My ride on Areté

A big, beautiful Detroit-based boat

I am not a sailor. Having grown up on Minnesota’s >10,000 lakes, my preferred means of traversing water is actually by canoe!

On a breezy Saturday in September, I got the chance to ride on the amazing trimaran called Areté. I had seen the boat the day before, moored at the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle. As we drove across the island, the 10-story white mast was easily visible above the roof of the clubhouse. This was not your ordinary sailboat!

The ‘deck’ of the boat is a web of rope. There’s not much between me and the water. Even a canoe seems a bit more substantial.

We started motoring up the Detroit River to Lake St Clair and the starting point just outside the Grosse Point Yacht Club. Oh yes, I had just been informed that this was not just a pleasure cruise, we were racing.

I was going to be ballast at best, so I tried to stay out of the way of the crew.

The view of the pit

These guys were great. Ben reminded me of Popeye, all he needed was a pipe and a can of spinach. He did the lion’s share of the work raising, furling, and unfurling the gigantic sails. This process in the ‘pit’ of the boat is called grinding, as Ben and others spun the pedestal handles furiously controlling the winches. Luiz took me aside and told me to watch my fingers as every rope could be ‘live.’ And then he showed me his own permanently bent finger from not heeding his own advice. Then there was Ron, he may not have been the Skipper, that was Rick, the boat’s owner, but he certainly was not a Gilligan. Ron was Rick’s chief tactician and called a lot of the shots. He looked at me very seriously and said, “Do NOT fall off. It will take a while to get back to you AND we will lose the race.” (Not sure which of those points was more important…)

We started the race well behind most of the other boats. A bit scary when we were just about to the start line and Ron was asking the race director if the water was deep enough for us! It was. Rick slowed Areté to wait for the start time, then he turned Areté toward the line; we launched from a stand still to 30 knots! Hang on!

The next hour and a half were a great sensory experience. Water, wind, sound, and at various times true excitement. You can get a feeling of what it was like from this video. (Make sure your sound is on.)

When we were catching up to many boats ahead of us, I started to get a bit nervous. We were flying (and so were they!) and we had to cut through all of them. The crew was able to thread this behemoth at speed through all those other boats. A masterful performance. Wow.

We rounded the last buoy and headed back to the start line and I got to take the tiller. Rick made sure that I did not veer much off course. “We ARE racing, you know.”

Almost back to Detroit

We finished the course in 1 hour 28 minutes. Was it a course record? I think so. Starting out an hour behind and finishing nearly an hour ahead.

It was a quite a day out on the water and as we pulled back into the dock the other sailors just had to stop by and take a look. The boat is striking from any angle and especially from on board.

The Areté team is aiming for a full summer of racing next year. They are also looking for corporate sponsors. Those giant sails are a great opportunity to showcase Detroit, the Detroit waterfront, and Detroit-based businesses to the world. The experience of Areté is almost as amazing as a spectator as it is a passenger. Such a big, beautiful gift for Detroit.

From last year’s record setting run in the Bell’s Bayview Mackinac race
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