A Wild and Wooly Day on Lake St. Clair

Combine a shallow lake with a strong cold front, and you end up with some challenging conditions, as sailors racing in the 2008 Sperry Top-Sider Detroit NOOD discovered during the second day of racing

2008 Sperry Top-Sider Detroit NOOD Day 2
Another day of big breeze gave sailors in the 2008 Sperry Topsider a challenging day of racing. The chop was bigger, the wind stronger, and once again, rigs came down.Tony Bessinger

With windspeeds topping 36 knots on parts of Lake St. Clair, it was a survival day for many of the Sperry Top-Sider Detroit NOOD sailors on the second day of racing. Some survived, some didn't, as Will Harris, who is sailing on Richard Reid's Melges 24 Zingara can attest. They were on the first beat of the first race of the day, and were standing in sixth overall in the 24-boat fleet when their nightmare began. "We got mugged," said Harris. "Our mast got stolen by another Canadian Melges 24. We came in looking like an aircraft carrier and they came in with our mast hanging off their masthead. It was fairly straightforward, we came in on starboard and they did a late duck and had to duck too hard, they were hiking too hard and the rigs locked. Our PBO backstay got hooked and got caught inside the exit box of their spinnaker halyard, so we couldn't get it out and had to unhook." Repairs won't be possible, according to Harris. "Our mast is in three pieces," he said, "and one of the pieces is in the lake, so I don't think it's going to buff out." Since their series is over, Harris and the rest of the Ziungara team have made other plans for the remainder of the series. "We're going to get drunk," he said, "and you can use the pictures for Dr. Crash as long as our boat is not in the frame."

Len Strahl., the skipper of Lionheart, which is sailing in the PHRF Level 123 class also had a real bad day. "It started out good," he said. "We managed to get the No. 3 up and get everything settled in and then we were lucky enough to pull off a third in the first race. Unfortunately, in our second race, with the heavy air and the velocity peaking over 30, our track for the No. 3 started to lift off the deck, so we had to retire from the race, and that was the end of our day, but we hung around and took a few pictures, then we headed home for Windsor. We'll work on the boat all night if we have to and we'll be out on the course tomorrow."

Not everyone had a bad day. Eric Peterson the tactician of the J/120 Night Moves was in a good mood after the racing. "We had a pretty good day, we hit some shifts and came out of the tank and ended up third." On the A Course, there was only one race, and for good reason. "We saw 36 knots at one point," said Peterson. "But we had a lot of crew weight on the rail and our traveler down and were sailing in fast forward mode. We sail with 10, and we probably average around 200 pounds apiece, it helped out today. We also have a good driver who can feather it up."

Night Moves is in second overall, 3 pints out of first place behind Don Hudak's Capers. "Tomorrow we're going to cover Capers, and we're looking forward to the lighter air," said Peterson. "Ten knots is our perfect condition, we have great boat speed and a new .6 ounce deep running kite that we do really well with. If we can be in the hunt upwind at the top mark, we can pick people off downwind."

Jim Cooley, the owner of Windward, a Catalina 27 tall rig didn't just have a good day, he and his team having been having a great weekend so far, with five first-place finishes, and a second. "I have a phenomenal crew, the boat's well-prepared, and we've been sailing it well and making good decisions," said Cooley. "We had a good day, three races, and scored a 1,1,2, and the second-place finish was by about two feet. You find out what you're made of in these types of conditions. It's really tough out there." When asked if it was more survival than fun, Cooley said, "It's fun for us, but we know what we're doing. For the people who don't, it's not fun. We just go each day and when it's over, that's what we did." Cooley's had the boat since 1982 and races it constantly all summer long. "I take the boat out on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and when we get a lot of people out on the boat. I love it, that's how you grow the sport. When asked about his gameplan for the final day of racing, Cooley kept his answer simple. "We'll do the best we can," he said. "It'll be lighter, but we'll be fine. I'm not even sure what we broke today but my crew's already fixed it, but it cost us that second place. That was tough, but it's all right, we came back."