By Dave Heitzenrater
The Most Historic racing trophy in the Erie Yacht Club display case is the Annette Cup. The initial challenge for this silver loving cup occurred when the Erie Yacht Club was a youthful dozen years old. The race began in Erie and continued past both the tip of Presque Isle and Long Point though Long Point Bay to Port Dover, Ontario as the racecourse remains today, a full century later. The rhumbline course is about 41 nautical miles and passes above the deepest portion of Lake Erie at approximately 212’ to the dark cold bottom. The course also navigates the racing fleet above numerous recorded shipwrecks, one being a 1972 Erie Yacht Club causality Gus.
A common landmark normally observed by the racers is the Long Point Light House. It is interesting to note that as the contemporary fleet spies the lighthouse through their glass as they approach Long Point, it is the third lighthouse that was constructed at this eastern tip of this long sandy Canadian peninsula. Those participants in the initial Annette races viewed the second version of this famous Lake Erie marine beacon as they raced North towards the finish. The inaugural race was awarded to the Erie Yacht Club’s Annette on July 1st, 1907 and as the deed of gift directed, the cup should carry the name of the first awarded forever. Close examination of this prestigious award reveals the yacht Annette had topped the fleet for the initial three consecutive years.
All competitors’ race for the trophy using a unique Annette Cup rating that is derived from a simple formula. The rating is equal to half of the sum of the average length of the yacht and the square root of its rated sail area. The distance of the race is applied to the rating to determine the individual handicap for the race each season.
The race has been run for almost all of the years since its 1907 beginning except during the two World Wars and a few other miscellaneous dates. There are many stories to be told regarding the events of these races including numerous groundings, rig failures, wild weather and seasickness.
On the other hand there have been a number of drifters such as the 1947 contest when virgin Annette Cup racer, now veteran racer Skip Loesel crewed on Merle Crowell’s motor sailor Hurricane. As Skip tells it, they got a not so good start in the light air and then things went down hill from there and with fleet ahead and out of sight and not yet half way across the lake, the skipper made the strategic decision to fire up the iron jenny. It seems that maybe a hurricane or close to it would have been more advantageous for Captain Crowell and his crew than the light air. The flat conditions determined that the Hurricane was a much better motor sailor than a light air rocket as she motored passed the entire fleet and was first to the dock in Port Dover.
Despite the hype and preparations of the racers, the wind velocity, direction and the most capable crew with along with a big dose of luck will determine the victor. In the end, the race and the post race celebrations will have made it fun for everyone involved. It is pure maritime coincidence that the 2007 race dovetails with the running of the 50th Interclub Cruise. This 50th running of the Interclub Regatta makes the Annette Cup even more special.