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Queen City at the LO300

The Lake Ontario 300, which was sailed this past weekend starting from Port Credit Yacht Club, labels itself the “Greatest Yacht Race on the Lakes”, and it is hard to argue its “greatness”: racers complete either a full 300 nm circumnavigation of Lake Ontario, or a shorter 300 km course which still feels like most of the lake.  Either way, for most Lake Ontario area sailors, it is the biggest offshore challenge that they will ever likely experience.  As every sailor knows, being out on the water for that length of time presents different challenges from short course racing, including the possibility of severe weather, extreme heat, and just even staying awake at the helm.  Queen City is always well-represented at the race, and this year four of our boats competed: Blue Streak (Rob Eckersley), Skeena, (Rick Veenhuizen), Eventide (John Ball) and Iliad (Roger Petersen).

Luckily, there weren’t the devastating squalls of 2010 to deal with in the 2012 running of “The 300”, but all of our skippers experienced challenges nonetheless.

Roger Petersen, in his own words, went from “glory to goat”, with his crew Ted Crouse.  Last year he walked away with a first place flag; this year, not so much: Iliad finished 8th of 11 entries in the double-handed whitesail (DH-WS) fleet on the short course.

“We lost the race on leg two to Niagara” said Petersen. “We went up too high in the leg. We had a forecast that called for winds in the middle and light on the south shore. Instead we wallowed around in the middle all day until the winds picked up late and we tacked our way to the mark.”

Iliad also had a couple of close encounters with commercial freighters during the night: “The first, I was asleep and Ted spotted the lights but couldn't get a read. When he did, he realized how close it was and had to tack. In the second encounter, I was at the helm. The ship was coming straight down our line, but was lit up like a Christmas tree. Even though we would likely avoid it, I woke Ted up and we tacked.”

Eventide, John Ball’s new Alberg 30, also raced in the DH-WS fleet.  After last year’s quite “challenging” Solo Challenge, including multiple dives to free lines off his propeller, Ball was ecstatic to have his son join him this year.  He hasn’t been available for comment since the race, but they finished very well: 4th in the division.

Late breaking update from JB: "Eventide basically had a steady race maybe one hole but we finished the last leg on a strong note and rounding the turn mark close to the finish line we were hit  with a 40 to 50 knt gust as we were about to gibe to the finish line. We doshed the jenny and finished under main only. A yacht that finished approx 3 mins behind had their mylar mainsail rip in two just after crossing finish line."

Leading up to the race, Skeena’s Rick & Karen Veenhuizen joked that they’d be starting double-handed, but quite likely could be finishing single-handed.  The questions seemed to be: Would the marriage last? And who would throw who overboard?

Karen sleeping on the high side aboard SKEENAAfter drifting from Port Credit to Toronto in very light airs, Rick said: “Once we reached the island the wind picked up and we found ourselves heading toward Scotch Bonnet with J.B. closer inshore and Roger on Iliad further out.  At nightfall the wind was increasing and backing so we put up the spinnaker. By 2am Sunday morning the wind increased further and with bigger waves and total darkness, no stars and no moon.  After several broaches we struggled to get the spinnaker down.  At 6:30am we rounded Scotch Bonnet and started beating toward Niagara River. We spent the day trying to keep the boat moving in the soft spots. Sunday night we had thunderstorms on either side of us and spent a couple of hours in a hole but by morning there was a nice breeze and we rounded the Niagara mark at 8:30am and made it to Port Credit in 4.5 hours with increasing winds.”

Skeena finished 2nd in the double-handed spinnaker fleet.

In the Full-Crew IRC 2 division, last year’s Sperry Cup winner, Blue Streak was QCYC’s lone entry on the long course.  Skipper Robert Eckersley called it “a race of contrasts”.  After the slow start, they spent the night blasting toward Main Duck Island in very close proximity to a J-35 (something they should be used to from Wednesday nights) and surfing down waves with a max speed of 12.2 knots.  Then, after a gorgeous sunrise rounding of the uninhabited island, they found themselves becalmed off Oswego and swimming to try to beat the heat (and the flies).

“Monday saw steadily building winds with 5 boats getting to the Niagara buoy at exactly the same time, only to discover a strong current setting at the mark.” continued Eckersley. “We barely avoided being renamed Red Streak!  Finally we grabbed a tow in an IMX 38’s wake in a three hour reach across the lake, never more than 60 feet from their stern.  We ended up third in class, and given the amount of time we spent at a virtual standstill, we are happy with the result!”

Finally, our own Rear Commodore, Graham Dougall was the principal race officer for the Lake Ontario 300 and was quite possibly the busiest man on shore for the entire event.  Graham and his team of volunteers do an outstanding job of race management here at the club, and obviously are in high demand for events all around the lake.

Full results of the race are available here.

So 2012’s Lake Ontario 300 wasn’t quite the historic string of first place flags for QCYC that was 2011, but our racers are undeterred.  In fact they continue to encourage the rest of the membership to try their hand at the “great” race:

“Overall, it’s an incredible experience and I would recommend the LO300 to any sailor. It gets you reacquainted with your boat and the lake” said Petersen. “Also, lots of water and good food helps.”

As for the Veenhuizens' marriage, it seems rock solid: Karen said she would do it again.

The 300, that is.