"Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk." - Sir Francis Chichester when asked why he carried so much alcohol on his solo sail around the world.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


This is a short video that my daughter made about our sail from Mackinac Island to Chicago after the 2017 Solo Chicago Mackinac Challenge. Enjoy

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Here's a good article from  Sail magazine ( on one of the races that I compete in. In 2015 I won the President's Cup, for fastest rookie on Lake Michigan, and this year I finished in 4th place, not where I wanted to finish.

Solo Distance Racing on the Great Lakes

 It takes a special kind of sailor to solo distance race on the Great Lakes

 It takes a special kind of sailor to solo distance race on the Great Lakes
Back in the 1970s Ted Turner famously retracted his description of Lake Michigan as a “mill pond” after finding himself caught up in one of the roughest Chicago-Mackinac races in decades—and in many ways solo distance racing on the lakes is tougher still.

Granted, the rhumb line distances from Chicago to Mackinac Island (334 miles) or from Port Huron, Michigan, to the same place (230 miles) are substantially less than, say, the Bermuda One-Two or the Singlehanded TransPac. Nonetheless, the tactical challenges posed by the solo races run along these routes by the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society can make them just as tough as any solo event out there.

“I find ocean winds to be more predictable and reliable than inland waters… Some of the best sailors in the world come from the Great Lakes, because they must constantly shift gears quickly,” says Alan Veenstra, a veteran of the Newport-Bermuda and many crewed Chicago-Mackinac races—as well as eight solo Macs—and line-honors winner in the 2017 solo Chicago-to-Mackinac race aboard the Frers 53 Bumblebee.

Along these same lines, Veenstra’s younger brother, Mark, who won this year’s race on corrected time aboard the Tartan Ten Monitor, says he still considers the Newport-Bermuda a greater challenge due to the uncertainty of the Gulf Stream, but he adds: “Lake Michigan is very unpredictable. Finding favorable wind is always challenging.”

As for those who really want to log some miles, in addition to the Port Huron and Chicago solo races (which are run independently of either the Chicago or Bayview YCs), there are also the solo “Super Mac” from Chicago all the way to Port Huron and the “Super Mac and Back,” a race that makes a complete circuit from Chicago to Port Huron and then back again. Only one sailor, Kris Kimmons, completed the latter in 2017.

“The Solo Society is a special group,” says Mark Veenstra, who has now completed six solo Chicago-Mac races. “Finishing the race is the ultimate goal. There’s more camaraderie with the solo group. There’s always chatter on the radio. People are always encouraging and taking care of each other.”

Graham Sauser, who took sixth overall in this year’s Chicago race aboard the Beneteau Oceanis 352 Bangarang, agrees. “It’s a slightly different mindset. It’s not so much of a race as a challenge,” he says. “If you can complete the race, that’s regarded as being just as cool as the guy who won.”

For more on this year’s race and solo racing on the Great Lakes in general, visit the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society at
November 2017

The original article can be found here: 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Very Well Put...

Below is the mission statement of the Lake Michigan Singlehanded Society  (, a group that I race with as often as possible.

"The Lake Michigan Singlehanded Society promotes competition in the tradition of solo sailing - to challenge solitary and shorthanded sailors and to help develop sound yachts, equipment, and techniques for shorthanded passage making on the Great Lakes.

Our races emphasize the individual's seamanship, navigation, and self-reliance more, and pure boat speed less. Shorthanded sailing is a development of typical sailboat cruising – family and friend oriented and aimed at making passages between ports – rather than “grand-prix” oriented, where races are around a closed course near a single port. Also in contrast to Grand-Prix racing which features a collection of specialists, shorthanded sailing demands high levels of all the skills of sailing within each person. The shorthanded sailor must be helmsperson, navigator, sail trimmer, sail handler, cook, medic, winch grinder, and repair expert all in one. Shorthanded sailing also puts a premium on physical and mental endurance. “Caught Shorthanded” is one of the common complaints of the full-crewed race boat, when seasickness or fatigue overcome members of the crew. But the shorthanded sailor, by definition, has no back-up to call upon when the going gets rough. Each participant's courage, endurance, and self-reliance are challenged as they rarely can be in the modern world.

