Transat Quebecâ€”St. Malo
The River PortionÂ Race day in Quebec City, July 22nd, dawned warm and sunny as predicted, but with more wind than expected.Â The last minute scurries all went well… breakfast for Mark and I, weather for Matt, details for Emmaâ€¦ check out of the hotel, drop the crew, drop the rental car, return to the harborâ€¦ a typical busy time. Â And as it would work out, the boats were on the other side of the lock, which was open when I got there and heightened my anxiety wondering if it would close so I could get to the boat. It did, but then again, trapped Emma on the other side… and once again they closed it to let the crews over. Never a start without a last minute worry!!
We exited the harbor to cheers and announcements over the loud speaker… something new for us Americans but typical in these events.Â The boats paraded up the river to the starting area and spent time sailing about the river giving the press the opportunity to photograph the event.
Quickly enough, the start gun fired and the fleet was off on a downwind start, colorful spinnakers flying in 10 to 12 knots of wind, gybing back and forth in close quarters past the beautiful waterfront of Quebec City.Â The race organizers couldn’t have asked for a better situationÂ –Â 21 Class 40â€™s, another two monohulls and five multihulls filling the waterfront with colorful sails on a beautiful Sunday! Wish I’d have had the time to take a few photographs of the show, but I’m sure the picture was better from the shore.
The winds and currents in the river kept the rankings continuously changing. One moment we’d be up in the front of the pack, the next gybe we’d be further back… a current change and we’d be smoking boats… and then, in reverse, it’d be our turn.Â Through the entire afternoon and into the evening, we’d considered various routes down the river — constantly referring to the tide and current charts we’d acquired to predict where the best places might be.Â And as it would be, as night fell, the winds let up and we all struggled to keep the boat moving forward again, constantly watching competitors move forward and then back aft.
This sailing went on for two daysâ€¦ working gybes and sail changes, watching currents and navigation and wondering where competitors had gotten off to and when they might show up again.Â The one beautiful distraction to it all was the occasional sighting of a whale and the wonderful sighting of Belugas… so magical — almost glowing white against the blue waters.Â At night, when the winds had gone away and our progress was marginal at best, sometimes only forward by way of the currents, you could see the stars overhead and hear the sound of whales blowing around you. And as if that wasn’t enough, the lonely wallow of a Northern Loon would break the stillness giving a grandness to this St. Lawrence River.Â As a Great Lakes sailor, I’d always thought of sailing out the St. Lawrence.Â Next time, I’ll take my time and make this part of the trip last a few weeks.Â There’s so much unspoiled grandeur to be explored.
The race spotted six “marks” along the route out the St. Lawrence at six different harbors along the way.Â This gave the residents the chance to enjoy the race passing their shores and provided the fleet an opportunity to consolidate and reconnect with their competitors.Â A few of these marks were especially beautiful coming near sunset with a beautiful backdrop of a small harbor and lightsâ€¦ and some came in the middle of the night.Â Most all of them came with some frustration as the winds turned fluky near the shores.Â More than once we saw huge swings in leads and positions pending our location with the wind and currents — fun if you were on the good side of things and not so much fun if you weren’t.
One especially un-fun situation occurred late at night.Â Mark and I were on watch and blasting along the shore on a Jib Reach, Matt and Emma has passed a few boats on their watch and had left three or four for us to catch. We were overtaking them one at a time and feeling pretty good about our position having moved to the front of the pack, when we learned from Matt that we were supposed to turn a mark just behind us… Mark and I had wondered why the other boats stayed so close to shore!! Â Embarrassed, like scolded little boys, Mark and I tacked about, returned and rounded the mark, our lead now gone and in sixth place in this pack of boats. With frustrated determination, we worked hard the next hour and passed all six boats once again. We wondered the rest of the race how we might have advanced with winds and currents if we’d not missed that call.Â Be assured, that story will get better as time goes on, and likely in about five years, we’d have won the race if we’d not missed that mark!!
Stay tuned for the next section of the race…
P.S. If you have the chance, pick up a copy ofÂ Sailing MagazineÂ and read the story on the Atlantic Cup Race!!