CABB Black Ledge Distance Race
August 18, 2012, Miami, Florida
By John McKnight

This was probably one of the most unusual CABB races in recent memory. The winds were forecast to be out of the southeast at 5 to 10 knots. We normally like a little more wind than that, but 5 to 10 knots would have been a workable amount of wind. What we actually got were winds from 0 to 20 knots. It was a boring day at times and an exhilarating day at times. It was challenging and a bit frustrating all day with multiple wind shifts keeping us on our toes. Probably the most unusual aspect of the race was that not one boat finished the race; more on that later. I can't remember if that has ever happened at a CABB race before.

We had four boats show up for the race. We had two Hobie 20s, one sailed by Rafael Quesada and Richard Goldman and the other by Josh Rosenbaum and myself. Coop Cooper sailed with his boat co-owner, Claudia Schmid, on their Nacra 6.0. The other boat was a Nacra 5.8 sailed by Dick and Linda Macdonald. This was a smaller turnout than usual for the race. Several of the regular boats and sailors were out of commission. Two regulars, Jofre Rosero and Chris Stater, had their boats down for repairs. Another regular had an injury that prevented him from sailing. Richard Goldman normally skippers a Dart 16, but he wanted to crew on a bigger boat for this race so that took out another boat. Several others were no-shows for one reason or another. Those eight sailors who did participate had a great day on the water.

Because of the lighter wind forecast, we shortened the course from the full Black Ledge run. Instead of doing 20 miles we shortened the course to about 12 miles. The race started with a timed start just offshore from the CABB beach. Glitches started right away. Three of the four boats started between the wrong buoys. Maybe I didn't explain it well enough, but I will next time for sure. It can be a bit confusing because there is a series of "No Motor Boat" buoys which we use for start buoys and they all look the same.

The first leg of the race was a beat into a 7 knot southeast breeze. There were lots of wind shifts, some as much as 30 degrees. It was difficult to see and feel the smaller shifts, and everyone commented after the race that it was hard to know when you were getting headed or lifted. It seemed to everyone that we were constantly tacking into headers. At least it seem like it was taking an inordinately long time to make any headway toward the first turning point at marker 21. We all felt we were mostly tacking back and forth across the bay. It was very frustrating but it did make for some interesting lead changes as we made our way heading south down Biscayne Bay.

As we neared marker 21 there was one of those huge 30 degree shifts to the right. Rafael and Richard were in position to capitalize on that shift and they arrived at marker 21 first. Josh and I arrived second followed closely by the other two boats. After marker 21 the plan was to proceed across the bay to Matheson Hammock Park for the second rounding. This leg was also a beat. Well, about half way across the bay the wind started to die and eventually shut off completely. We drifted around in circles for about 30 minutes until frustration and boredom got the best of us. We discussed the situation amongst ourselves over our marine radios and decided to bag the race. The Macdonalds did not have their radio with them, but they figured out soon enough that we had abandoned the race when they saw us turn our boats. There were some squalls on the horizon and several looked threatening. We pointed our boats north back toward the CABB beach and waited for some wind. Gradually the wind started to fill. The two H-20s and the N-6.0 were in the same vicinity, and so, of course, an informal race was back on. The winds continued to build and build. The wind went from 0 to about 20 knots in a matter of about 15 minutes. There were dark clouds behind and in front of us. The black squalls were chasing us down. Then it got real interesting.

As we passed Key Biscayne we got clobbered with a squall coming in from the west. The rains began and the winds increased. The rain was pounding us, and the winds were whipping us. Josh was on the trapeze to counter act the winds, and I stayed on the hull for stability and sanity. We were getting buffeted and bullied by the blustery winds. We were ripping along on the constant verge of a calamitous capsize. To help tame the beast boat I had Josh furl the jib to de-power our bucking bronco. We were technically no longer racing so we were mainly trying to stay upright rather than squeeze every ounce of power out of the rig. It was an exhilarating ride to say the least. We were cautiously grinning from ear to ear, waiting in anticipation of what each succeeding gust would bring. Next came the biggest challenge of the day, the landing.

As we approached the CABB beach we quickly came to the realization that we were going to have to beach our 20 foot speedster in a downpour with a 20 knot onshore wind blowing, always a challenge. We raised the daggerboards and continued with the main alone with the jib furled. We made our plan. We would approach the shore and turn the boat into the wind at the last possible moment to dump the wind from the mainsail. That all worked out well even though it was a bit chaotic. Josh slipped into the water as we approached the beach, and he swung our bobbing bows into the teeth of the wind. We could barely manhandle the gyrating boat in the thrashing waves. I had hoped for some help from someone on the beach, but everyone had disappeared or was hunkered down in the driving rain. With great difficulty we got the Cat Trax under the pitching boat and tried to get the boat up on the beach. That task was a real chore because the wind had piled stacks of seaweed up on the edge of the shore and the Cat Trax did not want to climb the seaweed wall. We struggled mightily with that task. Finally, after much exertion, we got the boat up on the sand, and we collapsed on the hulls to catch our breath and hold the bucking boat down. The other boats trickled in after the squall had passed; they missed all that landing excitement. In fact they actually had to paddle in after the squall had passed, and the wind had dropped to next to nothing.

So no one won the race because no one completed the course. It did not matter; we all had a good time. It was an interesting challenging day of catamaran sailing. If you would like to join the fun you can come out September 22 for the annual Key Biscayne Double Distance Race. It always seems we are able to generate some excitement and adventure. If you like sailing adventures come out and join your fellow catamaran sailors.

I took some snapshots of the days activities and they are posted on the CABB Facebook page at:
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