Lake Ontario 300 Challenge presented by driveHG.ca
The 2016 Lake Ontario 300 and 600 Challenge:
The 2016 Lake Ontario 300 Challenge proved to be one of the classic challenges in the history of the race. One of the slogans used to promote this race was a guarantee of High winds, Low winds, Head winds, Aft winds, Cross winds and No winds; which all happened in 2016 to provide challenging conditions on both the Scotch Bonnet (200 nautical mile) and the Main Duck (300 nautical mile) courses. These conditions were matched with amazing night sailing, or drifting as the case may be, under a full moon and warm conditions.
Light winds at the start provided a long spinnaker run after rounding the Humberview Mark (the first mark after the start) that then proceeded to die after the sun set. Boats that followed meteorologist Ron Bianchi’s advice and staying in shore were blessed with slightly better winds and were rewarded. Sunday morning the winds slowly filled in from behind which kept the fleet relatively tighter than year’s before on both courses. As the day progressed and yachts on the Main Duck Course came up to Main Duck Island the storm front produced severe winds with some of the toughest waves possible on this lake. Scotch Bonnet Racers got hit with the bulk of the storm that came through late Sunday giving them high winds, waves and rain to round Scotch Bonnet Rock and head to Niagara.
Sustained winds through Sunday evening and most of the day Monday meant long tacks into the Niagara R2 Buoy. As the day progressed the winds settled to easterly and the waves settled into a manageable rhythm that continued to settle into the evening. Boats in the middle of the lake and further back in the fleet were treated to steady winds.
The return trip from Niagara to PCYC varied with the time of rounding, but winds came up out of the north and held overnight. Light winds.The Scotch Bonnet fleet finished on Monday along with a few of the larger boats who were competing on the Main Duck Course. Most MDC course boats finished on Tuesday and some on Wednesday under brutally light conditions again.
Almost 1/3 of the boats were forced or chose to retire from this race. On the Main Duck challenge, 23 of 72 and for the Scotch Bonnet race, 12 of 34 boats retired from racing. Everyone is safe despite one air lift off the rocks near Main Duck island. Back in 1994 less than 25% of the competitors finished this race follow by 1998 and 2002 with just over 34% finishing this race. It’s why this event is called a Challenge and many sailors keep coming back to experience what it takes to circumnavigate this unpredictable lake.
Line honours on the Main Duck course go to Oh Canada, the Open 60, with an impressive time of 48 hours, 56 minutes. Skippered by Sandy MacPherson.
Line honours on the Scotch Bonnet course belong to Sula Sula skippered by Carey Crawford-Brown from RCYC with a finishing time of 67 hours, 26 minutes.
Congratulations to all competitors in this year’s Lake Ontario 300 and 600 Challenge, the ultimate test of sailing skills.
Lake Ontario Offshore Racing Committee