Tuesday, August 04, 2009


The Queen's representative is referred to as the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. He sponsors a sailboat race every year from Yellowknife to Hay River and back. The race is 120 nautical miles each way and I just love competing in it. The boats leave Yellowknife on Friday morning of the August long weekend and get into Hay River some time on Sat. We have a dinner and party that night and then sail back on Sunday, usually arriving in YK sometime on Monday. Okay enough of a history lesson.
This year I convinced this crazy guy Iain to take his boat in the race and take me along. There were only 3 boats in the race, par for the course. Misty II, the boat I was on, is a Tanzer 26, there was a Tanzer 22 and a X-boat that is 34 feet, I think. The X-boat is built for speed, a real racing sled, long, sleek, fractional rig, a thing of beauty. Misty II is a good boat but it needs a lot of loving care and attention. It has been neglected on the hard for 5 years, it leaks, the radio does not work, the sink was plugged, the rack for plates that was bolted to the inside of the hull came off causing the stove to become unattached to the piece of wood that held it down and tip dangerously, Iain spilled coffee grounds all over the inside of the boat and there they stayed sloshing around in the excess water from the leak that had overflowed from the bilge, yup, needs some love. The other Tanzer was shipshape, stripped down for racing, they took their stove off , so they would have less weight and the skipper is a no nonsense kind of guy.
We left for Hay River, wind on our nose, tacking all the way, the X-boat took off and after a few miles we could not see it any more. The Tanzers raced their way across, each going their separate ways meeting about 5 nm from the finish line. It was brilliantly sunny, winds were light and it took us forever to get across the lake. I was worried we would be late for dinner on Sat. night, we got in at 1730 and the dinner started at 1800 hours. The Commissioner joined us for dinner and told some jokes as I consumed my wonderful whitefish. The sailors swapped tales about the crossing and secrets were revealed. The X-boat was 11 HOURS ahead of us so we kind of conceded the race in our minds, how could we possibly make up 11 hours, but it is a sailboat race and anything can happen and often does. Xcapade has a very long keel and it had got stuck going into the shallow Hay River channel on the way in so we were kind of thinking that perhaps it might get really stuck on the way out and we would have a chance!! HMM, a sea anchor would also slow them down!!!
Sunday morning dawned, it was dead calm at 0600 hours when I woke up and it did not look good for sailing. After a wonderful breakfast supplied by the crew of Xcapade and after pictures were taken for posterity, we left. The wind had come up with a vengeance, it was blowing 30 knots, the waves were pounding from across the lake into the shallow shore and there were very steep 1 1/2 meter waves. Xcapade did get stuck even with 5 crew members sitting on the same side on the rails. It is just mud so they shouldn't have done any damage and all that happened when they got stuck was that a big wave came along and lifted them off and they powered up and kept going. They did find the bucket I had filled with water and tied to their stern to slow them down, hee, hee, hee!! Everyone was feeling really queasy, the waves were horrid and we were getting soaked as the rollers pounded into the boats and over the combings, we had a double reefed main and a small genoa and once again we were beating into it, unbelievable.
That wind decided to veer clockwise and die on Monday morning. We had beat all night and we had only made 60 nm. Once the wind died at one point we actually went backwards, the current in the lake took us towards the Mackenzie River, we should have gone to Inuvik! Iain played the wind like a pro, going 0.4 knots to 1.1 knots and back to standing still. Finally there was enough wind to put up the spinnaker, we dropped the main and we drifting towards Yellowknife. I flew the big blue and yellow asymmetrical for 20 miles, then we had white sails up heading home. We got within 3nm of Yellowknife and the wind died again. We sailed in this! It took us 3 hours to go 3nm!! I called Barry to let him know we had made it and he said the other 2 boats had given up the ghost and motored, we had no idea!!!! WE WON, unbelievable, what a saga! Iain couldn't believe it. We will have the record for the longest crossing for quite some time. It took us 48 hours to go 120 km, that makes our average speed 2.5 knots, hmmm, a real sailboat race.