Posts Tagged ‘Dragon’
Michael Hennessey goes Latino with another great report, this time from Cuba, after his Class and overall victory in the first-ever Miami to Havana Race.
Apologies for the late update. The complete lack of internet or phone service in Cuba got my head into a space where I was not really paying attention to modern conveniences, and the attitude persisted once back in the States.
First and foremost, kudos to Chris Woolsey and the gang at SORC. It is difficult to put together a first class event with participants from around the United States in the best of circumstances, and doing it in this situation had its own unique set of challenges. But from start to finish, this was a really great event. It helped that the destination promoted itself, but that and SORC’s reputation only meant there were entrants. Everything else came from the effort and commitment of Chris and his team.
I had prepped the boat in Charleston in late February, and then my all-star crew of Merf Owen and Ashley Perrin did the delivery to Miami on February 4. They took advantage of the comfortable and romantic amenities aboard to get engaged on the trip, another first for the mighty Dragon. Then Kyle Hubley and I joined up with the boat down in Miami.
The party and Skipper’s meeting at Coral Reef Yacht Club was a great time, with a slick and fast check-in followed by what seemed like a never-ending open bar pouring cuba libres and mojitos all the rum you could drink. A great band and a skipper’s meeting that was notable for its limited time spent on bureaucracy and the rousing speech given by Commodore Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, who clearly has picked up some rhetorical technique from Fidel. The rest of the event was a great chance to catch up with various folks from all over the place who had come in for this race.
Race day saw us headed out early for a start that needed to be out to the south of the channel to take into account the draft of some of the boats. Dawn had brought something that looked like 10 knot south westerlies, but that pretty quickly evolved into 5 knot north westerlies. We went off the line under kite, VMG running. Most of the leader pack through a quick gybe in to get off shore, where we chose to take it as far as we could to the west and benefited as the boats struggled a bit in what seemed like more current further out. When they came back in, we had some gains on our Class 40 competitors but were struggling to shake the Santa Cruz 52 and the J111 and J120s that were in our division. That cat and mouse game continued all the way down to the upper end of Islamorada as the wind gradually picked up into the teens and settled in for a near reach under Code 5 in westerlies. Those conditions allowed us to pull away from the non Class 40s, but also allowed Amhas and Long Bow to pull forward for what was evolving into a drag race between us. Long Bow turns out (no surprise) to be really fast in those conditions.
Routing from the Wednesday morning files suggested a near rhumb line race, with a departure from the reef somewhere between Islamorada and just below Key Largo. Virtually all of the fleet seemed to follow that course, with the distinction of Decision to committed to the most easterly course. Meanwhile, we pulled the 1800 hour files down and re-ran the routing. The westerlies we were experiencing were forecast to back, making the rhumb line route much less attractive. It looked like it was going to play out well for Decision who could use it to get east in a hurry and then Gybe on the lift for a straight shot at Havana, but the rest of the fleet was going to be spending a lot of time gybing to the rum and all of it in the Stream with its adverse current. We chose instead to use the lift to continue the follow the reef line us it curved to the southwest, maintaining maximum reaching speed and minimizing current.
That plan took us to well to the south of Key West, where Ashley called the layline from 57 miles out. Even a mile less and we would have been gybing, and a mile more would have been wasted. That last leg was a fantastic run under the A2 at 145 to 150 TWA in 12 to 17 knots. We had some set to the east from the Gulf Stream as well as much as 2 knots of adverse, and the conditions of wind against tide did not help with the wave state that much. But even with that, we did get enough wind driven wave action that we could get some lazy surfing during the run and kept up our average speeds.
We had not checked the tracker during this race, and as we came up on the coast we were worried about the lack of any other sails on the horizon. It was pretty clear that we were either going to be animals or assholes given the complete lack of any other boats. The finish was a straightforward thing complicated only by a hostile lee shore that was just below the government mark where we took our own finish time. Once we got things stowed it was a well marked channel through the reef, with both day and night markers to line up on. That took us into the manmade lagoon that is Marina Hemingway. The combination of Customs, Immigration, Health, Vet and god knows what else were very easy to get through other than a lot of signatures. They were polite and efficient, and the only thing they did that was unusual was to seal our satcomms with tape to prevent us from using them while on island. Then to the dock, an interview with Clean and tidy up. The hardest part was getting a taxi from the local hotel to a neighborhood closer to Havana where we had a Casa lined up through Air BnB.
