20 Jul Race Report — Bell’s Bayview to Mackinac
ARETÉ REALIZED — The meaning of Areté is “striving for excellence in all things”. It is not achieving excellence, but striving to attain it that is the essence of Areté. And, occasionally, we can have a moment of excellence.
Rick Warner and the crew of Areté had a moment of excellence this weekend as we finished first overall in the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race, setting a record for the Cove Island course in the process. It was an action-packed race, starting with a powerful squall that blew through the fleet shortly after our start. We were picking our way through the slower fleets that started before us, keeping an eye on the weather radar that showed an ominous band of thunderstorms heading across the thumb of Michigan directly toward the hundreds of boats that had just started the race. It was a narrow band, but it was packing serious punch.
We believed that Areté could handle the storm under full main and J1. We ground the leeward foil into place as the clouds darkened and boats further inshore began to get pressed by the strong new breeze. As we began to feel the cold storm winds, Areté began to accelerate. We were suddenly battered by heavy rain and then Areté heaved forward, nearly burying her leeward bow as we reached off under full sail, hurtling forward in winds in the thirties, spray flying. The boat and crew handled it well, though we had some big eyes on board as the ama dug deep. As with most squall lines, the heaviest air diminished quickly and we had some phenomenal power reaching as we quickly cleared the fleet. The wind stayed with us as we worked north. We did get to the point where a reef was in order and we tucked it in and continued up the race course.
Then we had the first moment of the race where striving for excellence tested our patience. Areté has a halyard lock up the mast for the mainsail at full hoist and the first reef. When we attempted to shake the first reef, we could not engage the lock at the top of the rig. Doing this requires de-powering the boat dramatically, and – done well – it takes only a few tortuous minutes of going slow. When it does not work, it takes much, much longer. We made at least ten attempts to engage the lock, to no avail. We could see Windquest and il Mostro – whom we had left far behind in the big breeze – taking huge gulps out of our lead. We finally locked the main in at the first reef and got back to racing – diminished, but not without power.
But we felt that we could not continue like this and achieve our first-to-finish goal. So, just before dusk, we sent Mike McGarry, our helmsman/speed guru/sail tweaker/tech geek/lightest-lightest-guy-on-the-boat up the rig to figure out what was wrong. He diagnosed a broken attachment for the release/engage lines for the lock on the headboard car. We brought him back down the mast, gave him what he needed to fix it, and in the gloaming of the evening, had a fix that got us back in the game.
There was no time to spare – Windquest was on our heels at we approached the Cove Island turning mark. We went to the full main and – as we turned the corner and headed to the Island – slowly left her behind.
But there was another boat between Areté and her goal of first-to-finish. Il Mostro was sailing incredibly well and was ten miles ahead. We had a full press of sail on and slowly ground her down, putting her behind us as we approached Bois Blanc Island. Areté was pointing higher and going faster – so much for the sailing myth of multihulls not being able to go to weather.
We crossed the finish line in 23 hours, 12 minutes, 51 seconds – first-to-finish for the first time in a Mac Race for Areté. The entire crew was thrilled to reach the goal that Rick and all of us had set for ourselves. Setting a course record was frosting on a very fine cake.
Our competitors on Windquest and il Mostro pushed us hard and we talked with them after the race and they were all pleased for us. The multihull fleet had challenging conditions, with Triceratops taking the corrected time win, with Areté correcting to second and Panic Button in third.
This was a great moment for us, but the race also taught us how much more the boat has to offer. With more preparation time, and more practice, Areté has more to offer. We are already looking forward to next season.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward;
but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
– Ernest Hemingway