2010 Lake Ontario 300 Challenge

All Clear: The Race Begins
At 10:45 am (1445Z), a few minutes before the race was about to get underway, the visible satellite image showed the skies over Lake Ontario were virtually cloud-free. A few clouds were evident over the extreme western basin and adjacent land areas, but a corresponding radar image from the NWS site at Buffalo confirmed the absence of precipitation or thunderstorms in the area. The observations from buoy 45159 in Lake Ontario’s western basin indicate the winds were southwest, gusting to slightly above 20 knots and the barometric pressure was steadily falling.

Visible satellite image from 1445Z (10:45 am) on July 17, 2010. (larger image)
Visible satellite image from 1602Z (12:02 pm) on July 17, 2010. (larger image)

By noon, more than half of the competitors had started and were on their way toward the east end of Lake Ontario. While the visible satellite image at 12:02 (1602Z) shows that skies were still generally clear over Lake Ontario, a significant number of cumulus clouds had developed over land near the lake’s western shore in a little more than one hour. The radar image at this time indicated that these clouds were not producing precipitation, but the rapidly growing cloud field was the first warning that the risk of thunderstorms was increasing.

Nearly 90 minutes into the starting sequence (12:35 pm/1635Z), the members of the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society responded to the gun announcing their start. If severe thunderstorms were to develop from the growing cloud field near Lake Ontario’s western basin, the solo sailors’ position near the end of the pack would place them among the first boats in the path of the storms.