Transformation from Cruiser to Racer.

Both cruising and yacht racing are important to my family, this is why we set out to acquire a versatile boat. We wanted a boat that had an open and large cockpit for entertaining, accommodations for comfortable family cruising, yet still be competitive in yacht racing. We found what we wanted in a 2008 Jeanneau 39i Performance sailboat that we named Black Diamond. After spending the winter cruising with her in the Bahamas, we brought her back just in time for the summer racing season here in Lake Ontario.

Our cruise to the Bahamas began in August 2008 when we left the Port Credit Yacht Club, crossed Lake Ontario, then through the Oswego/Erie Canal, and down the Hudson River to New York City. The sail from New York City to Florida was completed about 100 miles offshore and in what I believe to be a cruising record of 5 days and 3 hours.

You can imagine all the gear necessary to make this trip safe and enjoyable. I purchased a storm jib, six man offshore life raft, inflatable dinghy with an electric motor that can easily be stored in the storage room. We made good use of our storage room, keeping the deck and transom clear for some offshore racing. We were fortunate to enter a couple of offshore long distance races while away.

At anchor in the Exumas, Bahamas near Big Major Spot.

At anchor in the Exumas, Bahamas near Big Major Spot.

But now the challenge was turning her back into a racer for the Lake Ontario 300. Once we pulled into our slip, after a winter of cruising south, the process started with completely stripping the boat of just about everything. It is amazing how much stuff can accumulate on a boat! It took a conscious decision to remove everything, and only put back what was absolutely necessary. We removed about three van loads of gear including the dinghy, motor, fishing rods & tackle, scuba gear, beach chairs and toys, extra clothing, cleaning supplies, appliances, books and the barbeque amoung many other things. I estimated over a 1,000 pounds worth of gear in all.

Next, we had to meet the LO300 offshore sailing regulations which has a very long list of safety gear that needed to be purchased and installed. However, we still wanted to keep the boat light for the race. So off came the main sail lazy jack bag and the full enclosure which consists of a dodger, bimini, transition and side walls, not forgetting all the enclosure hardware. This was not only for weight and drag, but also for clear visibility of the sails. We used this opportunity to have minor repairs done to the enclosure after a long winter down south. Then we made sure the water, waste and fuel tanks were emptied, only carrying enough fuel to meet regulations. This saved us another 1,000 pounds in weight. The salon table came out, making room for the crew’s personal gear, and keeping the weight low to the keel.

We sent a crew member up the mast for an inspection. The rig was tuned for racing, life lines and all sharp edges taped off to protect the spinnaker. We lubed all the running rigging, making sure everything was operating quick and smooth. We haul the boat out, washed the bottom then applied a coating of VC-17; this retards marine growth and provides the hull a super smooth and quick surface.

The last thing that we had to take care of before the race was provisioning the boat with food. Our goal was to have good food that was quick and easy to prepare.  This is very important on long distance races or cruises. Many times the weather or sea conditions make it difficult to cook at sea. Fortunately, my wife enjoys cooking and volunteered for this job. She cooked everything homemade, for six crew, for three days. She made meat sauce and put it in a Tupperware, and she even precooked the spaghetti and put in large Ziploc bags so that we just had to heat it, and serve it. Another of the crew’s favourites for lunch was the prepared egg salad and tuna salad that could easily be put between bread for a quick sandwich. We also had a large dish of  homemade chili and chicken noodle soup that could also be heated up at a moments notice.

Overall, the transformation took me about 3 or 4 days worth of work and a couple thousand dollars in safety gear. In preparation, it is necessary to book approximately a week off work. This includes time for Prep, Race and Recovery. All well worth the effort. We had a wonderful experience racing the LO300, excellent wind conditions for about half the race with winds 15 to 20 knots and gusting a little higher. A nice broad reach under asymmetric spinnaker topping off our speed at 10.5 knots. We were up with the leading boats for the first leg. I was very happy with our performance up until then, reaching Main Duck Island in about 19 hours. Then, just before rounding the island we ripped our spinnaker in half. What a disappointment, not for the loss of the spinnaker but for what it would do to our finishing position. The only item that was not taped off, was the radar reflector on the starboard spreader, I believed this may have put a little hole in it, that eventually caused the rip due to a long and heavy spinnaker leg.

Stripped down for the Lake Ontario 300 in 2009.

Stripped down for the Lake Ontario 300 in 2009.