Cuba is a time machine. The cars are a good metaphor for the island, a rolling museum that is kept going through necessity, ingenuity, and a great deal of pride. The buildings are a mix of worn but proud colonial architecture along side the American influenced Art Deco work of the early 20th century and some surprisingly well done modernist design of the 1950s. There are more recent buildings from the time of Soviet patronage which are pretty much what you would expect, low quality and poor design. In many respects the pre-revolutionary building are in better physical shape than anything that came after. But the combination of cars and buildings create a mood that is unique, one where you don’t have to stretch very hard at all to imagine yourself back 60 years. The topper is a complete lack of advertising. Not a single poster, billboard, commercial, or other form of media pushing you to buy or consume anything. Coming from a world where we are encouraged to consume by messages on every available surface, this was perhaps the most subtle but also the most pervasive difference. It makes all sorts of sense when you think about it in the context of a communist society with limited resources, but it was very unexpected.
All of the people we met are happy, positive and looking forward to the changes that are in motion. The Caribbean Communism created by Castro is still evident everywhere. The vast majority of people still have jobs provided by the State, where the government official makes the same money as the driver that they are provided. They still use ration cards, where each person is able to go to their local bodega (and only their local bodega) to buy food and clothing. Anything else has to be purchased using the CUC currency meant for foreigners. They don’t have much, but they have enough. And it is notable that we did not see a single homeless person, a single beggar or other person that did not look like they were at least cared for in some way.
In some respects, its interesting to compare Cuba and Puerto Rico when trying to judge the impact of the Revolution. Two island states, with economies that struggle with similarly limited resources and options. One has worked under the umbrella of the USA and unfettered capitalism for the past 60 years, and the other has been led by Castro with initially Soviet patronage and then some help from Venezuela in the past couple of decades. Is Cuba really any worse off than Puerto Rico? In many respects, they are better off. Less abject poverty, far less debt and a far less precarious future.
The job system, and lack of ownership has created a culture that lacks ambition, but the desire for more had lead to a robust black market economy that has now been given legitimacy by Raul Castro. Only in the past two years have they been able to own their own homes, and to start businesses. Those that forego a state job to run a Casa, or the private restaurants known as Paladars or their own taxi service end up paying taxes to the State, somewhere in the range of 50%. Which, when I think about it is about the same amount I pay in Federal, State and Local taxes. Those allowances are driving a strong current of change. There are signs all over Havana of grass roots efforts to renovate homes and buildings, along side what are clearly state sponsored efforts on bigger hotel projects.
It will be interesting to how Cuba navigates this evolution from Communism to a hybrid economy, and how thawing relationships with the USA impacts them. One thing is for sure… there will be change and as a result some of the things that make it unique will vanish. You should get there soon.
An epic awards party and pig roast on Sunday night ensured that we headed back on Monday with sore heads and bad stomachs, enjoying a 35-knot bash uphill to Fort Lauderdale. Wind against Stream made it wet and uncomfortable but quick, and we pulled into the Cut just after dawn only to be hit by a ferocious front that saw sustained winds in the 50′s and rain so hard that we could not see more than 50 feet. Which is probably a good thing, since apparently a tornado touched down just to the north of us, and then another one to the south of us.
We saw Ashley and Merf off, got the boat cleaned up, fixed our fuel system and oil sender, and caught up on sleep. We shortly shove off for what will hopefully be a 35 hour trip up to Charleston, and then back to the real world.
February 18th, 2016 by admin
Michael Hennessey and Tristan Mouligne hit up the the irie-est race in the world aboard the Class 40 Dragon. Results here, and more info on the Pineapple Cup/Mo Bay Race on the SORC Facebook Page. Nigel Lord Photo.
Here I sit on the beach of the Secrets resort next door to the Mo Bay Yacht Club, watching my boat sail off across the horizon towards the western tip of Cuba, musing what marketing genius thought it was a smart idea to call a resort “Secrets”. Is there really that big a market for illicit affairs that they need 800 rooms and a full resort for them? Or does ‘Secrets’ refer to the secrets that couples keep from one another; things like, “I’d rather be on that boat, eating freeze dried pasta and shitting in a bucket, than sitting on this white-sand beach?”
It really is a nice resort. A collection of buildings, pools and beach that is hermetically walled off from the real Jamaica by concrete, iron, and security guards. Plush rooms, plush towels, plush seat cushions. The days seem to be centered around the tidal movement of people from food to beach to bar to food to pool to food. Its a lot like what I would imagine a very nice cruise ship to be, but with trees, no kids, and apparently, lots of Secrets. And I’d rather be on the boat.
Delivery crew Dan Valoppi and Kyle Hubley flew in yesterday and shoved off this morning, delivering Dragon back to Charleston. A good number of boats departed yesterday, Oakcliff bound for Antigua and the C600, then Amhas and Miss Maris for Charleston. Dragon will likely catch Miss Maris tonight, and then everyone will end up tied up in Lauderdale around Tuesday as they sit out a low that is going to fill in south of Hattarras. Other than the stopover, it looks like a run down the Caribbean, a short motor off Key West as the wind flips around and then a reach up the Keys. It’s delivery mode, so they have books and music and long naps to look forward to.
