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An interview with Mike Kenny about the 2019 Lake Michigan Singlehanded Society's Q Race

by David Schmidt 14 Aug 16:00 BST August 16, 2019
The usual suspect—Lake Michigan Singlehanded Society's Q Race © Image courtesy of Lake Michigan Singlehanded Society / Phil Bush

Ever since 1981, the Q Race, held (roughly) every other year on the waters of Lake Michigan, has been run as a single- or shorthanded freshwater distance race whose primary goal is to use one’s own self-reliance and sailing skills, rather than cutthroat competition, to safety complete the course. That’s not to say that the Q Race, which starts on Friday, August 16, and which is organized by the Lake Michigan Singlehanded Society, is a casual affair—it’s not. But rather, its primary goal is to help develop and encourage sailors, not over-escalated war-chest rivalries.

The Q Race starts off of Racine, Wisconsin, and takes racers some 70 nautical miles down Lake Michigan to NOAA’s south mid-lake buoy, which serves as the course’s turning point. From there, sailors spin their bows back towards the finishing line off of Racine.

I checked in with Mike Kenny, president of the Lake Michigan Singlehanded Society (LMSS), via email, to learn more about the 2019 edition of the Q Race.

Can you tell us a bit about the regatta’s origins? Also, how has the regatta grown and evolved over the years?

The LMSS Q Race is run on the odd years. It was originally designed to be a qualifier event for first-time racing solo sailors.

The course is about 65 nautical miles extending over 30 nautical miles offshore around a fixed weather buoy in the middle of Lake Michigan and back to the starting point on the West Shore. Satisfactorily completing the Q Race Solo will qualify you for the longer Solo Challenge that we run on the even years. The Q Race has become more popular since we started offering a Double Handed section several years ago.

Many [sailors] prefer the Q Race as it only takes one day to complete. This LMSS Race is graciously sponsored by the Racine Yacht Club. Race is run on a Friday with Awards on Saturday.

How many boats are you guys expecting this year? Also, how do these entry numbers stack up to recent comparable years?

We are expecting [that] 25 to 40 boats will enter the Q race in 2019. This is up slightly from the average. Weather and attrition has been a significant factor in the last couple years. But in the long term we are seeing a slight uptick in sail racing on the Great lakes.

I attribute this [uptick] to efforts by many organizations and yacht clubs that have beefed up efforts to promote sail racing to non-Racers and beginning sailors. Much has been done to simplify entry into the sport.

Can you describe the levels of competition that sailors can expect to find, once the starting guns begin sounding?

You will find no shortage of competition here. Everyone is in it to win it. Don't be fooled by what may appear as a cruising boat alongside that J/boat, we have some of the best sailing talent on the Great Lakes.

Conditions-wise, what’s typical for this regatta? Also, what are the best-case and worst-case scenarios?

Being a mid-August event in the Midwest the temperature is usually ideal. Personally, I like to see 15 - 20 knots from the north or south (Course is roughly W > E > W) but it often starts out very light from the WNW and clocks toward the North.

Worst is the stormy years when waves can quickly exceed eight feet and/or water spouts form nearby. As an offshore race, those are the times that can really test your skills.

Do you have any advice or insider tips that you’d like to share with first-time racers? What about returning racecourse veterans?

The LMSS Q Race is a wonderful event for anyone interested in solo and short-handed sailing. We are a very friendly group of sailors with a primary focus on everyone's safety and a secondary focus on fun.

My best advice is stop thinking about it, signup now and see for yourself.

Looking at the entry list, do you have any pre-race favorites? What about any intriguing dark horses?

It's still too early to speculate. For sure there will be plenty of competition. However, I like to keep the sections small so there are more winners. There is nothing like the thrill of bringing home your brag flag.

Can you tell us about any steps that you and the other event organizers have taken in the last couple years to help green-up the regatta or otherwise lower its environmental wake?

Our biggest efforts have been working towards zero plastic on the water. Sailing offshore on the Great Lakes offers an endless supply of freshwater that’s easily and safely filtered on board at a very low cost. This completely eliminates to need to carry any plastic water bottles.

Anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

Please visit our Website at lmssonline.com Sign-up on-line and see for yourself.

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