This year’s 333-mile (289 nm) Chicago Mackinac Island Race sailed last weekend was, once again, a tour of extreme conditions. Two life-saving rescues had to be performed in the fleet. From very nearly deadly to drifting, the crews from all those boats competing, whether they finished or not, have tales to tell. The Paul Bieker-designed 41-footer Blue was more than a Northwest design; a good portion of its crew was from the Northwest including Brian Huse, Kathryn Meyer and Kris Bundy. Brian graciously offered up a report between Macs (they’re doing the Port Huron Mac as well), and at the end of this post I’ll include some links to hair-raising rescues from the race. Here’s Brian:
We had a great sail. The forecast was for a building SW breeze ahead of a cold front which would intersect with around midnight Saturday. We were in section 1, the third to last start, at 1:40 on Saturday. We had a great start and quickly set the fractional code-0 and were on our way. An hour or so later we changed to the A3 and then a few hours later we settled in to the A2. We sailed out of Chicago toward Michigan until the breeze settled into what we thought was the max right then gybed onto port and headed north. The goal was to get as far north as possible ahead of the pending cold front, which was forecasted to be strong cold and northerly.
I was off watch with another hour before my watch started when my watch was asked to come on deck to peel to the A4. It was 11:00 Saturday night. It was dark with no moon yet and was blowing 18-20. We were expecting a increase in the southwest breeze ahead of the cold front so we wanted to be ready with the A4 for some nice 20 knot+ true wind speed sailing. We successfully got the A4 up and the A2 down. It was now blowing 25 and our bow team was still tidying up from the change with all others in the back as we were now planing at 18 or so. In less than two minutes the breeze built to the high 30’s and we had 1-2’ of water over the deck. Finally all the crew were able to move to the transom and we ripped! Twenty-three to 25 knots of boat speed. The breeze built to over 40 knots when we noticed wind speed was 44 knots. It was the 44-knot puff which did the damage. While we were working out how to get the kite down the decision was made for us. The kite halyard pulls through the clutch. The spinnaker in the water and the boat broaches a little as the kite fills with water…
No significant damage but we have to cut the halyard as all though it pulled through its still attached to the sail and the boat somewhere. We damaged the kite a little, did some more significant damage to the new staysail as it did some serious flogging half furled. It took about 20 minutes to get sorted out. Unfortunately due to the way we peeled both topmost halyards were lost, leaving us with only fractional halyards. By the time dust settled and we were ready to set the fractional code 0 the breeze had swung to about 30 degrees and we were into a headsail. We would now be beating to Mackinac Island. We started with the #3. A couple hours later we reefed and a couple hours after that we changed to the #4. We sailed with a reef and a #4 all day Sunday. Our masthead electronics were a casualty of the incident so we don’t know what the breeze was but I would say more than 25 and less then 30 and super choppy and sloppy. The waves 4-6’ and close together. The boat was awesome with no issues at all in that stuff. The crew handled well too. Everyone worked hard and even thou it was not a glamour day of sailing, the mood was upbeat and keen. The wind started to die down at the south end of Manitou Passage closer to Sleeping Bear. We started to power up. Shook out the reef and went back to the 3. We had good breeze all the way to Grays reef. The wind freshened a bit but nothing extreme.