Because the satisfactory completion of these races is a singularly significant individual accomplishment, The Lake Michigan Singlehanded Society regards all who finish as winners."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

So you think you're tough...

"This is a picture taken of a wave crashing against the north pier at St. Joseph, MI last Wednesday, March 8 near sunset.  For the fact junkies out there, the wind blew 40 knots, gusting 60 from the west with a fetch of only 51nm.  The brown in the wave is sand pulled up from a depth of 20 feet.
The lighthouse seen is 57 feet high with a rear range light at 53 feet. The 36 foot tall front range and light at the end of the pier can not be seen.   Lake Michigan ain’t a place for wimpy sailors! – Anarchist Dirk."

Friday, February 3, 2017

What Makes a Good Sailor?

Originally published by American Sailing Association on December 21, 2016
Written by Pat Reynolds

It’s a sentence you hear all the time – “he’s a good sailor” – an innocuous complimentary description that falls away as soon as uttered, but what does it mean? What is a “good sailor?” We’ve put together seven qualities that we think fit the bill.  Feel free to add to the list.
  1. Intuition

    The top of the list is intuition. We’ve all been on boats with people who just seem to know innately, more than anyone else, where the wind is and where it’s going to be. The boat goes faster when they are in charge and they have an anticipation and understanding that is on another level. Sure, some of it is from experience, but some if it isn’t. Intuition is a magical thing and great sailors have it in spades.
  1. Solid Understanding of Fundamentals

    Of course we would say this but it’s true – core fundamentals are critical to being a good sailor. Obvious perhaps, but so many sailors have holes in their game. One walk along any dock in America and you’ll find some interesting takes on how to tie a cleat hitch. Knowing knots, points of sail, weather information, vocabulary and all of the other basics have to be second nature for a person to be a good sailor.
  1. Jack of All Trades

    MacGyver would have been a good sailor.  Things go strange on boats. Fittings pop out, things fall overboard, lines snap – there’s no telling how a boisterous sea might change your day. For this, an ability to think on your feet and improvise is the quality of a good sailor. There is nothing so comforting as being around good sailors who, when faced with a problem, simply start figuring out solutions based on the materials on hand. Boats don’t carry spares of everything so innovation often reigns supreme. Some of the most ingenious creations in the universe have been developed by good sailors on long passages in small cruising boats.
  1. Calmness

    What Makes a Good Sailor - Bob Solliday
    Truly good sailors are never the ones screaming and throwing tantrums. They are the ones figuring things out while someone else is screaming and throwing a tantrum. But beyond being calm under duress, good sailors are usually just calm in general. It’s a disposition that serves nearly every sailing situation and good sailors know it. To be calm is to be clear of mind and clarity is an enormous advantage when sailing. Breathe people…
  1. A Boat is a Boat

    Someone who really knows how to sail can hop on any boat and make it hum. He or she will do a quick inventory of how the particular systems on the boat operate and in a matter of minutes will be an integrated crew member or skipper working as if they have been on the boat for years.
  1. Experience

    In sailing or anywhere else, nothing substitutes for sheer experience.  Miles under the keel in most instances can provide all that is needed to become a good or great sailor. In most cases, with a solid footing in the fundamentals, it brings with it the aforementioned calmness, the quick understanding of any boat’s systems, the ability to innovate and improvise. Although experience might not be able to provide God-given intuition like the Russel Coutts’ and Jimmy Spithills of the world, it will certainly take you farther down the road than most.
  1. Holding Your Rum

    What Makes a Good Sailor
    And lastly a good sailor has to be able hold their rum. It’s been a time-honored tradition and it will always be this way. If you are throwing up in a parrot mask you donned after your seventh margarita you lose points. There’s too much at stake to be a lousy drinker. Have fun but stay cognizant – you can dance that weird dance of yours and still think about whether the anchor is holding…
    Link to the original article:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Training Your Brain in the Off-Season

