Frank Kern hadn't sailed a Mills Race in 15 years.
All he could remember were the little green bugs that swarmed all over the boat.
"It took this long to get over that fear," he said.
But get over it he did, at the same time winning the coveted Mills Trophy in one of the strongest performances in the handicap racing fleet divisions in recent years.
Kern's 40-foot yacht, Carinthia of Bay View Yacht Club, rolled right over defending champion Crazy Horse and several other former Mills winners to capture the overall Class A honors with an elapsed time of 11:38.32, adjusted for handicap to 10:34.39.
"So far this year, we haven't been doing so well, so this is kind of an ego booster," Kern said.
"We had a really good start at the highly favored left side of the starting line, but we looked around and saw that both the 50-foot Crazy Horse and Stripes, a 70-footer, wanted that side of the line too.
"They could run over us and smother us - a little 40-footer. We saw more air on the right side and went to get it. There were a lot of boats on the left that couldn't point very high. By the time we got around the Sandusky lighted buoy by Cedar Point, we knew we were good."
The race started off the Toledo Harbor Light in a 6-7 knot easterly breeze. By the time Kern rounded the buoy, the wind had switched to the north and was blowing 21 knots.
"We beat 22 miles on that tack, in typically miserable, square, deep Lake Erie waves," he said.
According to crew member Tom Schulte, "The waves just kept coming. The rail crew was yelling 'weird wave' all night."
Kern said the fun part "was putting up a spinnaker and doing 9-10 knots to the finish."
Former Mills Trophy winner Pendragon, skippered by John Trost of Bayview, won PHRF Class B.
Chris Teal's R.B.Iceboat of North Cape Yacht Club took first in Class C with almost the same crew that won its class in last week's Commodore Perry Race.
Besides Teal, they are Amanda Foeller, Bob Foeller, Corey Wiszniewski, Jason Wells, Ben Mercer, and a crew member identified only as Chris.
"Chris [Teal] told us 'sail the boat and learn the boat because you've got to figure it out before it gets dark,' " Mercer said.
Wiszniewski said they pushed the boat as fast as it could go, especially on the overnight upwind leg.
"This boat is supposed to do well in heavy air, but we don't really know it's best point of sailing," he said.
Honorary race chairman Jim Johns of Sandusky Sailing Cub, a veteran of 40-plus Mills races, sailed Skim to the top of the Tartan Ten class.
In 2001, Harry Bloom's Bloomerang from Bayview won overall on the Mills Trophy Course with a crew of four.
Yesterday, with only three people aboard, the boat made off with the PHRF division overall and Class E awards on the Governor's Cup course.
"We were about a mile behind Sorcery at West Sister," Bloom said.
"So when we came around Middle Sister, despite being short-handed, we put the kite up and blasted up the course."
Christina II, a Cal 29 skippered by Bob Blair of Ford Yacht Club, was the leading boat in the PHRF division and Class I on the President's Course. Crew included Dave Mang and Mike Altenburg of Toledo as well as Larry Horton, Scott Wolfe and Dave Lawrence, from Ford Yacht Club.