Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stormy Weather in 1937

The Volvo is over. Flags down on the Newport to Bermuda. The Transpac is a number of months away. The America's Cup? Any Americans actually racing? Regardless, it's not until next summer. France plays Italy in football but the only water in that game will be in the coolers. What's next?

The annual Chicago-to-Mackinac Island race starts July every summer for over a 100 years, it's the most challenging distance sailing race in the Great Lakes region. As you can imagine, the summer storms are a huge factor. In spite of the coastal sailors assumption that sailing the Lakes is for sissies...the microburst thunderstorms that ply the Great Lakes in the summertime can be hazardous.

According to history of the race posted on the Chicago Yacht Club's web site - the storm of 1937 was an atypically hard test of the crews and yachts. Out of a fleet of 42, just eight yachts finished. After a start in light easterlies, a fast run dissolved into fierce squalls; then the storm began in earnest Sunday night. Driven by a full gales of wind, with heavy seas of 20 to 30 feet, the yachts were sent careening south under bare poles to safety or fighting to get within the dangerous breakwaters of Ludington and other ports of shelter. The tales that have come from this storm-tossed race are of courage, skill, endurance, and, of course, humor. T here are races when just the right conditions matched the particular qualities of a yacht's design, crew, strategy, and sails.

Amorita in 1911, Virginia in '25, White Cloud in '42, Pied Piper in '87, come to mind, but few exhibited such a synergy more dramatically than S/Y Rubaiyat's incredible win in the hard blow of '37.

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