Below is an excellent article on how to improve your sailing skills, or for that matter most anything. I use a similar technique to the one mentioned in the article to rehearse and improve upon a lot of my skills. Enjoy, Dave

Published on January 30th, 2017
by Dr. Tim Herzog, SpinSheet

If you take some time off this winter, that doesn’t mean that you have to stop training altogether. Serious sailors do physical conditioning in the off-season, but what about mental conditioning?
One skill I frequently tackle with sailors is mental imagery: seeing in your mind’s eye what it is you want to do, whether it’s big picture strategy, sailing new venues, remembering old venues, overcoming adversity, boat-on-boat tactics, or boatspeed and boathandling.
Good imagery is not just visual. As a good book does, it vividly taps into all the senses. Imagery combined with long exhales is also a good way to rehearse being habitually amped enough to focus without drowning in anxiety.
There’s no substitute for actual practice, but adding imagery to your regimen can help. Classic sport psych experiments show us that folks perform better with physical practice than with no practice, better with imaginary practice than with no practice, but best when combining physical practice with imaginary practice.
The old-school approach to imagery is to close your eyes and either self-generate images or be guided through self-generating images with a recorded script. One problem with self-generated images, however, is that your brain doesn’t have to generate images nearly as often during actual racing.
Sure, there are times when you soak up the scene in front of you, quickly size up what you see, and create an image to work with. For instance, Lightning World Champion Geoff Becker says that he has honed the ability to take a mental snapshot of what he sees on a race course leg, quickly creating a moving aerial view in his mind so that he’s able to clearly see how things will play out.
Starts and mark roundings are other places where momentary/spontaneous on-the-water imagery can help with making sound, fast tactical decisions. But much of successful racing boils down to habitually being present with what’s in front of you.
How can you train your mind to focus on what’s most relevant? Off-the-water imagery training can make it a habit. Sometimes, using a whiteboard or notebook for strategy/tactics or video for boathandling can help make an image more vivid. Most any prop can be used.
Many years ago, when Annapolitan Robbie Deane went off to sail for Boston University, he reported learning breakthroughs through dialogue with coach and teammates in between billiard games, where pool balls represented “sailboats.” This helped him develop that knack for being able to “see” tactical situations via an aerial view.
Twelve years ago, for my dissertation, I created “video-imagery,” whereby sailors could watch sailing video while also listening to an imagery script. The video uses a third person perspective (from the coach boat) and a first person one (from the sailor’s head). The viewer is able to passively soak up some material (as we do in real life), while memorizing what to reproduce, hopefully with less mental effort, through imagery. Sailors are encouraged to then use it with eyes closed, listening to a script with fewer words.
We found that sailors had more confidence in this approach than with the old-school method, and we found that with both approaches, sailors’ imagery ability improved after just a few sessions.
In 2004 to get the footage, I was duct-taping a video-camera in a drybag on to a snowboarding helmet. My technique was “cutting edge.” Now, in this era of GoPro cameras on the boat and filming from drones above, getting images of what happened around the race course is easier than ever! Software, such as RaceQs, allows us to visually review how a race went tactically, moment to moment. With the video-game SailX, we can also practice having to make quick tactical decisions, and learn from good or bad consequences.
These tools can be combined with aspects of other imagery. As you watch replays of inside the boat or from above, you can engage what you see as if you’re doing it yourself right now, “feeling” the actions, such as driving, communicating to the helmsperson, and experiencing all the sights, sounds, and smells that make it feel a little more real. Even better, you can pause it and practice many more imagery repetitions of how you wanted it to play out (rather than how it actually went), to drill in what you’re learning.
You can even take it a step further with exercise. Consider Jimmy Spithill’s quote: “…if you can’t anticipate and make decisions under stress and exhaustion and think ahead, then you won’t be able to cut it.”
We’ve moved a long way from billiard balls and duct-taped cameras. Try some video-imagery with your smart phone at the gym. Or with a small laptop, why not have some SailX time on the exercise bike, to practice making good decisions while fatigued? Just as I did with video-imagery in 2004, you can think outside the box in 2016-17.

