Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sailing in the Midwest: Detroit

This was my view of the world as a teenaged sailor.

Sailing Cal 25’s in Lake St. Clair

In August, instead of returning to the UAE as planned, I suddenly and unexpectedly went back to Michigan for a second time. The reason was that my father needed some help regaining his health and independence. While I was disappointed that I would be delayed returning to Mark and our Middle East adventures, I considered it a gift to be able to help Dad and spend more time with him.

Annie Mayme sailed the Cal25 Nationals
in 2004 with a family crew.
From bow: me, Doug Harvey, Dad,
my brother Paul, my daughter Nicole.

Separation from family and loved ones makes you appreciate them all the more. Besides, my father gave me one of the greatest gifts I have: my love of sailing.
So, when I received a forwarded email to the Detroit Cal 25 fleet about an upcoming Saturday YRA race, I hit “reply all” and said I was in town and available if anyone needed crew. I figured Dad wouldn’t mind.

Couples that race together are
somewhat rare.

The first response I got was from the skipper I’d hoped to hear from -- Dale Marshall. He and his wife Jenny have been racing their Cal 25 Clytie since the early 1980’s. That’s a long time but not as long as Dad has owned Annie Mayme, which he bought in 1968 and raced continuously until 2010. Both Dad and Dale have been YRA and NOOD champions multiple times.
Dale and Jenny are members of Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, as is Dad, and that’s where I met them at the boat, right next to Dad’s old boat well, which was empty. The Detroit Cal 25 fleet, while still strong, is suffering the same fate as many sailing fleets – a drop in participation.

Never Alone sailed over us and got away.
Never Alone, rolling us to weather.

The other crew offer that I got was from a boat called Never Alone, which I didn’t know as well. I mentioned this to Dad, and he told me that Never Alone had been winning lately. “Well,” I said, “now I know who to beat.”

The race was hosted by Crescent Sail Yacht Club in Grosse Pointe Shores, and it happened to fall on the Detroit Regional Yachting Association centennial, so there was a party planned to celebrate 100 years of sailboat racing in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River.

Grosse Pointe Yacht Club is gorgeous from any viewpoint.

The start line was off of CSYC, and the course was a triangle that took us around channel buoys between Crescent and Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. This meant that there could be no adjustment of the course marks. Usually, racers prefer to use inflatable marks so they can set the course according to the wind direction, with an upwind leg to the first mark, then downwind, then possibly another upwind leg to finish, or sometimes it’s two or three laps around the course. In the old days, we usually had triangle courses but now upwind-downwind is generally preferred, sometimes with a “wing mark” at the weather mark or perhaps occasionally a reaching leg.

This is what you want to see at the start.
Things were looking really good.

“Get out in front and open it up,” Dad once told me, is the best way to win a race.

At the start, conditions were very light. The boat was very quiet. Dale’s start was textbook perfect: at the line with speed, taking up the boats to weather at the committee boat, and walking away leaving the rest of the fleet to tack away for clear air. The first leg was a tight reach that turned into a one-legged beat, with a dead downwind second leg and a close reach to the finish.

How come they're so fast?
Where'd they get that boatspeed?

The only boat to pass us was – you guessed it – Never Alone. Somehow, no matter how we adjusted our sails and weight, we couldn’t match their speed on the first leg. It didn’t help that we were getting bad air from a larger boat to weather, but Never Alone somehow sailed right through their lee. They did a “horizon job” on us, and the rest of the fleet.

With a young woman dinghy sailor driving, this boat was threatening to overtake up.
Forty Two threatened us at the finish.

Still, it was an exciting spinnaker finish, with the next boat behind us, named Forty Two, threatening to pass, right up until the last seconds. We finished second in our fleet of seven boats.

Finish line at CSYC. We held on to our second.
Finish line and party tent.

We stopped by CSYC after the race, where there was a big tent set up for the awards and centennial party.

BYC & Blue Goose 006
Dad, Nicole and I enjoy The View.

I guess I must be growing up though, because I chose to go hang out with Dad and tell him about the race.

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