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Floating Towards Victory

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 5, 2013

Race One – 29 June 2013
By Eliza    

A view of Sorlandet from Unicorn

A view of Sorlandet from Unicorn

My passion for sailing originated on an eight foot deep lake in a fourteen foot dinghy. It was a fiberglass racing boat. I spent hours every day tacking back and forth across the lake, learning to read the wind, and studying racing tactics. Six years later, the depth of the lakes and the size of the boats that I sail are much larger. Most of them don’t tack very well and the wind is sometimes nonexistent. But on June 23, as the tall ships fleet sailed across the start line of the first race of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Great Lakes 2013 Race Series, I recalled the racing tactics I learned as a young collegiate sailor.

Sunset from Unicorn

Sunset from Unicorn

Pride of Baltimore II was first across the start line and Unicorn was close behind. That was exciting; your position and set-up at the start can impact the outcome of the entire race. It soon became obvious, however, that our respectable start could not make up for our boat’s inability to sail upwind. As the sun set into the skyscrapers, Sørlandet, Peacemaker and Lynx all crept past us. We floated along; the watches changed and some of the crew went to sleep. Every time I was woken for watch, Toronto was still looming nearby. After a day and a half, we finally lost sight of the city – the fog had closed in.

At the chart table, in the middle of the night, I calculated our angles and distances to waypoints, strategizing as my former coach had taught me, and reporting our position to our chief mate, Hannah. But racing Unicorn, built as a Dutch fishing trawler, is quite unlike racing a fiberglass racing dinghy. At our steady pace of one nautical mile an hour, we floated across the tranquil lake, enjoying the scenic route and the vibrant sunrise. In the end, the forty-eight hour time limit expired before we ever crossed the finish line. But despite our loss, the crew was left with a sense of accomplishment – we have now gybed our way across every inch of Lake Ontario.

View from Unicorn of the Parade of Sail out of Toronto

View from Unicorn of the Parade of Sail out of Toronto



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