Here is the race report from John McKnight:
April 16, 2005 Race
Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Blast Off! It was more like getting launched in a rocket that starting a sailboat race. With the winds behind us at the start, we accelerated very rapidly. It was like the feeling you get when a jet airplane starts its takeoff roll and you get pressed back in your seat. The boats were shooting forward, and it felt like our bodies were going to be tossed off the back and left behind.
There was a strong offshore wind which was masked by the interference from the palm trees on shore. The wind just didn't feel that strong while we were setting up the boats on the beach. Once we got under way, we began to feel the full brunt of the forecast 20 to 25 knots of wind. We had a steady 20 knots all day with higher gusts. I heard there were gusts to 35 recorded during the day. There were small craft advisories and predictions of 15 foot waves in the Gulf Stream. This was the same day that the cruise ship got slammed by the 60 foot rouge wave out in the Gulf Stream. This race was supposed to go out to Bug Light on the ocean side of Key Biscayne. Well, that just wasn't going to happen with these conditions. We decided to keep the race in the protected waters of Biscayne Bay. Thank goodness! It was hairy sailing even in the bay.
The substitute race started with a downwind run to Chicken Key. This was a real hoot. We began with the 20 knots on the stern. We were flying downwind. It was sort of like the Miami-Key Largo race last year, but not quite that bad. The winds were shifty. It took a lot of concentration on the main sail upper telltales to keep them flowing and the boat heated up. When the telltales were flowing, the boat would accelerate like it was fired out of a slingshot. As we moved further down the bay the fetch increased, the wave size increased, and we started smacking into the backs of waves which we were now overrunning. Periodically, we would stuff the bows and the frothy sea water would hit the front crossbar and spray all over us. We were spitting salt water for the next minute. Then we would get splashed again. Our sunglasses got covered with dried salt after a couple of these bow stuffs. Vision became a problem.
The real tricky parts of this leg were the jibes. High wind jibes require a very careful orchestration of sail and rudder movements. You must do this ballet correctly or you get to go for a swim. The secret to a high wind jibe is to steer the boat very deep as the mainsail slams to the new leeward side. This reduces the exposed sail area and lessens the pitching force. It also increases forward buoyancy by utilizing both hulls instead of just one. This helps keep the new leeward bow from digging in and pitching you over. If you do not anticipate this maneuver, you are going over in a heart beat. I know, I have been there, done that. I think I have mastered the technique now, but it is still an adrenaline rush each time I perform this daring dance. If you would like a more detailed explanation of this technique, look on page 15 of Catamaran Racing: for the 90' by Rick White and Mary Wells.
We had several boats go over during this leg. Marc Newlyn and Jim Barrett tried to carry a tack too close to the shore and flipped when they dug a daggerboard in the bottom. I watched them flip again later on the upwind leg during a tack. When they were upright, they were moving very well on the upwind leg. I watched Team Sonnenklar flip twice on the downwind leg. Jay said later that two is his limit. After the second dunking, he says he retires. Wilder Robles said he and Edwin Garcia flipped so many times, he lost count. Wilder was out with his brand new F-16 Blade. This was just his third time he had sailed it. The boat only weighs 230 lbs. It was a real challenge to hold the light boat down in this kind of a blow.
Geoff Livingstone and Din Hrzic are a light weight team, and they had some difficulty holding down their powerful Nacra 6.0 as well. They went over several times. They were doing the routine where you right the boat, and it keeps on going and flips over on its other side. Very frustrating! Been there, done that, too. They were having difficulty maneuvering the boat into the power righting position. They were on their side one time for 20 minutes. They were getting fatigued from all the effort and energy required to right one of these boats. They elected to abandon the race when they finally got it upright. That was a wise choice because things didn't get any easier as the race wore on.
Mike Powers was sailing his Stiletto 23 with his daughter Dana. This is a big boat, and they definitely had their hands full sailing with only the two of them. Mike said on the windward leg, the boat was way over powered with lots of hull flying going on. When they got near Key Biscayne, they decided to pull into the island and take a break. They had their lunch and reefed the mainsail. They finished the day with the reefed main and a furled jib. Knowing how to de-power your boat was a key to success this day.
The second leg of the race was a demanding beat across the bay to marker #21 near Biscayne Flats. This was the toughest leg of the race. The waves were big and the winds had picked up. We were double trapped and being tossed around like a cork. One second our butts were slapping the water, and the next they were six feet in the air. Up and down, back and forth, it was a real workout. Our legs were working like shock absorbers to cushion the pounding. I marveled at how these boats can withstand the incredible side loads placed on them. I just prayed everything would hold together. I definitely did not want a breakdown out there.
After rounding marker #21, it was a continuation of the slog against the relentless wind and waves. The further up the bay we went, the waves began to diminish in height. We were more than ready to get off the wire. In my book, anything over an hour on the trapeze is too much. I was happy to cross the finish line and hit the beach for some rest and relaxation. I doubt anyone had time to eat or drink anything during the race.
Unfortunately, we did have a few injuries this day. Surprisingly, the injuries all occurred before or after the race, not during the race. Edwin Garcia got a contusion on the inside of his forearm near the elbow joint. He received this from a shroud wire during a mishap while trying to help Geoff raise the mast on the N 6.0. He was able to sail the race, but he said later that it bothered him, and he wished he hadn't gone out.
Mark Newlyn got some nasty cuts on his hand while he was de-rigging his boat after the race. He was bleeding all over his shirt. We managed to doctor him up with a first aid kit.
Dane Powers scraped and sprained her left ankle. This mishap occurred after the race when they were trying to get the Stiletto 23 through the narrow opening at the Powell Bridge. The wind was dead against them going through the narrow opening. They were hand-over-hand pulling the boat along the abutment when she injured herself. She said she hurt her ankle when she stepped on a cleat. She had her ankle iced down after the race at the Miami Yacht Club.
Carla Schiefer and Jamie Livingstone sailed on the Marstrom 20. They lead virtually the entire race. They had that thing really smoking. They took line honors finishing 8 minutes ahead of the next boat. They also barely won the race on corrected time. Congratulations, Carla and Jamie. Larry Suter was skippering Ivan Loya's Tornado. They finished second place, sailing an excellent race. They were very, very close to the M-20 on corrected time. Ivan now has his boat fully converted to the new international configuration. Oriol and I took third place on my Hobie 20. Oriol had remarked at the start of the race that those who kept their boats upright would do well, and that was the case.
There was a fellow parked next to me at the beach. He was intrigued by the process of setting up the boats, seeing us get suited up, and watching us head out to sail. He remarked that we looked like gladiators getting dressed to do battle. I thought about that for a while. I guess that is what we are in a way, modern day aquatic gladiators, dressed and outfitted to do battle with the elements and the high seas. It was definitely a battle this day.
The participants and boats are listed below.
CREW BOATS RATING
Carla Schiefer----Marstrom 20----56.0
John McKnight----Hobie 20---65.0
Marc Newlyn----Nacra 6.0----60.3
Wilder Robles----Blade 16----65.3
Mike Powers----Stiletto 23----60.5
Geoff Livingstone----Nacra 6.0----62.6
Jay Sonnenklar----Inter 20----59.3