An experienced sailor and one design racer, Brent Hughes added to his performance resume last week winning not only the Lake Ontario 300 (one lap around the Lake) but also taking top honors in the Lake Ontario 600 (two laps around), receiving the coveted Sperry Cup for top overall performance in both races. Racing with the second oldest boat in the 126-boat fleet, Hughes attributes his victory to optimizing his boat - Pearl, a 1974 C&C 35 Mark II - for single-handed racing, and a new A3 asymmetric spinnaker from North Sails he has nicknamed the ‘Green Monster’.
'I am really excited to have won not only the Lake Ontario (LO) 300 but the 600 as well,' said Hughes, who races out of the Frenchman’s Bay Yacht Club in Toronto. 'I have done the LO 300 twelve times and this was my third time solo. Even though she’s 40 years old, she’s a great boat and has provided my family and I with the perfect racing/cruising combination since we bought her 10 years ago.' Hughes works with Wiggers Custom Yachts in Bowmanville, Ontario to keep his boat maintained regularly.
Although Hughes originally bought the boat as a family cruiser, he started optimizing Pearl for single-handed racing five years ago. He had a custom bowsprit made and removed all the symmetric sails and hardware to make it easier to sail solo. 'I bought all new sails from Hugh Beaton at North Sails in Toronto. I wanted to go with Dacron sails because I needed them to last a few years and to be good cruising sails as well,' Hughes explained. 'So I opted for a NorDac mainsail, a Radian 155% Furling Genoa, a Radian 100% Jib and a NorLon 75 A2 asymmetric kite. I did buy the ‘Green Monster’ (an AirX 700 A3 spinnaker) for this race but other than that, I raced with my five-year-old sail inventory and it held up amazingly well,' he continued. 'At the same time, I also invested in North canvas covers for my mainsail and I bought a forestay sock because I prefer not using UV protection on the sails themselves,' Hughes explained.
'The North Sails team in Toronto really enjoys working with Brent because he’s both a racer and a cruiser and he takes very good care of the boat and the sails,' said North sales representative Hugh Beaton. 'Since May 1st of this year, he has sailed nearly 1,700 nautical miles solo and about 6,000 nautical miles total using his five-year-old NorDac main and genoa, which is impressive,' continued Beaton. 'The sails are all in great shape -- no rips, no tears -- and were fast enough to win the LO 300 and 600, which is no small feat.'
Pearl racing - © Erwyn Naidoo
'I’ve had the A2 up in 25+ knots numerous times and it’s fantastic,' Hughes continued. 'I use a Snuffer onboard, which is the way to go when you’re on your own. It’s a no-brainer to pull the sail up and take it down alone in almost any condition. The Green Monster is eight square meters smaller than the A2 which allows me to use it in super heavy air (26-27 knots), and I’ve even seen gusts of 30+ knots with that sail up.'
When not racing Pearl, Brent and his wife and two kids use the boat to cruise around Ontario and the Great Lakes. 'It’s big enough for our family to cruise on and while I strip it down to only the bare minimum for racing, we add about 2,500 lbs of gear for cruising mode including a dodger, bimini, motor, BBQ, kayaks and more. It really transitions well from race boat to cruise boat which we like.'
After Hughes and his family finish cruising in early August, Brent’s next goal will be to determine which races he will enter next season. 'I hope to do a solo Mackinac Race and maybe a solo Trans-Superior or Trans-Erie,' Hughes said. 'And someday, I’d also love to do the Bermuda 1-2. I have installed a lot of new electronics over the winter including under deck auto-helm, new wind instruments and a chart plotter, all from Raymarine. These have helped me tremendously since I’ve never had wind instruments onboard. Now I can really focus on the performance of the boat rather than charting my course.'
The North Sails team congratulates Brent on his overall victory in both the LO 300 and LO 600 and wishes him much luck next season. Full results can be find on the Lake Ontario Offshore Racing website