After coming in second over the line and fourth on handicap in the Bayview Mackinac Race, Curt Jazwiecki put his Melges 24 Gnarly Ruca into singlehanded mode for some outlaw racing in one of the last anti-sportboat regions left. Here’s Curt’s blog page, and here’s his story:
Putting the M24 in Mac race mode took a considerable amount of prep work. I figured that with the boat in “coastal” mode I might as well check a few more items off of the bucket list. The Lake Erie Solo challenge is on that list. But it wasn’t meant to be, at least not this year. I set off on a race of my own, for my own reasons, instead. Here’s the background on that.
At the start, most everyone was late. I intended to start 30 sec after the gun to stay out of the way, but did not realize that most people started minutes late. Well, I was there and had already timed my “outside the box” start. Off I went in light air about 50-60 degree off the wind. Auto on, A0/5 up, adjust rig….check.
This was my first official/unofficial singlehanded race, I was on a boat that everyone said could’t be singlehanded, and had one of the the shortest waterlines in the fleet. I had thought that I would be behind, but to my suprise I was out in front of everyone. I did’t want to sit on the lead boat, so I made a course change to go below him.
By 1400 I quickly horizoned most of the fleet and could only see two boats. This was an issue because I had spoke with the skipper of “Avatar” before we left the dock and agreed I would radio in every 2 hours starting at 1400 so he could make sure I was safe. I really appreciated the gesture, and hoped to contact him in the future to say thank you. I found myself out of radio transmission range of the handheld VHF from the rest of the fleet. I couldn’t find my masthead antenna after the Mack so I only had handhelds on board. I could hear them, but even climbing my mast a few feet and using the boost feature it seems I could not get a call out. I hope I didn’t worry anyone. I tried calling out to the boat behind that I could see, but got no response and figured he had his radio off altogether or on 16.
I played the routing game right and after tacking on a few big shifts the right way around Pelee Island, I couldn’t see another sailboat anywhere. A huge advantage sailing the smaller boat was the ability to tack and and complete sail changes easily and quickly. I reached Pelee Passage Light and found a fisherman in a bass boat. He looked at me like I was nuts, I looked the same at him. Considering the huge lead I had, I wanted to keep sailing on to Buffalo. Had I been racing officially I would have surely continued on. Logistics hassle and my Dad’s 64th birthday party Sunday afternoon said otherwise, besides I think the point was already proven about 5 min after the start.
After rounding I over-eagerly thought that I could fly the A1 to Huron. I knew better but did it anyway, and managed to make a course about 10 deg off the mark, but my autopilot was not enjoying itself. Spinnaker down. The boat responds so much quicker than the auto can, I see why high-dollar integrated autopilots are used by the minis! That’s what I get for being cheap and ordering an inexpensive pilot a few days before.
Conditions piped up a bit and it was getting dark. Time to grab a bite to eat and put my night gear on. I rolled into Huron after dark doing 9 knots with 4 foot waves reaching under jib and main with the occasional wave coming over the bow.
I gybed around R2 and headed for the islands. Perfect downwind sailing weather. I wanted to light it up with the big blue A2, but the autopilot was not enjoying the wave angle and there was decent traffic in the area on a Saturday night. The last thing I wanted to do was risk a collision with a drunk powerboater that didn’t expect a sailboat to be going 15 knots.
I was treated to a fireworks display from Cedar Point and cracked open one of the two Coors Lights I brought along. It was hard to resist the urge to pull into Put-In-Bay for pizza at Frosty’s. This is why you don’t see people doing long overnights on M24’s. Sailing fast during the day and hitting the bar at night with your friends is usually the way to go. Why punish yourself? Oh yea, the challenge and settling the debate….back to sailing.
Once I was in the lee of the islands around midnight, I hove-to, rigged the A2 and ate a MRE. After eating, my common sense prevailed and I left the A2 in the bag, after all it was only midnight and I still had to sail to 10 am. I was so far ahead of schedule that I would have run out of lake in less than 2 hours and would have to sail back upwind. I rolled up the jib and sailed under main alone making between 7 and 10 knots in perfect surfing conditions.
I was met with a big freighter at 5 am at the Toledo harbor light, I had to do a 720 to give it enough room to pass before I could round the lighthouse. Once back at the west end of the lake, I did everything I could to slow the boat down, after all, I had to make my trip last 24 hours. I thought about sailing on to Detroit, but my car and trailer were here. I made coffee, had breakfast, and sailed in circles. Hot Starbucks coffee on a Melges 24 sailing singlehanded, who would have thought.
The RO that started the race was out on his boat having coffee and kept and eye on the clock for me. I put the motor in gear at 9:31 am on Sunday and slid up to the dock at NCYC, making the passage under sail right on 24 hours as required. The Commodore and his wife welcomed me back and gave me a hand with the dock lines.
There you have it. 24 hours and 100 miles on a Melges 24. Done.