Lime Cup Regatta
September 29 & 30, 2007
By John McKnight
Flash! Rumble, rumble! Flash! Kaboom! Lightening is hitting all around us. The wind is blowing 25 to 30 knots with higher gusts. We are in the middle of a blinding squall with visibility ahead of the boat down to 50 feet. Torrential tropical rains are pouring down on us. The sky, despite it being midday, is almost black. We are soaked to the skin except for our shirts which are covered by foul weather jackets. I am onboard Tom Mestrits’ Kermit, a 38 foot Tektron cruising catamaran in the Lime Cup Regatta. We are sailing with a reefed main and jib.
The waves are huge and disturbed. We are on a broad reach going from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami in day two of the Regatta. I look over my left shoulder and see these massive frothy waves coming up from our stern. Sackville Currie, our skilled helmsmen, bears off when the sterns start to lift, and we surf this 12,000 pound behemoth down the face of the 10 foot rollers. The speed goes from an average of 9 knots to 12, 13, 14, 15 knots. The apparent wind goes forward, and we foot deeper down the face of the wave. I think to myself, what the heck are we doing out here in this mayhem. I normally sail a Hobie 20. In weather like this I would be sitting in the bar somewhere spinning yarns about sailing rather that actually, SAILING. This is all new to me. This is my first time racing on a big cat in an offshore race. I look at the other three members to see if they are showing the signs of the concern I am feeling. I don’t see it in their faces. I glance over at Sackville to try and get a feel for his take on this situation. He is sopping wet. He is not wearing a hat and his dark hair is plastered to his forehead. Water is pouring off his nose, chin, and ears and running down his neck into his foul weather jacket. He is blinking to clear the water from his eyes. Expecting to see some sign of fear, apprehension, or concern, all I can see is this huge ear to ear grin. Now I figure this guy is either crazy, or he is in complete control having been in situations just like this in his many years of cruising and racing big catamarans all over the world. He is in his element. He loves every minute of it. I am somewhat reassured by his demeanor. I am not totally comfortable, but I am reassured, at least, we are probably not going to die today.
This squall passes in about 15 minutes, and we are in the relative clear for 30 minutes. The winds are still very strong. Up ahead, I see this large monohull flying a red rose colored spinnaker. We are overtaking her. Suddenly, I see something I have only heard about before. This boat does a classic broach. A broach is where the boat gets hit with a huge knockdown gust, and the rudder is suddenly overpowered by the incredible pressures on the sails. The boat lays hard over on its starboard side and rounds up. I swear it looks like the mast is parallel to the water. I am astonished. The sails pin the boat on its side for what seemed like forever, but is probably only seconds. I think we will be rescuing sailors from the drink. The boat rights itself with the spinnaker flogging in the whipping wind. The crew looks like they are trying to douse the spinnaker when it suddenly splits vertically in two. It looks like everyone is still onboard, so we sail on.
We are passing through the two monohull fleets that started 10 and 20 minutes before our multihull fleet. Chuck Huber, our other crewmember, is doing an excellent job trimming the sails. I am mostly taking video and digital pictures when we are not getting pelted by the rain. About this time I look over my shoulder and see another squall bearing down on us. In a few minutes this shower overtakes us with a vengeance. It starts raining so hard the frothy surface of the water looks white as snow. It is an eerie feeling with the low visibility, strange looking seas, and high wind. I peer ahead into the sheets of rain hoping not to see another boat dead ahead of us. I am thinking, “What have I got myself into here?” We get hit by five or six of these squalls during the race. They just keep coming and coming.
We got the second best start in the multihull fleet from Ft. Lauderdale, behind a Condor 40, Trident. We are just about keeping up with her. She owes us lots of time, so we know we are doing well in the race. Julian Rubio’s, The Beast, a 42 foot cat, has equipment issues at the start and is way back. The Beast is gaining, but will it be enough to pass us? Julian owes us time, also. Victor Mendelsohn’s Seawind 1000XL, Catnip, is also way back. After the start, I could see him heading out to sea, perpendicular to the rhumb line. I said, “What’s up with that?” Two days after the race, Victor discovers he has completely lost the starboard rudder off the boat. He used the hove-to parking technique before the race, and we suspect the backing down pressure on the rudder snapped it completely off the boat. So that is the reason he could not foot off down to the rhumb line after the start. There isn’t enough rudder surface in the water to overcome the lifting pressure created by the mainsail. He eventually gets the boat going in the right direction. But they are never a factor to us in the race. We win Sunday’s race. Captain Tom looks very pleased with his first place trophy at the ceremonies at the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club on Sunday evening.
Two other CABB sailors were in the regatta. Kenny Pierce was sailing his Stiletto 23, High Heels. Mike Powers was sailing his Stiletto 23, Camel Jockey. They were in the starting area Sunday morning before the race, but decided to try and outrun the first squall by leaving early and heading south to Miami. They couldn’t outrun the fast moving squall. Kenny said they got hit by the squall and a gust buried his bows to the front crossbar. After that he dropped the mainsail and finished the southerly run under jib alone. Mike Powers had sail damage to both his main and jib. When Mike was coming into Government Cut in Miami, he had dropped both sails and was motoring in. Then his outboard engine quit. So he was adrift in Government Cut. They were drifting perilously close to the rock jetty when Catnip came along and offered a tow. About this time Catnip was having steering problems. Unbeknown to them, they had already lost their starboard rudder, and now the steering cable had slipped off the port side rudder bell crank. They were in the treacherous Government Cut with no rudder steerage, and they were trying to rescue a Stiletto 23. Captain Victor was able to use differential thrust from his two outboards to steer the crippled gaggle to safety. He went to the side of the cut and dropped anchor to sort out the dilemma. They secured the steering cable and were able to safely tow the Stiletto to the Miami turning basin. Nice work Victor!
It was an exciting race. There was lots of action and thrills. Almost every boat had some hardware break or sail damage. These were some extreme conditions. Many lessons were learned. The complete race results can be seen at http://www.bbyra.net/2007/results/Lime%20Cup%202007%20Results.pdf