About the Author: Dr. Tim Herzog is a Mental Performance Coach and a former college coach.

Source: Spinsheet, December 2016

Friday, January 27, 2017

Peterson Wiggers 37, Lotus, used in ads

The ads below feature Lotus, a Peterson/Wiggers 37 owned and campaigned by Sy Kaback.


The unparalleled successful racing season culminated in "Lotus" winning two first places on successive days and first overall in I.O.R. Class C in the Manhasset Bay Invitational Fall Series.
This team effort began early in the year with Bill Kelly visiting the Wiggers plant in Canada and deciding on the Petersen 37. A great deal of engineering and planning between Bill Kelly, Tom McLaughlin and Andy Wiggers resulted in the final product.
Despite the late delivery of the mast, McMichaels finished the installation of the instruments, rigging, etc. in time for us to enter the American Spring Regatta. David Silberkleit returned from his ski hiatus to take care of all the details and get the "Lotus" race ready.
In every series that we entered this year we finished first or second in class. Among these wins were:
Riverside Yacht Club Press On Regardless
Spring Plus Fall Series
First in Class

Indian Harbor Yacht Club - Whitmore Series
Spring plus Fall Series
First in Class

New York Yacht Club
2nd in Class
The highlight of the season was the gratifying first place win in the I.O.R. Class 5 at Block Island. Class 5, with 35 yachts, was undoubtedly the most competitive class at the Storm Trysail Yacht Club's Block Island Race Week.
There were (5) Wiggers Petersen 37's each equipped by a different sailmaker, as well as "Lindy", the prototype Petersen 38. Farr was represented by "Migize" (won 5 of 6 races in the S.O.R.C.) and (2) new Farr 37's "Sugar" and Mandala". Bruce Nelson was aboard the Nelson-Marek 39 foot "Conamore". "Stajon" and the other Nelson-Marek boats were in our class. "Messenger" and the latest German Frers creations were present with outstanding crews.
Lack of wind prevented anyone in our class finishing race #1 and consequently everyone started out with 35 points. Without this handicap, our total for the remaining races would have put us in line for overall fleet winner. (over 300 yachts) En route to block island, we managed to come in first in the I.O.R. class in the Sag Harbor Y.C. -Drug Abuse Race.
During the summer season, "Lotus" won the Eastern Long Island Yachting Association Championship - a 10 race series, and was the ELIYA "Boat of the Year". Overall wins included the Shelter Island Yacht Club Heatherton Trophy, the Eastern Sailing Club Annual Regatta and the East Hampton Yacht Club Bowl Regatta. In Local East Hampton Yacht Club Gardner Bay races, "Lotus" won (2) firsts and (1) second.
Additional kudos go to:
Andy Wiggers - Wiggers Yachts
Tom McLaughlin of North Sails
Hathaway-Reiser and Raymond Rigging
Offshore Outfitters
Sager Restaurant - Sandwiches

and most important
Popeye Chicken without which the whole project would not have been feasible.
"Lotus" Crew Members
East Hampton Crew Members
Bill Kelly
Tom McLaughlin
David Silberkleit
Richard Mintzer
David Florence
Schyler Earl
Colin Kelly
Andy Wiggers
Art Ellis
Richard Bitlingmeier
Peter Celone
Peter Coleman
Tom Dailey
Peter Davis
Hugh Frazer
John Holmes
Eric Keikrug
Tricia Kelly
Rob Kemp
Bizzy Monte-Sano

Scott Delaney
Kevin Fallon
Daniel Fallon
Glen Feit
Derek Galen
Greg Gordon
Wayne Hoyt
Bill Lyons
Rudy Ratsup
Colin Golding
OWNER - *Sy Kaback
* Crewed at Block Island"

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Matthew Driving Back to Chicago After the 2015 Solo Mac

He's a whole lot better sailor than I was at his age. This summer, 2017, Matthew and I will do some Great Lakes double-handed races together.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Short Handed Sailing Advice

Below is a reply to a question, not by me, about doing the 2017 Bermuda 1-2 Race. The reply is from a very experienced Class 40 solo racer named Mike Hennessy, owner of Dragon, and it offers some really good advise on short handed sailing. Enjoy.