The next leg from Main Duck to the Oswego Mark was a close haul course in 20+ knots of wind with seas 6 to 8 feet. I could swear I was back on the Atlantic Ocean! It’s the closest you’ll come to experiencing the ocean on a lake. Our boat loves these types of conditions; we put a couple of miles between us and the boats directly behind us. We also passed 4 boats, and caught up to the lead boats again. On the leg to Youngstown we decided to head offshore, which turned out to be a bad decision. Had we stayed inshore and on the rhumb line directly to the Niagara mark, many boats including those in our fleet may not have passed us. The last leg really required a spinnaker with very light winds, this is where we lost all our time in the race this year.

We did complete the circumnavigation in two and a half days, a day quicker than last year.  We endured some rough conditions, heavy winds, doldrums, hot summer sun, cold evening breeze, containerships and even some seasickness, but all of this added to the experience. I would recommend the race for anyone planning a long distance passage down south, it’s an excellent training ground for ocean passages, and a good shake down cruise for your vessel and crew. I plan to continue to participate in the LO300 for many years to come.

s/v Black Diamond

I have been boating for over 25 years, at the age of 43, this is more than half of my life time. Starting out with a number of smaller power boats, then switching to sail about 8 years ago. I have sailed various boats from wind surfers, dinghies (lasers), keel boats from 26 to 45 foot yachts. I live in the area of Toronto Canada and sail mostly on Lake Ontario. I have been racing yachts for the past 7 years. I have also entered many long distance races such as the Fort Lauderdale to Charleston, completed in 2 days 8 hours, we received 4th place in division, 8 minutes in PHRF behind a 3rd place trophy. Then 4 times finishing the Susan Hood, a 75 mile over night race, 4 times entered in the Lake Ontario 300 the worlds longest fresh water race, a 308 knotical mile race around the perimeter of Lake Ontario. My crew and I on Black Diamond finished in 2 days 12 hours in 2009. In 2009, delivering the boat back up to Canada from the Bahamas we entered in a couple of interesting races, one from Fort Lauderdale to Charleston described as a sled ride up the gulf stream, the Charleston race week regatta series and the New Year's Day Staniel Cay Regatta in the Exumas, Bahamas. This race we came in 2nd over entire fleet, only lost by 3 minutes in a 2 hour race to a 47 footer. This was a boat for boat race, no PHRF scoring. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So cast off the bowline, Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain Blue water experience include yacht deliveries from the Abacos, Bahamas to Charleston South Carolina 2006. This delivery was a non-stop, 3 and half days, total of 500 miles. We crossed parts of the Bermuda Triangle, and during most of the delivery were over 200 miles offshore. The delivery of Black Diamond a 40 foot Jeanneau racer/cruiser has been delivered to New York City and then offshore to Florida and the Bahamas from Toronto, Canada. This delivery from NYC to Florida was completed 100 miles offshore, for a distance of over a 1000 miles non-stop to Jacksonville, Florida. Completed in what might be a cruisers record of 5 days 3 hours non-stop offshore. This fall my family and I added another 500 miles of sailing throughout much of the Bahamas. Spending 6 weeks aboard Black Diamond sailing the Abacos, Nassau and the Exumas. I then sailed the boat back to New York, completely offshore, entered a few races along the way, and back to Toronto through the Hudson River and Erie Canal. During the 2009 season, we sailed Black Diamond off the dock 148 different days out of 365, winning the Vacant Dock award the second year in a row. Most recently, 2011, completed the delivery of friends boat Tracey & Nilson Ruiz, from Tortoal, BVI to New York. Tortola to Georgetown Bahamas in 5 days non-stop. Last leg from Charleston to New York over the momorial day long week-end non-stop Friday to Monday in 4 days. All completed safe and sound without incedent. Need any deliveries let me know. I am also an Open Water Certified diver and an active member of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron, certifications included Power/Sail boat handling, Seamanship Sail, Piloting/charting, GPS Navigation, Extended Offshore Cruising and a VHF Radio operation license. I hope to further my education, qualifications and experience in long distance cruising and racing. One of my goals is to obtain a commercial Captains License. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]

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1 Response

  1. Ed says:

    Hi Ed,

    I read your article (1 Boat, 2 Looks)  in GAM and looked up your blog this am. Fabulous stuff! I really enjoy some vicarious sailing and your blog really is great for that! Thanks a million.

    I am looking forward to checking out the rest of your blog and travels as time permits.

    Thanks and fair winds.

    Brian GAM reader, sent to me as a personal e-mail.

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