Every few years, Lake Erie turns into a ferocious motherfucker during the Mills Trophy Race, the first of the big Great Lakes distance affairs, and this year was one of those. A light air start was quickly forgotten when the front blew through with 20-40 knots from the ENE, and it didn’t take long for the infamously steep Erie waves to follow, line after line of angry soldier. A sailor from a Melges 32 reported that the waves were ‘difficult, but avoidable’ until the sun set after the mid-afternoon start. “It was a lot harder to avoid the big ones after dark,” he said.
Those waves caught out quite a few teams; check out the couple dozen DNFs up and down the fleet. But one DNF turned fatal, when a sailor on Ken Sabin’s 35-year old wooden Mull one-tonner Horse went overboard in the dark night, and drowned. And strangely, he wasn’t recovered by his team – he was found on shore near Ohio’s East Harbor State Park and recovered shortly after sunrise – some 6 hours after he got wet. Authorities ID’d the sailor as Glen William Reeck, of Matlacha, Florida and drowning as the cause of death. Given the size of the waves reported and the 49 degree (F) temperature, not much of a surprise at all.
What is surprising is the complete lack of information regarding Mr. Reeck’s untimely departure from the good ship Horse. Race Chairman Ron Soka ain’t talking, but there is plenty of chatter about the state of the old one-tonner on the dock before the race. What really happened out there? When we know, you’ll know.