This was my second time sailing the Pineapple Cup/Jamaica Race, and it is still my favorite race. The course is unique and just long enough to feel like an ocean race. The vibe is low-key fun, warm hospitality and a welcome relief from the cold that has the Northern climes’ balls in its icy grip. We woke up on race day knowing that it was going to be an ‘athletic’ start, with most of us holding off our departure from under the bridge to spend as little time as possible being whipped around in the pre-start. We already had our main loaded and our trinquette (staysail) plugged in before leaving the dock, so it was a fairly simple matter of slapping our way out of the breakwater and getting far enough the beach to know what the wind conditions really were all about for the first part of the race.
Which was a very, very shy reach. Or rather, close hauled and fetching on port tack (ok, 55 degrees TWA in 25-30) with two full tanks of water ballast. The start was uneventful for us, not so much for a few others that had some issues getting their headsails under control. But the rust was showing, and it took us a good 2 or 3 hours of tweaking before we really got the boat moving close to its polars. In that time, we fought off Oakcliff but let Amhas pick up a couple of miles on us. The sea state coming across the Gulf Stream was a mess, with short steep waves coming from almost every direction until we got across.
Our bigger mistake was footing off a bit too much, ending up South of our first mark, Great Isaac. So when we got there around midnight, we ended up having to put a 3 mile tack to the north – something none of our competition had to do. Silly, stupid mistake on our part, followed by a much bigger one when I accidently auto-tacked the boat, and in doing so, dropped the bagged A2 in the water. Those bad boys get massively heavy when they get wet, and I still have the bruises from the lifelines where I leaned against them to get the kite back on the boat. Then, proving that I am much less smart than I think I am, I managed to auto tack the pilot again an hour later.
Those three mistakes set the table for our entire race – a bummer, because we really didn’t make any more for the remaining 800-odd miles. But the first three mistakes put us behind Amhas by a good 15-20 miles, with the wind clocking the entire time. Once we got past Issac we were able to put a bit more South in, and then more once we got past Stirrup, but the entire time the wind kept clocking forward which kept us on the wind and going slow. Meanwhile, the boats in front of us were able to get a little bit of cracked off sailing across the top of the Bahamas, and then once they got past Eleuthra, onto a full-on blast reach for five hours while we were still tight on the wind – translating into a 30 mile lead by the time we were able to crack off. And when we got to the corner on Saturday night, the wind had already clocked forward, so while we got a reach, they’d had a broad reach. It was a rich-get-richer story, most notably for the near record-setting Shockwave, but also for Amhas, Renegade, Vortices, and Oakcliff.
Down the east side of the Bahamas, it was a decent reach but never far enough back to get a code sail up. The wind settled a bit at 18 to 25 and as a result it was a very wet ride, by the light of a giant moon that had just started to wane. By Sunday morning we were down to the bottom of Cat Island – we chose to take it to the outside – then we had more wet, fun near-reaching through Sunday and into Sunday night. Demonstrating how much better that point of sail is for high-stability Class 40s compared to conventional boats, we managed to erase a 15-mile lead that SC52 Renegade and J/145 Vortices had and pull in front of them by early on Monday morning. This was as we approached Cuba, and judging from the thundercells building in the moonlight, we knew we were going to get plastered. Nighttime cells in the Caribbean are always interesting; with too much wind on the edges and no wind in the middle and all of it shifting over 360 degrees.
That, however, was not really the bad news – which, instead, was a big shift on the other side. We managed to get enough breeze to pull us within 2 miles of the eastern tip of Cuba by 7 am, but then the breeze shut off for 3 hours before it filled in from south west. Seriously… we had been upwind for 550 miles only to literally reach the part of the course were we would make a 90 plus degree turn to the west and we end up with a wind shift that put the wind blowing straight out of our destination. Meh.
The tracker showed Amhas and Oakcliff as having gone South into the Caribbean, and the forecast called for less breeze down there. We were going to get no leverage out of following them, so we decided to rock hop down the Cuban coast. In the end, they got about the same pressure that we got, and the tactic did not yield any meaningful results for us, but we did get to have a full day of sailing along one of the most beautiful coasts I have ever seen. Well worth the price of admission, and something that maybe a lot more Americans will be able to see soon. Throughout Monday, we continued to play tacking games with Vortices, the one boat that followed our lead down the coast. Not surprising for a J145, they pointed a hell of a lot better than us and gradually legged it out in front of us.
Monday night gave us a chance to get to know our American servicemen as we ended up within two miles of the base at Guantanamo Bay. The boys at Gitmo were unamused at our proximity to their exclusion zone, and they let us know via in no uncertain terms via VHF. I suspect that had it been daylight, they probably would have paid us a personal visit.
