And Then We Hit A Parking Lot...

  • Ken Read
  • Written on:
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I have sailed a lot of different boats throughout my sailing career.  As you sailors know, the basic principle is always the same- find the wind and make the boat sail fast, even on a 100' beast.  Every boat has its unique qualities, but you typically sort those out quickly.  The Pineapple Cup was the PUMA team’s first real test sailing onboard RAMBLER100.

I have sailed a lot of different boats throughout my sailing career.  As you sailors know, the basic principle is always the same- find the wind and make the boat sail fast, even on a 100' beast.  Every boat has its unique qualities, but you typically sort those out quickly.  The Pineapple Cup was the PUMA team’s first real test sailing onboard RAMBLER100.

Great news for us is we had a few very good boats to sail against in our inaugural race from Ft. Lauderdale to Jamaica. There were 18 boats in the fleet, nine of which were sailing under the IRC rule.   The 90'canting keeler GENUINE RISK, 80'IRC rocket BEAU GESTE, and a few very competitive 50 footers that were fully optimized for IRC all met us out at the starting line.

Sailing 101: you are at the mercy of the weather.  Our navigator, Tom Addis gave us fair warning from the very beginning that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate.  Besides trying to compete in IRC, RAMBLER100 is really made to break course records, but you need a bit of wind to do that, and this race was panning out to lack wind in a big way.  Sometimes our sport just comes down to luck and luck was not with us for this event.  And especially in the boat that is expected to be out in front the entire time.  Sometimes being in a completely different weather pattern works for you and sometimes it works against you.

We got off to a good start and arrived to Cuba in about 48 hours with a substantial lead of over 70 miles on second place GENUINE RISK, and since we owed them on handicap slightly less than four hours, after 48 hours of racing we were clearly ahead of them.  BEAU GESTE on the other hand was actually a little less than an hour ahead of us on corrected time when we got to Cuba.  One big problem…the race didn’t end at Cuba, we had a ways to go and our good fortune was about change!

And change it did when we hit the “parking lot.” We got to Cuba at high noon and banked on the sea breeze filling along the eastern side of Cuba because of this time of day.  We planned on staying as inshore as possible the breeze offshore between Haiti and Cuba is nonexistent at that time.  Soon enough we found ourselves tight reaching down the coast of Cuba in a Southerly Sea breeze and the breeze observation we received was 11 knots out of the South at Guantanamo Bay, which was 50 or so miles down the track.  To be honest, we couldn’t have gotten offshore even if we wanted to, but we did need to find an opportunity before the sea breeze quit or else we’d get stuck on the shore all night.  

One nice option on a 100’ boat with a 150’ mast is you send your bowman up the rig and he can see for miles.  Unfortunate for us, there wasn’t a breath of wind to sea away from Cuba!  We really felt that the sea breeze was our only hope at that stage, but as fast as the sea breeze was trying to build, it suddenly failed at about 1:30 local time--well before we anticipated.  Flat calm in an instant.  DONE.  We knew that our competition was catching us at about 12 knots of speed and it wouldn’t be long before our 80-mile lead evaporated.  Our boat sat there dead stopped for six hours.  If it wasn’t bad enough, we had to watch our competition cruise by us without ever stopping while we sat floundering about 20 miles down the Cuban coast.  As it got cooler the breeze filled out to see between the Windward Passage and Jamaica and GR and BG never stopped!  Ouch.

Finally the breeze filled and we were off running to the finish.  GENUINE RISK did a really nice job setting up on a squall line in the early morning of day three and was quite quick in that condition.  They actually crossed ahead of us about 75 miles from Jamaica and stayed ahead of us boat for boat for about 15 minutes until we gibed into a building squall that sent us down the Jamaican coast.  But, those guys sailed really well tactically from Cuba on and easily won our class on corrected time even though RAMBLER100 was the first boat to finish by about a half hour.  

On handicap time for the fleet, GENUINE RISK was first, BEAU GESTE second VELLE VOCCE (a very well sailed 52 footer) third and we were fourth.  Not bad for our first time out in a race that didn’t set up perfectly for us.  I am sure that all the other boats have their own tale of woe so we’ll take our medicine, try to get better and eliminate the big problems where possible.  The Pineapple Cup was really good practice for all of us as we look ahead to what we have in store next year.  Congratulations to the GENUINE RISK team for sailing an especially good race in the last couple hundred miles.  

 

Sailing