With the Chicago Mackinac starting in just two days, we figured it’s about time we finish off our coverage of a relatively uneventful Bayview-Mackinac Race (though the BYC Mack thread is still very much alive). We have a few more Tales from the Mac tomorrow, but tonight, you get the view from the very, very top. Bora Gulari manages all aspects of the Phil O’Niel’s TP52 “Natalie J.” It’s a fun boat to sail on, full of the best and brightest of the Bayview crowd, and this year, they won their third straight overall Bayview Mac. Not only is this the first three-peat in the nearly hundred-year old history of the more petite Mac, but Gulari and friends did it under two different ratings rules; IRC the past two years, and PHRF this one. The same team will sail the Chicago Mac on Saturday, after which Gulari heads straight to Italy to try to bring two World Championship trophies home to the US; one in the M24, and one in the Moth. Here’s his final Mac report.
I once again had the pleasure to sail with Phil aboard Natalie J last weekend, and the entire week before the race, Jay Hansen (a/k/a the Most Powerful Man In Sailing) and I ran routes and tracked weather to get a feel for what was developing on the course. We sat together on the morning of the race with our final route analysis, which showed a deep downwind run all the way to the Cove Island turning buoy, followed by a short Code Zero reach, leading to a final upwind leg from Duck Island into the finish on Mackinac. There was one key point to play; get to the Michigan shore to take advantage of thermal-induced pressure and angle variations. Before push-off, we put the boat on an anorexic weight-loss program, dropping volunteer nd ditching all fluids. We’d rely on lake water, water filters, and powdered drink mix to get us through the hot days and nights.
During the start we initially set up at the weather end of the line in hopes of getting clean air away from all the bigger boats. Unfortunately, the wind went way right, catching us well above layline. We ducked transoms to get to the line, but it was, let’s say, not our best start. 15 minutes later we’d shed the Zero and committed to shore, and as we approached land and started making bearing on the fleet to the East, it was obvious this was the move to make. After 4 hours Windquest caught onto our game, gybing toward us to get to the shore breeze. You know you’re living a charmed life when a boat twice your size only crosses your bow by 10 lengths, hours into the race. From there both Windquest and Natalie gybed a couple more times into the shore to take advantage of the augmented sea breeze. As evening came on we peeled to the A2 and then the spin staysail, a glorious 14-knot run all the way to Cove.
We were surprised to still have around 10 miles on the STP-65 Equation, a bigger, much faster boat in pretty much any direction. By the time we’d made it to the Ducks, I could start to see them off our tail – this was with about 80 NM to the island. We were able to take advantage of a couple of squalls and a shift to keep them back as we sailed toward the Canadian shore, and they were about 6 miles back when Clean, who’d been watching the tracker all night long, texted me ‘SEND ME PIC OF EQTN CROSSING”, and I told him to screw off – they were not going to get past us! I’ve sailed on the boat, it’s loaded with my friends, and I knew they were putting every ounce of effort into running us down before the finish, and 14 NM from home, I figured that they would likely catch us within meters of the finish line. We continued to sail shifts and pressure, sometimes splitting a reef with them, sometimes staying on top, and at 3 NM to the finish we had our last cross. Then we got a 20-degree lift…ugh. Now we’d have to ride the ugly header back and they would get the lift, and 5 minutes later, we came back together, and they had a boatlength on us. I grudgingly snapped a pic for Clean, and we spent the last few minutes seemingly escorted by Equation as they led us to the honor of winning three in a row. After tying up to the dock, the wind began to ease, and by the time we had ordered a few rounds of fruity deliciousness at the Pink Pony with our friends from Windquest and Equation, the Straits of Mackinac were a glass pond. We raised our glasses again – the race was ours.