Three Stages of Lake Madness

Published on July 21st, 2013

The Bayview Mackinac Race began on July 20, and it appears the route on Lake Huron between Detroit and Mackinac Island is treating the 225 boats much kinder than the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac Race did a week earlier.

How bad was the Chi-Mac? Here’s an excerpt from a report by Ben Braden, self-described neophyte Lake Michigan sailor, on his experience…

Imagine having raced all night, running two shifts and everyone is now sleep deprived, thinking about a nap sometime during the day to get prepared for the next evening’s shifts. The winds have crapped out about noon, glass everywhere, and not even enough swell for proper slatting.

The Sun is relentlessly burning into your skin through the 50 SPF sunscreen as the temps move into the 90’s – you begin thinking that this must be what the doldrums are like and begin wondering who will nap first. The swarms (of flies) arrive like something out of a Steven King horror story. The fly swatters come out, the bug spray fumigates the air, the straight DEET oil slathers all over legs and arms, but these bugs are immune, somehow evolved away from any chance of being distracted by bug spray. Stage one of Lake Madness sets in.

“This is a race from hell, how can anyone call this legitimate racing?” Ian Andrews stifles on “It’s well over 110 degrees down below and 1~2 knots of breeze for the last 50+ hours. Did I mention the Labrador sized flies that take a chunk of skin out of you every time they bite? I look like I’m suffering from small pox! I’ve heard of sea madness, hydrogen psychosis (crazy eye) and loopy girdle sniffer syndrome but this is the first time I’ve seen the effects of lake madness. The opposite watch helmsman has truly lost the plot…” Being on deck is unbearable, being below is ten folds worse and your chances of getting any sleep with bugs biting, sucking, ripping and buzzing all over your body has been reduced to less than ZERO.

Stage one of Lake Madness is Anger. You shift and shuffle around the boat slapping everything. Absolutely heedless of the bruising you are inflicting to yourself you swat away at every part of your body, begin pounding flies into the boat and eventually slapping everyone else around you as you try to kill every bug you can see – stage two – Lunacy.

Sleep deprived, boiling in the heat, sweat and CO2 attracting more and more bugs, you lose focus on the simple fact that you are sailing a race and begin thinking of grabbing hold of the anchor and jumping over the side like the single handed sailors of the past. You begin scheming the act of pouring Coke on your crew mates to attract the flies away from you and if you’re lucky you enter stage three – Acceptance.

Not everyone reaches Stage Three. Read on.

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