CABB Matheson Hammock Distance Race
Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida
February 27, 2011
By John McKnight, JMcKnight76@aol.com
Okay, it is official; I have completely run out of adequate superlatives to describe great sailing days. For this Matheson Hammock Distance Race I needed the ultimate superlative. So, borrowing from Mary Poppins, the Matheson Hammock Race was Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It was over the top in terms of beach cat sailing conditions. The day before the race I checked the weather forecast which said winds would be 15 mph out of the southeast with clear skies and a high temperature of 82 degrees. I sent out an email alert that we had a perfect day shaping up for the race. Picking a race days, weeks, or months in advance is always a crap shoot, you never know what you are going to get. But every once in a while the sun, stars, and moon align and you get a perfect day like we had for this race. It was simply awesome.
The participants were as follows: Dave Tardif and I - H-20, Lenny Valdivia and Saramy Fuentes - H-20, Bret Moss and John Casey - Marstrom 20, Martin Watts and Cori - Marstrom 18, L.S. Cooper and Claudia Schmid, H-16, Kenny Pierce, Dana Powers, and Mike Powers - Stiletto 23, Chris Stater and Josh Rosenbaum - Blade F-16. These folks were all in for one of the best rides of their lives.
I called for a large "L" shaped, 22 mile, four leg, race course, around Biscayne Bay. The start line was just offshore from the Rickenbacker Causeway. The first turning mark was near Matheson Hammock Park on the west side of the bay. The next turn was at Marker 21at the west end of Biscayne Channel near Stiltsville. Then the course doubled back to Matheson and the last leg was back to the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Dave and I got the hole shot at the start and we were off like we had been shot from a cannon. We were on a close reach, double trapezed, and really moving nicely. Lenny was right behind us. Our lead did not last long. Bret and JC, on the Marstrom -20, got a late start on purpose; they were shooting video from their boat and wanted get footage sailing through our fleet. They were hauling butt and passed everyone with probably 3 to 5 knots of overtake. The all carbon M-20 is an awesome super light weight racing machine. To my knowledge there are only two M-20s in the US, and they are both here in South Florida. With their 10 foot beam and double trapeze leverage, they were harnessing every ounce of energy from the steady wind. We were all flying; the M-20 was just flying faster. Most of us were double trapezed enjoying the exhilarating ride heading south down the bay. I handed the mainsheet to Dave, and he was working it in and out for all he was worth.
At the first mark rounding it was Bret and JC, then Dave and I, then Lenny and Saramy, and then Chris and Josh. The Stiletto 23 had a reefed main because of a ripped sail, so they were not in the top mix. They were followed by the Marstrom 18 and Hobie 16. The leg to Stiltsville was beat with lots of tacking. We had a huge obstacle in our way. There was a fleet of about 70 Etchells directly in our path. The Etchells were evidently having their Mid-Winter's regatta. We tacked and tacked trying to stay out of their collective dirty air. We finally reached their windward mark layline, and we tack just outside their dirty air. Lenny and Saramy were right on our tail; they were matching our every tack. We couldn't shake them. Bret and JC managed to skirt the gaggle of Etchells, as well. They had a huge lead on us at this point.
After a port rounding at Marker 21, we started the only true downwind leg of the race. With their spinnaker up, the M-20 was gone. Dave and I were able to put a little more distance on Lenny on this leg. The Stiletto and Blade were back a ways. This leg required little tacking, we were just about on the layline back to Matheson. It was a fun fast downwind run. It was a starboard rounding at Matheson.
The real excitement of the day came when were rounded the Matheson mark this second time. Our new heading put us on a screaming starboard beam reach back to the beach. The wind was on our beam, but with our boat speed combined with the true wind, our apparent wind swung way around in front of us. At the same time the wind velocity had picked up into the high teens and we were on the fringe of being out of control. Dave and I were double trapezed and hanging on for dear life trying to keep the sail plan powered up and the boat flat. The spray from the leeward hull and the waves hitting the front crossbar was flying everywhere. We were wishing we had a video camera going so we could share our thrill ride. We kept shuffling our feet along the hull toward the stern trying to keep the leeward bow from digging in too deep. We would shuffle forward for speed and back for sanity. It was a high wire trapeze act worthy of the circus. Dave asked me if the Hobie 20 would pitchpole. I told him, in these conditions it was a definite possibility if we lost concentration for even a second. At full throttle we could barely keep the beast under control. We needed more beam or more weight, neither of which we had, we were getting overpowered. The gyrations and footing issues finally got to be too much for me and I dropped back onto the boat to lend some stability to the chaotic situation. I had to back the throttle off to keep from going over. We sacrificed a bit of speed, but at least I could keep us from flipping in the stiff breeze. Dave continued to do the daring dance on the high wire all the way back to the beach. It is legs like this which have keep me coming back for more. If one could only capture these feeling and sell it in a can, you could put the drug dealers out of business. It is addictive; those of you who have been there know what I am talking about.
When the boats returned to the beach, everyone was a just tad tired yet grinning from ear to ear. The M-20 finished the 22 mile course in 1hour and 38 minutes. Dave and I were next to the finish in 2 hours and 2 minutes. Lenny and Saramy were just a few minutes behind us. Those were the top three boats on corrected time as well. Chris and Josh, on the Blade, were fourth place. They were followed by the Stiletto 23 and the Hobie 16. The M-18 was a DNF. They decided to pull out of the race near Stiltsville and run south toward Elliot Key. Overall it was a fabulous day of sailing. The new CABB Beach on the Rickenbacker worked well again. We had plenty of room to stage and launch our boats without any hassles trying to find a spot on the beach. I would call the day perfect.
I have posted some pictures of some of the racers on the Catamaran Association of Biscayne Bay Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=275501&l=62953022af&id=133406503177.
Chris Stater also posted a map of the course with his track overlaid on the map on the CABB Facebook page. He reported that his GPS showed a max speed of 20.2 knots for the race. Wow! JC said he would post the video they took on his web site at Johncaseyworldwide.com