Catamaran Association of Biscayne Bay
Matheson Hammock Distance Race
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Miami, Florida
By John McKnight, Hobie 20

It was Super Bowl weekend in Miami, and the Chamber of Commerce had ordered beautiful weather for the big game. Well, I would like to thank them, because we benefited from the magnificent weather. We were doing our race the day before the big game. The highs for the day were in the low 80s and the winds were about 15 miles per hour. If you can think of better beach cat weather, let me know.

Maybe the other sailors were out stocking up on beer and munchies for the big game, because we only had 5 boats in the race on this premier day. We had an Inter 20, an F-16 Blade, a red Prindle 19, a Hobie 16, and my Hobie 20 entered in the race. We had two other Hobie 20s that wanted to race but didn't. Lenny and Saramy showed up with their H-20, but decided they didn't bring enough foul weather gear to sail comfortably. Oscar Garcia Coni had jib halyard problems on his H-20, and he couldn't get it fixed in time for the race. Jofre Rosero was sailing with three other big guys on his Prindle 19. Yep, that's right, four guys on a Prindle 19. I figure they had at least 850 pounds of crew weight on the boat. Jofre is a video producer and videographer by trade. He and his three crew members were the ones filming the half-time show for your pleasure at the Super Bowl the following day. Jofre wanted to show his three out-of-town coworkers the time of their life. With all that weight, they probably weren't going to sail very fast, but they were going to have some fun.

We launched from the "Seaquarium Beach" where there is ample room for staging and launching many boats. It is very user friendly. We started the race with a timed start between two fixed swim buoys. The winds were out of the west, and we were heading southwest on our first leg, making it a beat all the way to Matheson Hammock Park, where the turning mark was located. Oriol and I, on my H-20, got the hole shot at the start. Jay Sonnenklar and Terry Greene, on the Inter 20, ran aground just before the start and had trouble getting underway. Chris Stater and Pete Condon, on their F-16 Blade, were right on our heels. High School students, Taylor Palmer and Mac Agnese, were using a borrowed Hobie 16, and they got a good start. Jofre Rosero didn't make the start with his Prindle 19. They were having rigging difficulties and were still on the beach when the race started.

The winds were forecast to build all day up to 20 mph. So, I called for a relatively short race of 14 miles aimed at getting us off the water before it got too windy. Well, I should have made it a bit longer. As it turned out the first boats were only on the course a little over an hour. We were ripping the whole race. The first leg was a double trapeze, fly a hull, and pump some adrenaline ride all the way. Oriol and I were overpowered and were tweaking the strings to settle the beast down to a mild roar. I put Oriol to work sawing on the main sheet; my right arm was giving out. Chris rolled us on his F-16. I was impressed; I thought we were going fast. Then the Inter 20 came grinding up on us, and they too slowly passed us. What was I to do? I thought we were doing well, but I knew both of these boats owed us time so we still had a chance to beat them. As would be expected, the Hobie 16 could not keep up, boat for boat, with the bigger faster boats. But they were sailing well.

At the turning mark, it was the F-16, I-20, and our H-20. The next leg was a straight shot back to the launch beach. It was one of those quintessential broad reach sleigh rides. We were ripping along grinning from ear to ear. The big jib on the H-20 allowed me to drive the boat deep and fast. We were getting blasted with spray as we bounced across the waves. The Inter 20 was not carrying its chute, and we were sailing deeper and faster than them. The Blade was having trouble launching their chute, and we zipped by them like they were stuck in molasses. Suddenly, Oriol and I were in the lead and putting distance on the two boats which both owed us time. Yippee ky yea and yahoo, life is good. We were dancing down the bay like drunken cowboys doing the Texas two-step. We were whirling and twirling in the gusty winds as we sashayed over and through the bounding waves.

As we approached the finish area, we could see the Inter 20 slicing across the bay on an intercept heading with us. If neither one of us flinched we would have collided, it was that close. But they were on starboard, so I snuck close behind their sterns, just a few feet from their rudders. As soon as we passed, they jibed right on top of us. I guess Jay wanted to mess with us. We were neck and neck; racing doesn't get any better than this. Oriol and I were able to foot down on them and get a two boat length lead. We did a couple of quick jibes, and we were able to cross the finish line just 20 seconds ahead of the Sonnenklar/Greene Inter 20. They owed us a large amount of time, but it was still exciting to beat the I-20, boat for boat. Chris Stater, on his Blade, came in third, about 5 minutes behind the first two boats. The H-16 came in fourth. The Prindle 19 did not finish the race, but they had a great time sailing around the bay. Jofre and his three friends said they laughed and laughed as they blasted around the bay in the perfect conditions.

Terry Greene had his GPS readings for the race, and he gave me the following report. "I had a 14 mile round trip in 62 minutes, 13 mph average speed, with a high speed of 19 mph. We had a long sting of waypoints over 15mph.
It sure was a lot of fun sailing downwind in that speed."

I found out later that Taylor Palmer and Mac Agnese had flipped their Hobie 16 after the race. As they were sailing back to the Miami Yacht Club, they flipped in the cruise ship turning basin for the Port of Miami. They had to sail through the basin to get back to the MYC. Taylor said that the winds coming out of the west were being greatly disturbed by the skyscrapers of downtown Miami. The winds were funneling between the building, and they would go from zero to 20 knots in one second. They got caught in one of these big puffs, couldn't hold their boat down, and it flipped over. Normally it is impossible to turtle a cat anywhere in Biscayne Bay, because the bay is only about 12 feet deep at the most. The turning basin has been dredged out to accommodate the behemoth cruise ships, and it is probably 50 feet deep. So there was no bottom to keep the H-16 from going turtle. Normally going turtle would not be that big of a problem. However, it seems that the mast on this borrowed H-16 was not water tight. That's right, the mast quickly filled with enough water to prevent the youth from righting the boat by themselves. It seems that someone called the Coast Guard and reported a capsized boat with people in the water. The Coast Guard responded by putting out an emergency "Pan Pan Pan" call which evidently requires any and all marine agencies to respond to the emergency.

I got this part of the story from fellow cat sailor, Enrique Rodriquez, who happened to be the captain on the City of Miami Fire Boat which got the emergency call that day. Enrique reports that the episode was turning into a Chinese fire drill. On the scene were not only his huge Fire Boat, but also the Coast Guard, Sea Tow, the Metro Miami-Dade Fire Boat, and the Metro Miami-Dade Marine Patrol. Enrique said things were complicated because the Hobie 16 rescue mission was blocking the Intracoastal Waterway. Mind you, this was Saturday afternoon the day before the Super Bowl, and there were numerous mega yachts and ferries trying to traverse this already congested turning basin. Enrique said his crew took on the job of halting the ferries and yachts which were trying to get through this bottleneck. Enrique said it was quite the circus. Finally one of the rescue boats threw the youth a line, and they were able to pull the Hobie 16 right side up. Taylor and Mac then sailed the boat back to the Miami Yacht Club without further incident. It is amazing what a fiasco can be created because of lack of some sealant on a mast.

Other than this capsize drill, it was a beautiful day for a race. Everyone said they had a great time.