"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.

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."