CABB Key Biscayne Double Distance Race
September 29, 2012
By John McKnight

The forecast was for lighter winds. We didn't care; we will sail in most any wind as long as it is above zero and not greater than 25. What we got was mostly 5 to 10 knots with a few periods when we got to practice our light air sailing skills.

We had five boats show up to race. We were supposed to have four more, but I think some backed out because of the light wind forecast. We ended up with two Nacra 6.0s, two Hobie 20s, and a Falcon F-16 registered for the races. This made for some good head to head racing since the respective Portsmouth rating numbers for the 5 boats we closely packed from 62.6 to 65. The big news of the day was that Robert Onsgard had his Nacra 6.0 out for the first time in several years. Robert had Deb Schoedl sailing with him. This was the very first time Deb had ever been on a sailboat much less raced. The newly married Peter and Emma King were out with their F-16. Norm Hansen was guest skippering on Claudia Schmid's Nacra 6.0. Rafael Quesada sailed his Hobie 20 with Oscar Garcia Coni. I was sailing my Hobie 20 with Richard Goldman.

This day consists of two short distance races in one day. The first race was sailed from the Rickenbacker Causeway out around Cape Florida and on to a secluded beach on the ocean side of Key Biscayne. This race was 7.5 miles as the cormorant flies. The race was started with a timed start just off the CABB Beach. Everyone was jammed up at the port mark which was the favored end of the line. The first leg was a beat heading south down the bay. Everyone was jockeying for position, and the places change frequently. As we approached Cape Florida we had to do some tacking to work our way east toward the cape. Robert and Deb (Nacra 6.0) had established a slight lead. They were closely followed by the other N-6.0 and then the rest of us. As we rounded Cape Florida we turned left which had us heading north along the ocean side of Key Biscayne. With the winds out of the east this was a nice mile and a half close reach along the picturesque, umbrella strewn, beach at Bill Baggs State Park. Onsgard was first to the beach in 55 minutes elapsed time. The other boats finished within 9 minutes of the leader. On corrected time it was Onsgard, King, Hansen, McKnight, and Quesada.

We landed our boats on the pristine white sand beach on Key Biscayne. We use the north boundary of Bill Baggs State Park as our target for beaching. They state park rangers get their shorts in a bunch if we land on "their" park beach. Once on shore we chatted about the race and broke out our lunches. We took a half hour lunch break enjoying the sunshine, the beach, and the waves gently lapping at our boats. It was another beautiful day in South Florida. After lunch we discussed our return race. We normally just reverse the course, but a suggestion was made that we include Bug Light in the return race to add some distance and time to the return since we completed the first race in less than an hour. It was agreed to add Bug Light which increased the return race to 11 miles. We would eventually regret that choice.

The return race was started with a timed Le Mans start from the beach in a 7 to 10 knot breeze. The first 3 mile leg out to Bug Light went well. It was a beat into the east wind which required lots of tacking back and forth. Onsgard had his 6.0 flying; he was putting the hurt on the rest of us. The Hansen 6.0 and the King F-16 were in hot pursuit, but they were getting left behind. As we approached Bug Light the winds began to fade. It is usually a challenge to get around Bug Light because it is a popular fishing spot, and there are usually several fishing boats surrounding the metal light tower. The fishermen were there, and that necessitated us taking a wide berth around the gaggle of fishing boats. After rounding the mark it was a direct downwind run back to Cape Florida. This became a tedious challenge as the winds continued to abate. We were not only frustrated by the dropping wind, but also by the tide going out against us. We had to redouble our concentration to catch every little wind shift; and there were lots of those little wind shifts. I had to shift my attention from the wind vane on the bottom of the jib furler to some VCR magnetic tape on my bridle wires. The tape was the only thing picking up the very subtle wind changes. The wind continued to die. I was already regretting adding the Bug Light turning mark. I knew we were in for a long slog back to the Rickenbacker. But when you are racing in these conditions you have only one choice; you do the best you can with the conditions at hand. You still have to get home. Richard and I had rounded Bug Light in last place, but we were able to capitalize on our light air technique to gain ground on most of the fleet by the time we reached Cape Florida.

After Cape Florida it was more of the same. We were jibing downwind in very light air. The hours and miles were stretching out. We were all getting tired, wishing we were back on the beach enjoying a cold beer instead of bobbing on the bay. When we got abeam of Southwest Point of Key Biscayne we finally got some more air pressure. It picked up to about 7 knots and we thought we had died and gone to heaven. The race was back on. Norm and Claudia were just ahead of us, and they elected to cut across the very shallow flats off Key Biscayne. It was near low tide. I thought for sure they would run hard aground, and we would scoot by them if they had to walk their boat off the sand bar. But that did not happen. They managed to slither across the flats with their blades up. They also had to thread their way through the plethora of anchored motor boats around the sand bar. That was the right way to go; they cut some distance off the course. They zipped across the shallows in the freshening breeze and maintained their third place position. Onsgard was well in the lead, and the Kings were using their spinnaker to its best advantage to stay in second. It turned into a lively run back to the CABB Beach on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

This had turned into a long race. Onsgard finish first in an elapsed time of 2:59 and the last boat came in at 3:39. If we had not added the leg to Bug Light is would have worked out about right, but we had no idea the wind was going to die on us. Robert Onsgard and Deb Schoedl won the day with two first places. Second were Peter and Emma King with two seconds. Norm Hansen and Claudia Schmid had a 3rd and a 4th for the races. Richard and I had a 4th and a 3rd for our races, so we were tied at 7 points with Norm. Rafael Quesada and Oscar Garcia Coni came in 5th. We definitely got to brush up on our light wind sailing technique. Even though it was a bit tedious at times, we all had another great day on the water. To paraphrase Forest Gump, Sailing is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. But it is all good.

John McKnight
Commodore, Catamaran Association of Biscayne Bay (CABB)
(305) 251-7600
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