One unique feature of this race course which we hadn’t noticed in the guidebook was the severe quantities of flies on the lake. Whenever the wind was below eta-i.org/provigil.html about 15 knots, swarms would descend on the boat, and always seemed to find an area to bite into that you’d missed with insect repellent. However their bites did have the advantage of keeping you awake when you were just starting to drift off at the helm, a common problem when short-handing it.
Inevitably when sailing double-handed you have to sacrifice quite a lot of sleep. We had a very basic autopilot and so where driving the whole time, changing every two hours. By the time the person off-helm had done navigation, helped with manoeuvers, sail changes, and also found time to eat, there wasn’t really time for more than 3-4 hours of kip in every 24.
For eating during the race we took a Jetboil for a stove, mounted in a gimballed frame for cooking hot pasta meals. It wasn’t until we started the race however that we realised it didn’t have a self ignition system, unlike all the ones we’d used previously, and that neither of us had brought a lighter. So we had to wave goodbye to any chance of a hot meal, tea or coffee, and instead ate cereal the whole race, which fortunately we’d brought quite a lot of.
The last few hours of the race saw the wind increase to 20-22 knots, and the boat really came into its own and enabled us to start doing some serious overtaking. Being a light and very stable design, a fractional gennaker for reaching conditions gave us some impressive average boat speeds of 14 to 15 kts, which just showed how much power this boat can harness. Wind gusts are turned into rapid forward acceleration instead of just heel, which is a sensation that brings a serious smile to your face if you are lucky enough to be driving.
The Isle of Mackinac is an interesting place to finish a race to say the least. Cars are banned on the streets and instead, horse and carts fill the main roads, with beautiful greens and mansions watch over the main harbour – not to mention the colossal Grant Hotel where the race party was held. It was like a fantasy island from the past that had been frozen in time for the last 100 years, and presented an extreme and refreshing alternative to the skyscrapers of Chicago we had left behind. Perhaps aside from the very pungent smell of horse urine that also floated around the streets.
Being an race run on handicap, we of course had to wait for our result to come through on corrected time, and were happy to hear that we had finished in first place, just 12 minutes ahead of the J29. This was particularly satisfying based on the fact we’d been sitting in second for most of the race.
With this mission accomplished, it’s now back to Europe to continue work on my Vendee Globe campaign. I’m particularly excited to be developing some innovative new concepts for a new IMOCA 60, including a zero-emissions energy systems that must be totally regenerative, but also very light. But before I leave this country I must first check out the lights of Chicago – it would be