Many of you know me from years of sailing on Geronimo, the SR 33 in the Mac races on the Great Lakes and others of you remember me from my adventures on Bodacious Dream, the Class 40 racing and sailing solo around the world.
These past couple of years, I have been honored to be an Ambassador for 11th Hour Racing, a program of the Schmidt Family Foundation who seek to promote good environmental practices and stewardship of our waters through the actions of racing sailors.
Much of the 11th Hour Racing efforts are directed toward the oceans of the world and I am now able to bring their thoughts and advice to our precious Great Lakes. Lake Michigan has been my playground for 57 years now, in these years, I’ve seen a remarkable recovery by the lake but we’ve also learned the lake is far more fragile than the oceans of the world. The waters come from rainfall and run off and with a very slow circulation, different from the twice a day exchange of ocean tides, the lakes are extremely vulnerable to bad practices. This makes the ideas and efforts of 11th Hour Racing even more important to those of us on the Great Lakes.
Can I ask each of you to consider these thoughts, and do your best to try them out for the Mac Races?
Please try to eliminate single use water bottles. I won’t bore you with why. Our experience at other national regattas has tallied the number of bottles saved in the tens of thousands. Imagine a crew of six, each drinking six bottles a day….for a four day Mac Race—taking into account start and finish days…..This totals up to 120 bottles per boat….at 300 boats, imagine saving 30,000 some bottles from recycling and landfills and the 3% blown overboard---This totals over 1000 bottles saved from Lake Michigan! Even better, buy a camping filtration system for under $100 and make your own fresh water on the race and use reusable water bottles, saving all the weight and garbage room! Geronimo has done this for over 20 years.
Consider using alternative transportation whenever possible. Bikes, skateboards, walking to and from events. What makes Mackinac Island so beautiful is the lack of motorized vehicles….I know it doesn’t seem like much….but walking another block or skate boarding to dinner makes you an outlier! Outliers unite!
We’ve figured out banding our chutes, with either rubber bands or a yarn isn’t so good. With each spin set, we pollute the waters. Polyester is plastic and rubber isn’t fish food! New techniques for lightweight Velcro tabs, zippers and chute scoops are the new rage on the pro race courses. Imagine how many feet of yarn or rubber bands are used during a Mac Race…..and how many fish are biting those red bits of non-nutritious bait!
It’s probably too late this year to change your ways, but maybe you can find some organic cotton yarn to use until you can have the sailmaker help you out with reusable Velcro tabs.
These are some simple steps you can employ and stand-up, responsible, for the stewardship of your lake.
I wish you all good luck in the Mac Race and when you can, take a momentary break from the racing to enjoy the beauty you are experiencing! I’ve sailed all over the world and in many beautiful places. From my experiences, a sunset on the open lake or waking up in the Cathedral of the Lake –the area north of the Manitou’s, south of Grey’s Reef and bounded on the west by The Islands and the east by some of the oldest rock on earth— or smelling the fresh pines of the north country, these are the beautiful treasures we get to experience year after year by sailing within the respected folds these ancient waters.
I look forward to seeing you all on the Island. Look for the 11th Hour Racing Flag flying from Geronimo and come by to tell me how many disposable water bottles you saved this year! I’ll proudly take the cumulated number to our next 11th Hour Racing meeting!
Good Luck, sail safe, enjoy the beauty!
11th Hour Ambassador
Rail meat on Geronimo 50326