After two days of competing for the Hobie 33 North American Championship at North Cape Yacht Club, Juan Mauri's Knot Rider was leading Tom Andrews' Holy Toledo by one point.
But when the 12 contenders sailed out for the final event yesterday, the Holy Toledo crew had the right strategy and mind-set to turn it around.
"We were racing against just one boat - Knot Rider," Andrews said.
"We planned to sail against them, but we wanted to stay in clear air and not get in a luffing match with them."
The fleet completed eight races, sailed twice around on a windward-leeward course. Lake Erie served up light, shifty air for Friday's contests and moderate winds on Saturday, but yesterday's finale was a gear-buster.
Rough seas and 20 to 25-knot southwesterly winds provided a fast beat to the turning mark and made the last leg a wild ride that broke lines, twisted spinnakers, and sent some boats broaching out of control.
Rich Potcova's Deep Purple, the lead boat at the start, crossed at the crowded pin end and headed out in the lake, but Andrews and Mauri went right, hoping for a shore breeze.
"We knew the pin jibe would be favored, so we set our sails for a starboard tack and jibed immediately - and we could lay the line," Andrews said. "Knot Rider was lifting inside us, then they came to a header, and we were lifted."
Holy Toledo was about a minute ahead of Knot Rider when the boat turned the mark. Andrews popped a chute and took off.
"On the downwind leg, we jibed the main and jib before we set the kite because it was blowing so hard," he said. "In that kind of air anything could happen."
As storm clouds rolled over the fleet, bringing rain and an occasional flash of lightning on the horizon, Holy Toledo managed to gain another minute the second time around.
It was so far ahead at the finish that the crew dropped their spinnaker before they reached the finish line.
It was a star-crossed day for Mauri, who was racing a chartered boat that had originally belonged to Andrews and Clif Vaughan.
On the second time around the course, one of Knot Rider's lifelines broke, and four crew members who had been sitting on the rail were spilled into the water.
Potcova's Deep Purple and Christian Schaumloffel's Mirage both went to rescue them, but Mauri was able to get the jib down, recover his crew, and continue racing.
Mauri, who recently sold the Hobie 33 he had owned for a year, said he didn't think local knowledge was a factor in the loss.
However, Andrews said local knowledge "absolutely mattered."
"We knew there's usually more air on shore, and once we tacked to shore we held the lead to the end," he said.
Besides Andrews, Holy Toledo's crew members were co-owner Vaughan, Andrews' son Tim, Ed Taylor, Tom Spinks, and Ernie Dieball.
Deep Purple finished third, followed by Fish With Legs.