The race was first organized in 1990 by a group of sailors from the Port Credit Yacht Club and the Oakville Harbour Yacht Club (now merged with the Oakville Yacht Squadron) who were involved in single handed racing around the west end of Lake Ontario. Originally the race was a double handed event with a limit of two people per boat. In 1998 fully crewed yachts were also included as a separate Class.
Read Ian McAllister “The First 20 Years“, a story that originally appeared in the 2010 Lake Ontario Offshore Racing Guide. Robert B. Townsend also knows a thing or two about the fascinating history of Lake Ontario, find out about his Main Duck and Scotch Bonnet Islands tales.
There have been a variety of courses used, all at least 300 nautical miles (approximately 335 land miles) straight line distance. Since yachts cannot sail directly into the wind, and because the competitors will choose different courses between marks as they search for better winds, some yachts could sail as much as 400 miles and take 4 days or more to complete the race. The last yacht to finish that race had an elapsed time of 3days, 10hrs, and 39minutes.
Because winds vary considerably both in strength and direction depending on location and time of day, one challenge is to find the fastest route between marks. Especially for the double handed yachts, the challenge is staying awake. There is no stopping for a rest, so crews must be organized into shifts (watches in nautical terms). As easy as this sounds, it is difficult to get some sleep at noon so you will be wide awake at 4:00 am. For the double handed yachts, much of the race is spent with one crew sailing while the other sleeps (or at least naps). Add in the extremes of weather: storms or sitting under a hot sun with no wind and a plethora of flies, and the challenge gets that much greater.
In addition to having considerable safety equipment on board, each yacht is required to check in with the Canadian Coast Guard on a predetermined schedule. This procedure is used to determine if a yacht may be in trouble, and if necessary to initiate a search.
The race involves yachts of different designs and sizes. Because boat speed is a function of hull design and sail size, each yacht is assigned a rating based on these factors. The system used is the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF-LO). This rating is then applied to the yachts elapsed time to determine her final position in the race. Because of this, the order of finish is very often different than the final standings. A big yacht may finish well ahead of a smaller yacht, but because this was expected, the bigger yacht will end up losing since she did not beat the smaller yacht by as much as her rating said she should. If you visit this web site during the race, the Race Results will be updated as the yachts finish, and will show how positions change depending on how well each yacht does in beating the competition by as much as she had to.