June 20, 2013GROSSE POINTE PARK — Fifteen minutes before the first heat tried to cross the starting line in the June 11, Tuesday Night Sundown Series sailboat race off Windmill Pointe Park, the breeze shifted 90 degrees, from directly offshore to down the 20-mile length of Lake St. Clair.
Air changed from overtly clammy to deceptively nippy.
The new breeze, cooled over open water, replaced warm air coming off the metro Detroit heat island.
The starting cannon sounded at 7 p.m. and wind velocity dropped to nearly nothing.
Norm Samra, a member of the race-sponsoring Grosse Pointe Sail Club, based at Grosse Pointe Park’s municipal park, described the sudden doldrums with a reference Samuel Pepys often made when wrapping up entries in his diary.
“The wind went to bed,” said Samra, standing on Windmill Park’s outer breakwall with the race committee and a few dozen spectators.
About 40 sloops in seven classes wallowed near each other in and around the starting box awaiting their starts.
Jib and main sails hung limp. Telltails dangled. Shrouds slackened. Booms waged in a slight chop created mostly by the downstream current than wind. Flying insects, no wind to whisk them away, swarmed.
Jim Verbeke experienced the start firsthand as a crewmember of “Lynx.”
“We started the race close to the starting line, then drifted back 50 yards until the wind finally picked up and we were able to start,” said Verbeke, of Grosse Pointe Farms. “It took us 12 minutes to cross the line.”
The crew of “Five Guys Named Moe” (that would be Moe, Moe, Moe, Moe and Moe), slated to start in a later division, didn’t bother to leave their slip in the city marina.
The race committee soon postponed subsequent starts.
At 7:34 p.m., with no promising forecast, they canceled the race.
“There will be no more racing,” the starter announced by megaphone.
Crewmembers cheered and started motoring in.
“Wind like this is frustrating,” Samra said. “It’s the bad end of the stick.”
“Normally, we have wonderful starts,” said Edie O’Byrne, of the Park. “Sometimes, we have spinnaker starts that are amazing.”
She has a sailboat, “Aisling,” but doesn’t race.
“I like to cruise,” O’Byrne said. “My daughter’s racing it tonight.”
Or tried to.
“You can’t sail if there’s no wind,” O’Byrne said.
Grosse Pointe Sail Club races are held on most Tuesday nights through the middle of October, with time out in July for the Port Huron to Mackinac race.
The 5.6-mile course starts and ends off the municipal harbor. A 4.4-mile course has the same end points.
Both courses head north into the lake, east to the freighter channel and back.
Races have 2 1/2-hour time limits.
This year’s remaining schedule is:
June 18 and 25;
July 2 and 9;
Aug. 6, 13, 20 and 27;
Sept. 8 (ladies race), 10, 17 and 24 and
Oct. 1 and 13.
For more information, visit gpsc.org.