Posts Tagged ‘SORC’
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
Race Chairman Chris Woolsey gets personal as he heads to Cuba to welcome in the Miami-Havana Race fleet. Marco Oquendo photo of the line honors winner Trebuchet with a bunch more on SORC Facebook. From the race thread.
Okay, after many months of preparation and 24/7 phone calls and emails, arguing with PayPal, various government agencies, and so on, SORC’s Miami to Havana Race finally came to fruition today. The last few months have been an exercise in not giving up when hearing the word “no”. I have not heard the word “no” as often as I have in the past year since I stopped frequenting singles bars. Fortunately, I can be pretty stubborn. Even more fortunately, there was a small army of volunteers, boosters, and problem solvers helping to make it all happen.
Last night’s party was epic, gathering a crowd at Coral Reef Yacht Club as large as any that I have seen there for any offshore race I have ever seen, and I did my first race there over 40 years ago. We wanted to have a send off party with a distinctly Cuban beat, for which a couple of SORC volunteers literally walked Calle Ocho on a weekend evening until they heard the right sound, and voila!, a four piece band for the party. The check in process went relatively smoothly, as did the skippers meeting, though we did run out of apparel at the end of the night, something we may remedy with a bit more merchandise and an online store.
Today’s start was picture perfect, with clear skies and light shifty breeze keeping crews on their toes, with some big gains and losses available early on. All classes started on time, without any issues other than one boat being a bit tardy to the line. You can see the rest from the tracker. We set out to lay the foundation for a great race, but not to try to create a puffed up bloviating PR monster that would be impossible to live up to; we didn’t talk any shit, we just set out to run a clean race with no issues, and so far we met every goal and then some, with 46 boats crossing the line on their way south. There is a long way to go before the deal is done. I head down tomorrow morning for the rest of the fun. So now I get to drop a line I’ve wanted to use ever since seeing the movie “A Few Good Men”, about something I have wanted to do since I was a very little kid: ”See you when I get back from Cuba.”
February 11th, 2016 by admin
It’s been a loooooong time coming, and Sailing Anarchy is on station to bring you all the action this week from the SORC Miami to Havana Race. It’s a great mix of 46 grand prix and not-so-grand prix mono and multihulls, and you’ll get to see not only the starts, but you’ll be along for the ride as we discover a brand new destination for American racers. Watch on Facebook.
February 10th, 2016 by admin
With the sort-of opening of Cuba to US travel, not one but two different race organizers have planned regattas to the island that time forgot. We don’t know much about the Conch Republic Cup other than that it’s from Key West to Cuba; frankly when we got to the silly entry fees of $1000 plus $200 per each crew member for a 90-mile race, we quit reading.
Meanwhile, there’s a comparatively low-cost option ($500 entry fee) run by folks with a real track record, and we fully expect this one to attract well over 100 boats in its inaugural outing, and it’s a more attractive course to boot; here’s some info on the Miami-Havana Race from our friends over at SORC. Organizers are answering questions in the threads here and here.
For the better part of several decades, the phrase “Miami to Havana” usually involved delivery of a less-than-congenial message or thought. The sailors who compete in the Inaugural Miami to Havana Race on February 10, 2016, will bring along the spirit of competition and friendship, seeking to re-establish ties that once allowed Cuban sailors to compete alongside Americans in the area’s great ocean racing events on boats like Criollo, winner of the 1957 Southern Ocean Racing Conference.
The Coral Reef Yacht Club will host the pre-race festivities on February 9, with a Skipper’s Meeting and Pre-race Party scheduled for that evening at the club. The race will start the next day, just off of the Miami harbor entrance, proceeding to Marina Hemingway, leaving all marks of the Florida Keys to starboard, and providing a true navigator’s challenge, to decide when to cross the Gulfstream. If you have ever raced across the Stream, you know that this will result in a healthy mix of “heroes and zeros”, as boats pick whether to cross early or late, instead of playing follow-the-leader in a straight line drag race. The “right” time to cross will never be in the same place twice.
The Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba will manage the finish and post-race festivities in Cuba, as well as a coastal race to Morro Castle and back, along Havana’s famed Malecón, with members of a new generation of Cuban sailors assigned to each participating boat, on February 14. An awards party will follow, that evening. Race committee is provided by SORC Race Management, who is counting the race as the final score in its four-race Islands in the Stream Series. Come south and enjoy the warm water and the warm welcome, along with the quality offshore racing you have come to expect from SORC.
September 28th, 2015 by admin
Obama’s shock announcement that the US would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba earlier this week opened the floodgates of memories from one of the region’s historic yachting destinations. If you’re too young to remember the Tampa to Havana Race, head over to the St. Pete Yacht Club’s excellent historical description here. And whether you’re young or old you won’t want to miss this one, so keep your calendars open for January 2016, when the first legal race in more than half a century will finish off Havana’s famous Morro. You’ll hear all about it right here…or in the forum.
December 22nd, 2014 by admin
Larger-than-life Floridian Dennis “Buck” Gillette was a staple in SORC’s illustrious history, and a major cheerleader for the new and successful SORC that’s come to prominence over the past few years. Buck loved mentoring kids on offshore races, and had about a trillion miles under his keel before falling off his boat and not coming out of the water at a LYC event at Ocean Reef on Sunday. Here’s a pic exactly the way Buck would have wanted it; enjoying a sail with Mimi at his side. Our thoughts go out to everyone Buck has touched, and here’s to hoping the next generation produces another one like him. Here are the details about the memorial ceremony, and from the obit: Buck will be greatly missed by his wife of 54 years, Mimi, his 102 year old father Delno, his children Rex (Karin) Gillette, Sarah (Tom) Fox, Rebecca (Marcio) Pancera and his grandchildren Jake, J.T., and Mack Fox, Max and Cole Gillette, and Tess and Siena Pancera. A Celebration of Life gathering will be held at Lauderdale Yacht Club from 2-4 PM 1725 SE 12th Street 33316. In lieu of flowers please send donations in Buck’s name to a charity of your choice.
Share condolences on Buck’s Facebook Page.
December 11th, 2013 by admin