CABB Around the Keys Race

Posted By: John McKnight

CABB Around the Keys Race - 05/13/12 09:54 PM

CABB Around the Keys Race
March 31, 2012
Miami, Florida

We had a very excellent day of sailing for this race. The conditions could not have been better. We had 10 to 15 knots of wind all day long with higher gusts toward the end of the race. The temperature was in the mid 80s making it a fine day for sailing. We did have one demasting during the race, more on that later.

We did an adventure race which circumnavigated the tropical islands of Key Biscayne and Virginia Key. The race is a steeplechase of sorts in that there are many obstacles with which to contend. Those obstacles and challenges include shoals, narrow channels, and open ocean sailing. The scenery along the way is right out of a picturesque travel brochure. The main features are the aqua blue waters of Biscayne Bay and the pristine waters on the ocean side of Key Biscayne. The backdrop for the spectacular vistas seen during the race are palm tree framed beaches and at the appropriate times the majestic skyline of bustling downtown Miami. The juxtaposition of the massive rectangular-shaped skyscrapers was in vivid contrast with the lush native flora along the shoreline swaying in the balmy breeze. It made for some beautiful sights during the race. Even after 30 plus years of sailing these waters, I still enjoy the vibrant views as much as the superb sailing.

Nine teams signed up to compete in the race. We had three Hobie 20s, two Stiletto 23s, two F-16s, and one each Prindle 16 and Nacra 6.0. Four boats trailered to the CABB Beach on the Rickenbacker Causeway, and the other five boats sailed over from their berths at the Miami Yacht Club. The new CABB Beach is working out well; we had plenty of room to stage all the boats.

I had planned on sailing the race in a clockwise direction around the islands so that we could traverse the William Powell Bridge going downwind. The Powell Bridge can be a bit tricky if you have to cross under it going against the wind with the narrow gaps between bridge abutments. But there was some interest at the crew meeting in going around the islands in a counterclockwise direction so that the ocean leg would be the downwind leg. Doing the race in this counterclockwise direction requires the aforementioned upwind bridge crossing at the end of the race. I put it up for a vote, and the counterclockwise direction won 5 to 4. We would find out later that this was a mistake because several boats did indeed have trouble getting under the bridge, more on that later. I think in the future I will have to veto any desire to fight with the demon bridge going upwind. That bridge always wins any confrontations.

The winds were out of the southeast, and that is the direction we started the race. So we started the race with a beat heading south down the bay toward Cape Florida. There was a lot of tacking going on. If you have access to the CABB Facebook page you can see Chris Staterís GPS track which he so kindly posted there. Kenny Pierce and Dana Powers quickly took the lead with their Stiletto 23. The two F-16 were in hot pursuit, but lagging slightly behind the S-23. They were followed by the three Hobie 20s and Mike Powerís Stiletto 23. Mike was soloing his S-23 which can be quite a handful. L.S. (Coop) Cooper and Claudia Schmid had some rigging problems on their Nacra 6.0, and got off the beach about 10 minutes late. Mandi Prats was sailing with his 11 year old son, Justin on their Prindle 16. Mandi had told me they would sail with the fleet to Cape Florida, but not venture out into the open ocean.

This first leg was uneventful, but that all changed at Cape Florida, the southern tip of Key Biscayne. Mike Powers was just south of the Key Biscayne Lighthouse when he noticed his leeward shroud was swinging loose from its attachment point. It seems that the turnbuckle at the base of the shrouds had mysteriously backed off completely. He realized that if he did not keep wind pressure against the sail that the whole rig would fall down since the stay was not attached to the side of the hull. He was sailing by himself, so he went to leeward to try and reattach the turnbuckle to the shroud. He almost had it fixed when the boat slowly went into a jibe on its own since no one was at the helm to steer. When the wind caught the back of the sail, the whole rig came tumbling down. Hans Evers and John Germain, on a Hobie 20, saw that Mike had lost his rig, and they doubled back to check on him. Mike had his cell phone with him, and he had already made a couple of calls to the Miami Yacht Club to arrange a tow. Mike told Hans that he was okay and for them to press on with their race. Mike is quite the seaman, and he figured out that he could sail the boat downwind by just propping up the jib and catching some air. He was able to sail the length of Key Biscayne with this jury rigged sail. He sailed all the way to the north end of Key Biscayne and then anchored the boat near a sandbar while he awaited his tow. When Kenny Pierce got back to the yacht club after finishing the race, he checked his cell phone and heard the message from Mike that he had demasted and needed a tow. Kenny and Dana jumped on Kennyís motorboat and came out to find Mike and his Stiletto. Kenny and Dana found Mike, and they commenced to tow the Stiletto back to the yacht club. On the way back to the club, they all got caught in a nasty rain squall. Never a dull moment!

At the time of the demasting, the rest of us knew nothing about this drama going on. I did not learn about the mishap until after we finished the race. We were having a great sail going north along the eastern shore of Key Biscayne. Josh Rosenbaum was sailing with me on my Hobie 20. We were enjoying surfing the waves going downwind. At one point we saw a medium size turtle dead ahead of us. He was looking right at us, but it was like a deer in the headlights, he never flinched. Usually these turtles do a quick dive the moment they see a boat. This guy did nothing. I didnít have time to turn, and the turtle went right between the hulls as we sailed over him. Fortunately we did not hit him. We also saw several pods of dolphins feeding in the shallows of the bay. Seeing this wildlife is always a bonus for any race.

About the time we reentered the bay through Norris cut, the winds began to pick up. The rig would shake and shudder when we got hit with the increased gusts. We zipped between Virginia Key and the hoity-toity Fisher Island. Fisher Island is acclaimed to have some of the most expensive real estate in the world. We reentered the bay in the shadow of the Port of Miami. I wanted to take the short cut between Virginia Key and a nearby spoil island, but that proved impossible with the shallow water in the pass. After nearly putting the boat on the hard, we swung around to the west of the spoil island and headed for the Powell Bridge. As we approached the bridge, I elected to avoid the center channel which is used for the Intracoastal Waterway and use the gap between two abutments west of the bridge center. The wind was right on the nose at about 15 knots going under the bridge. The waves were against us, and of course the winds were very disturbed by the superstructure of the bridge. We barely made it under the bridge. We emerged on the windward side with only about a 5 foot gap between our starboard hull and the menacing concrete abutment. It was close. A couple of the boats behind us did not fare so well. Rafael Quesada and Dave Tardif were on Rafaelís Hobie 20. They had to make several attempts to get under the bridge. They had to back out from under the bridge several times when they lost headway. Unfortunately on one of their attempts, the tip of their starboard bow touched the abutment, and that took a small chip out of the gel coat. Coop and Claudia on the Nacra 6.0 also had trouble getting under the bridge and finally accepted a tow.

Kenny Pierce and Dana Powers won the race on the Stiletto 23. They were first to finish and first on corrected time. Their elapsed time was only 1:40:46. In second place and only four minutes behind Kenny were Chris Stater and Katie Flood on an F-16 Blade. Peter King and Emma Lanuti, on a Falcon F-16, were only 6 seconds behind Chris and Katie. There was tight racing between the two F-16 all day long. Josh and I on my H-20 came in fourth. Hans Evers and John Germain on a Hobie 20 finished fifth. They were awarded a five minute credit for stopping to help Mike Powers when he demasted. Rafael Quesada and Dave Tardif finished 6th place on their Hobie 20. The other boats in the race took DNFs for not finishing the race or taking outside help. This was one of the fastest Around the Key Races I can remember. It turned out to be a great day of sailing with perfect wind and water conditions.

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