Tuesday morning saw the sun rise behind clouds, and saw the breeze clock back to the East, freeing us to finally make some better VMC towards Montego Bay. That continued to midday, when we had the front move through, the sky clear and the wind shift back to the WSW. Yet another solent reach, and we started to chip away at the 14-mile lead that Vortices had built on us. We caught one last tack to the West and then banged the layline from 80 miles out. In an effort to keep up boat speed, Vortices footed off to below the finish line, while we were still making a knot on them, drag racing to the finish. We thought for sure that we had them when they got to the beach a mile or so east of the finish line, but somehow they got lifted at the same time they went into some magical high point mode and they just pipped us at the line.
After a short motor to the dock (did I mention, free dockage?), we were met by our host family carrying a bucket of ice cold Red Stripe…at 3 Am in the morning. I think it is that moment that best shows what this race is all about. Jamaica is one of the most hospitable places anywhere in the world, and the members of the Montego Bay Yacht Club may be the best of all. The restaurant stays open all night as boats arrive, every boat gets a host family that helps out with anything that might be needed, the members staff all the finish line duties, and they throw a cocktail party or dinner for the week of arrival to make sure that you have a chance to hang out and tell tall tales of your seafaring adventures. It is the warmest, nicest bunch of people that I have had the chance to meet in sailing.
The Ocean Racing Anarchy thread on this race started out with a question about the state of this race and its relatively small size this year, and it’s a good question. The state of big boat racing in Florida, the longsuffering economy, and the RORC C600 have all conspired to pull a number of boats away from the bi-annual Jamaica Race. Couple that with – let’s face it – a weak marketing and communication effort over the past few years, and what you have is a decent little fleet – but not what it could or should be.
The reality is that the eastern Caribbean winter circuit is very enticing, but it is also a huge commitment of time and money. In the meantime, the (hopefully) imminent opening of Cuba should create an opportunity to build a mid-Caribbean circuit of three or four races that could follow Key West Race week and offer a lower cost, easier option to get winter racing in awesome waters. I know there are some Anarchists working towards this end, and that the Montego Bay folks are keen to figure out a solution, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with.
I can confirm that the miles down here make it a lot easier to get through a cold winter, and while the Eastern Caribbean would be great, it just doesn’t fit into my schedule or budget. But the Pineapple Cup does, and I’ll be back to do it all over again.
Until next time – Walk good and likkle more.
February 18th, 2015 by admin
By Saturday, Michael Hennessey’s Class 40 Dragon was finally on a roll in the Atlantic Cup. Tied for first place going into the final weekend of inshore racing in Newport, Dragon got a great start in the first inshore race today, with a great kite hoist leading to a 7 boatlength lead at the turning mark off Beavertail. And then disaster struck; Dragon clipped a big rock just as bowgirl and former SCOTW Emma Creighton went out on the bowsprit to set up the douse. The boat went from 12 knots to zero, knocking the crew off its feet and launching Emma off the bow, though the young Maine native’s badassery knows no bounds, and somehow she held on, and no one was injured on the crew.
The boat is another story however; have a look here and you’ll see what we mean. Cracked keel box, cracked grid frames, wrecked fairing, and cracked glass around the keel entry. Huge bummer on a beautiful Memorial Weekend sailing day, but it could have been much worse.
More info at the Atlantic Cup site here, huge thanks to SA’er “Mister Sail” for the shot of Emma to your left, and to Julianna for the keel shot.
May 24th, 2014 by admin
Our old friend Mike Hennessy – owner/driver of Class 40 Dragon is one of at least two Americans to be sailing one of our all-time favorite races this year. It’s a race named after booze, and every four years, the world’s best offshore singlehanders use the race, known as the the Route Du Rhum, to test themselves against the Autumnal gales of the Atlantic.
If you don’t yet know Mike, he’s been a member of the SA family for ages, and we’ve watched right here from the very beginning of his Dragon’s racing program; Mike has shared the highs and the lows with all of us, and we will be there in St. Malo to wish him off again this coming November. If you have some vacation time, it’s one spectacle every sailor should see; not just because of St. Malo’s beauty, the mouth-orgasmic seafood/wine/desserts/women, the offshore racing history, or the ability to see and touch everything from Tabarly’s legendary yachts to the biggest racing trimaran every built – which will also be sailing to Guadeloupe with just one guy aboard. No, the reason you go to St. Malo in November is for the crowd; nearly 1 and a half million people make their way through the race village in a week, with some 500,000 watching the start in person on race day. It’s a site worth seeing, and you only get it once every four years.
March 14th, 2014 by admin