"In general, if you think about doing a race like this, it starts with having a boat that is capable and ready to do a passage like this one.  In that regard, the prep is no different than if you were going to do the same course fully crewed or 1-2.  The short handed aspects of this type of racing increase the demand on the skipper at having a multi-disciplinary skill set (navigator, sailor, sail maker, boat builder, electrician, mechanic, carpenter, composites engineer, etc.).  And it adds the need to understand and be capable of sleep management. Other than that, my own experience is that short handed is more in your head than anything else

There are a few areas to focus on if you are wondering how-to.  In no particular order:
  1. Sail inventory. Beyond a main that can be deep reefed and your primary Jib, you are going to need something to reach with (Jib Top or Code), something to run with (spin), a headsail to use in heavier breeze and a storm jib.  They need to be in good repair, cuz who wants to be stuck out there trying to get to Bermuda and also repairing sails.  And you  have to be comfortable with changing them on your own. For cost alone, this is one of the more difficult things to get done,
  2. Deck hardware & rigging -  make sure it is in good repair and serviced well.  Check every nut, bolt, cotter pin, clevis ring, splice, and turnbuckle. Things that fail you inshore are typically an irritant.  Things that fail you offshore can get  you in deep trouble.
  3. Electronics - make sure you check every connection, every cable.  If it looks a bit corroded at the dock, you can be sure it will short once you get out there, and then you won't be able to find it while you are wondering why your autopilot is behaving erratically.
  4. Spares.  If you can not survive without it, you should have a spare.  If you can survive without it, then you probably should not have it at all.
  5. Safety gear.  You need to own a bunch of it.  Or be able to borrow it.  This can get pricey too.
  6. Comms.  Plan on buying or renting a sat phone
  7. Auto pilot.  Probably the most important piece of kit on the entire boat.  Make sure you have one that works.
  8. What to wear.  Remember, it is actually bloody cold between the Stream and shore.  And then hot and muggy from the Stream to the Island.  Spinlock vest & harness.  Kong tether. Musto HPX bibs and jacket.  Musto or Dubarry boots.  fleece jacket. 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of long pants.  Long sleeve wicking shirt (2 or 3 of them).  Smart Wool long underwear.  Underwear (the days you expect to take X .80).  Hat for the sun, and a watch cap.  That is it. Anything more is a waste of weight and space.  Who cares if you stink like a goat.
  9. Navigation.  You should have at least a basic understanding of weather systems and their impact on your routing.  Ideally, you should be able to go into the Vendee Globe thread and have at least some grasp of the concepts that some of the posters are talking about when discussing the choices being made by the likes of Armel or Alex.  You can plot your course on paper charts (and in some respects that is a great discipline to follow), or you can master Expedition, but none of it does  you any good if you don't know what the weather is going to do with your boat.  You can take classes to help with that, or borrow time from someone who knows how to do it.
  10. Learn about the Gulf Stream.  There are lots of resources, starting with the background and prep sessions done for this race and the Newport Bermuda.  But the Stream really is a unique aspect of this course, and is worth knowing how it impacts your race.
  11. Sleep Management.  Roy used to arrange for a seminar for the skippers interested in doing the race, taught by Claudio Stampfe.  I took it twice, and found it helpful.  You need to learn how to nap, and how to nap well.
  12. Confidence.  Get out there and sail solo as often as you can, in as many different conditions as you can
  13. Perspective.  Just remember, its not like you are giving birth, climbing Everest or that world peace hinges on completing the course. You can always turn back.  And it really is only a few days of sailing - its not like you are going to Mars on a 5 year journey.  So don't turn it into something bigger in your head, and don't let it psych you out.

Above all, remember that it is a great adventure and you are surrounded by a great group of people even if you are alone out there."