Of course the Catalina 320 is a great cruiser but she performs incredibly well in long-distance races as well.
Kicking of the 2015 summer sailing season with the Susan Hood race would be a test on many different levels. The Susan Hood is one of three primary racing events on Lake Ontario each year as coordinated by Lake Ontario Offshore Racing (LOOR). The other two are the LO300 and the Lake Ontario Short Handed Racing Series (LOSHRS). Every other year LOOR conduct the LO600 along with the LO300. 2016 will mark the second running of the LO600.
So, about the Susan Hood, what do they mean it starts in the evening? My son Justin and I are doing the race short-handed and with an evening start that pretty clearly means an overnight will be included. Okay, that’s the first test.
Promoted (or is that promised?), as the ‘Coolest race on the Lake’, I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive when prepping our Catalina 320, In The Moment, during those chilly days in early May. Launch was just a few short weeks before this race. Can we be ready in time for the start? Another test I suppose.
They say the Susan Hood is a great ‘warm-up’ for the racing season. Is someone playing with words here? The coolest race is also a warm-up? Is it still considered a warm-up if there’s frost on the canvas in the early morning? Where are those earmuffs?
Although there were indeed a few tests of the boat and crew, those challenges simply added to the incredible experience and enjoyment we had participating for the first time in the Susan Hood, double-handed.
The start line was set just off shore from the Port Credit Yacht Club (PCYC) the host of all LOOR events. Fairly light winds from the SW gently pushed us over the line followed by even lighter and occasionally zero winds from WNW in the late evening through 0430. Then as we were ghosting closer to the Burlington Weather mark, which is close to the Burlington Bridge, which is near the entrance to Hamilton Harbour, it picked up. Boy, did it pick up! Ten to 12 knots on the nose and we were suddenly maneuvering through multiple tacks in order to round, and not hit of course, the mark. Very curious looking mark I have to say. Looks like the four legs of a water tower without the tank on top but with multiple spokes sticking out in all directions.
Anyway, the wind continued from the SW after we rounded at approximately 0523 and we charged towards the Niagara mark with winds in excess of 15 knots, gusts over 20. The boat was surfing at times as the swells built and our speed bounced around in the upper 7s. An exhilarating ride as we exceeding boat speed a number of times and managed the weather helm accordingly.
We turned at the Niagara mark at 0950 and then it really got exciting as we close-reached back towards the finish line at PCYC. With the strong wind continuing to blow WSW we put a single reef in the main to lessen the weather helm while maintaining speed.
Then, our final test came within 100 metres (328 feet) of the finish line when a squall hit coming off the north shore. We tacked away, quickly furled the genoa and then continued towards the finish line with only the main. We crossed just after 1400.
And, surprise, surprise. We came in 1st in our class!
My family and friends have enjoyed many adventures around Lake Ontario on ‘In The Moment’ including cruising, racing or just relaxing at anchor. We purchased the boat in the fall of 2010 (#638) and she has performed incredibly well even when I put her through the challenges of an overnight long-distance race.
What a memorable adventure. Can’t wait to do it again in 2016!