' the night before and during the morning of the race they were still carrying on. I was confident we wouldn't break the record. I was wrong."
It's a long night on Bushwacker. The flies render the cabin unfit for sleeping. Fran and Gerry have more than 50 Mac races between the two of them and are able to sleep while wrapped head-to-toe in sheets. By sunrise Monday, we're all knackered, but we've wriggled our way to within 30 miles of Mackinac. The smell of pine forests fills the air, and as the sun rises, so does the wind.