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Southern Spars - North Technology

Interview with Dennis Dice, Co- Skipper of Umi Taka winner of LO300

by Greg Nicoll on 26 Jul 2012
The Crew of Umi Taka; winner of 2012 Ackroo Lake Ontario 300 Challenge Sperry Trophy Top PHRF Boat. Left to right; Paul-Angus Bark, Tyler Dice, Geoff Eaton and Co-Skipper Dennis Dice. (Missing: Co-Skipper Roger Van Vlack) - Ackroo Lake Ontario 300 Challenge Greg Nicoll
Interview with Dennis Dice, Co- Skipper of Umi Taka winner of 2012 Ackroo Lake Ontario 300 Challenge Sperry Trophy Top PHRF Boat.

Dennis started the interview by making sure to mention that his co-skipper, co-owner, and friend, Roger Van Vlack, although he was not able to attend the flag presentation, deserves equal billing on their victory. Dennis and Roger are long time racers from the Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club in Toronto and have campaigned hard to reach this podium. Their boat, Umi Taka, a C&C 35 Mark III was purchased in the fall of 2004 and has competed in five Lake Ontario 300 races, a Chicago Mackinaw, and a Bayview to Mackinaw race. It was fifth time lucky this year, as in all previous LO300 races they won their division, but only once before did they get their feet on the podium with a third place overall flag.

Frustrating and constantly struggling were Dennis’s feelings throughout the race. Umi Taka stayed pretty much on the rhum line between the Gibraltar mark and Main Duck Island at the far east end of Lake Ontario. He felt that he gave up a few positions to boats that stayed close to the shoreline but they were still in the hunt. The strategy was to keep a high line to the Ford Shoals marker and then when they turned west they made the big decision to go out into the lake. The move to go out into the lake was based on the assumption that it as not a very hot day on shore and there would not be much in the way of thermals to keep their boat moving in the light air.

Somewhere on the south shore of Lake Ontario, they began to be concerned about their position overall, so Dennis fired up the computer and checked the Yellow Brick tracking charts. 'Boys,' he said, 'I’ve got some bad news; we’re in first place, no pressure.' Suddenly, there was a new attitude on the boat, and a belief that they could win the race. Dennis, a big fan of tracking units on board, felt this motivated his crew to a higher level.

On board with Dennis and Roger were Paul-Angus Bark who has been a long time member of the team handling the front end, Tyler Dice, Dennis’s son, who has a wealth of dinghy sailing on his resume and spent last year honing his skills on big boats in Europe, and the fifth member is Geoff Eaton who does a bit of everything on the boat. During the night, Geoff becomes the third helmsman. Co-Skipper Dennis feels that one hour is the maximum time on the helm to keep the concentration level required in the dark and it was great to have Geoff available this year.

The winning Skipper had lots of praise for the organizing committee and circumnavigation course around Lake Ontario. During the race, competitors see all points of sail and all kinds of sailing conditions. Most of the south shore leg of the race was done in light and shifty winds. When they approached the Niagara mark, the wind increased and Umi Taka hoisted a #3 headsail. Not long after, the wind strength decreased and up went the #1. The sail was hardly flying when the breeze stiffened, but they decided to stay with the sail calculating that they had to maintain 6 ½ knots to squeak out a victory. When all the calculations were completed, Umi Taka won by just over 10 minutes.
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