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Path of the Flying Squirrel

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 14, 2013

Lake Erie, July 10, 2013
 By Brian Holmen

Racing Lynx

Racing Lynx


Cleveland came to a close with the crew party at the Edgewater Yacht Club. Music was provided by several crewmembers from the Peacemaker. Our sail out of Cleveland would be our second race of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race Series in the Great Lakes. Almost every vessel from Cleveland would be participating in the race with a surprise appearance from the Niagara. I would be joining the Lynx again since they were still short handed on crew.

This race would be a short 30-mile sprint out Cleveland to Peele Passage. We left the dock around 11 am, in time to make it to the starting line, which was just outside the breakwater. Behind the starting line every ship was jockeying for position. It was quite a sight to see eight tall ships setting sail and trying to get the best position for the start of the race. 

During the last race out of Toronto we were late to the starting line because we had too much wind. In Cleveland we were late to the starting line because we had very little wind. This late start put us an hour late to crossing the starting line. By this time, Niagara and Pride of Baltimore II had a pretty big lead ahead of us. As we started the race Captain Erik Lohse discussed the race plan with the rest of the crew. He told us that Lynx had no chance of winning if we steer the same course as Pride of Baltimore II and enter into a drag race. Instead we were going to hug the shoreline where there is usually a better breeze.

Since we had a smaller crew we divided into a two-watch system, meaning we had four hours on, and then four hours off. This watch system would continue all the way to Bay City. My watch was first on and we made our way west along the coast. With the close reach that we had we experimented with our jack-yard topsail. This was the first time this summer that the jack-yard topsail had been set onboard Lynx. After much pondering and reading of a crew manual we were able to set the sail, and we were all pleased to get that extra knot in speed.

With the consistent wind from the coast and the added power of our jack-yard topsail we were able to make our way to the front of the fleet. Before we knew it, we were leading the fleet and had a five mile lead on Pride of Baltimore II. Our strategy had worked but we knew that a 5-mile lead on Pride of Baltimore II was not enough and we need more.

Ahead of Pride of Baltimore II?

Ahead of Pride of Baltimore II?


Unfortunately, around our 1800 check-in we received a storm warning from the Coast Guard and we had to take in the jack-yard topsail that was giving us our boost. We called up the off watch to stand by if the squall came. After half an hour the Coast Guard cancelled the storm warning and the off watch was stood down. For an hour we saw dark clouds around us but the weather seemed to be going behind us. Soon it did start raining but the wind did not pick up as much as we thought.

In seconds we were hit by very strong winds that made us heel over so much that water started poring through our gun ports. Cheyenne, our first mate, yelled to take in the jack topsail and I definitely had a second of hesitation as I was in awe by how far we were heeled over. Taking in the jack topsail brought the ship to a more comfortable heel.

The  squall had made us veer off our course and lose some valuable time. Pride of Baltimore II was now closing in on us. We continued on with our watch through the heavy rain keeping an eye on the wind. It rained so much that after an hour of standing outside our foul weather gear was soaked. When the off watch came to relieve us we spent no time hanging around. It was nice to get out of soaked clothes and go to bed. I have come to learn over the past few weeks that when you are racing it is smart to try to get as much sleep as you can because you never know when you will get enough sleep.

Captain Lohse and First Mate Cheyenne

Captain Lohse and First Mate Cheyenne

I was called back on deck for my next watch. It was dark and the rain was still off and on. But we were approaching the finish line. I took a glance at the AIS to see where the other ships were. During my sleep Pride of Baltimore II had passed us and had just finished the race. Captain Lohse came back up on deck to tell us we had finished the race. There was a small cheer from the crew as it was the middle of the night and we were all very tired. However, we had made up a lot of time on Pride of Baltimore II and even though were second across the finish line, there was a chance we could have won the race based on corrected time and the rating system employed to keep the race fair between all the different types of rigs.

We sailed on through the night making our way through the Peele Passage and heard other ships checking in over the radio as they crossed the finish line. Captain Heerssen of the Niagara even complemented Lynx on a good race, which was a nice compliment for the crew.

As we made our way to Bay City, the long days continued as we navigated our way through the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and into Lake Huron. We looked forward to get into port so we could get some rest. Now in Bay City we wait in anticipation to hear the official results of the race at the crew party Sunday night.


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