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Conch Cup Charity Regatta overall

by John McKnight on 7 Nov 2013
The annual Conch Cup Regatta is a 19 nautical mile distance race. It is open to all types of sailboats. The race course is a bit of a mixed bag of bay, ocean, and inter island sailing between Miami and Miami Beach. This year's race attracted twelve boats in three classes.

There was a monohull class with five boats. Five boats entered in the beach cat class. And there was a two boat class for larger multihulls. This report will focus on the beach cats since that is what I sail and know. The beach cats entered in this race included a Stiletto 23 (Kenny Pierce, Dana Powers), a Nacra 6.0 (Claudia Schmid and Oscar Garcia Coni), a Hobie 20 (Rafael Quesada and Dave Tardif), another Hobie 20 (Hans Ever and Chris Stater), and my Hobie 20 (Richard Goldman and myself). The weather for the race was near perfect. The air temperature was in the mid 80s, and the water temperature was 82 degrees. The winds were in the 15 knot range out of the northeast all day long and all day strong.

The race got off to a rough start when one of the monohulls cut too close in front of the race committee boat and snagged their anchor line. This happened just before the RC was about to start the sequence. The situation turned into a real circus when both of the entangled boats drifted into a nearby sunken and half submerged 40 foot houseboat. So then there were three boats mixed up in this fiasco. A law enforcement boat showed up to supervise this very bizarre entanglement. Linda and Steve Evans, owners of the RC boat eventually managed to sort out the mess. The crew of the errant monohull called on the radio and apologized profusely for snagging the anchor line and delaying the start. The race start was only delayed about 15 minutes from the appointed 10:00 AM start.

All twelve boats started at one time. It was a downwind start heading toward the southwest. Kenny Pierce (S-23) got the hole shot on starboard at the favored committee boat end. Richard and I crossed right behind Kenny on a port tack. After the start it was a jibing dual to the first mark, which was located near Coconut Grove. This first leg was 1.75 miles. The beach cats quickly distanced themselves from the rest of the boats in the race. The 15 knot breeze made for some exciting off-wind sailing. Richard and I were the first boat to the Quick Flash #2 marker. We were followed closely by Hans and Chris (H-20) and Kenny and Dana (S-23).

The next leg was a rip roaring six mile reach heading southeast toward Cape Florida at the southern tip of Key Biscayne. We were absolutely flying! All the beach cats were double trapezed and still way overpowered. It was an exhilarating ride to say the least. We were pulling all the appropriate strings to de-power the bucking beast. Richard pulled on some more downhaul. I dropped the traveler down about six inches, and I was still dumping the main to keep from flying a hull and flipping. We were definitely getting our money's worth in the thrills department.

Much to my chagrin Hans and Chis (H-20) slipped past us with a slight overtake. And then the Stiletto 23 slithered by us to leeward, as well. I was a bit miffed about getting passed but vowed to catch them later. As we approached Southwest Point of Key Biscayne we were concerned about the depth of the shoal area just ahead. I have sailed these waters for 33 years, and I thought I knew where the shallows were located. I was wrong. I didn't. Our starboard daggerboard dragged bottom while we were doing about 20 knots. Needless to say that was not a pretty picture. The boat came to a dead stop in a few yards as our daggerboard knifed into the sandy bottom. The bows went down, and the transoms lifted out of the water. Richard and I swung forward while dangling from our trapeze wires. I managed to dump the mainsheet and hoped we would not get pushed over on our side from the wind pressure on the sails.

We just hung there in this precarious position for what seemed like an eternity but was actually just a matter of seconds. Richard regained his balance and managed to dump the jib, and that settled the boat back down on both hulls. Richard then scrambled to raise the daggerboards. When the boards up we were once again off and running at a breathtaking clip. We were not the only boat to miscalculate the shallows. Claudia and Oscar (N-6.0) also did the dastardly daggerboard pirouette when they bottomed out on the sandy shoal. Not to be outdone, Rafael and Dave (H-20) also managed to locate the same shallow spot.

We whizzed by the Cape Florida Lighthouse and entered the Key Biscayne Channel. The conditions went from very speedy to very freakish. The tide was roaring back into Biscayne Bay, and the northeast winds were hitting that tidal flow from a 90 degree angle. That combination produced some very confused water. The seas were thrashing around like the proverbial water in a washing machine. Our boats were being tossed about like a toy boat in a four year old's bath water. We were hanging on the trapeze wires trying desperately to keep our footing. The waves seemed determined to knock our feet out from under us. The waves were about three feet in height and and very close together. The boats would lurch from one direction to the other as they hit the square waves. I considered turning around but decided to stick it out to see if the conditions would settle down when we got out of the Key Biscayne Channel. This was by far the most talked about leg of the race.

Several sailors reported losing their footing and being tossed about like rag dolls dangling from a string. As we approached the next mandatory mark (marker #2 of Biscayne Channel) the conditions did improve. Once we made the turn at the mark and started heading due north the seas did began to settle a bit. This next leg was a seven mile beat up the east coast of Key Biscayne in the open ocean. It was still a very windy 15 knot breeze, but it was manageable. This was the fun leg. We were still double trapezed on a starboard tack heading north. I was getting in sync with the waves. I would bare off to power up the sails, and the boat would accelerate. I would head up to fly over the crest of the next wave and then foot off again to regain speed.

The rudders were in constant motion to try and stay in the speed grove. I would ease the mainsheet when the hull would fly too high and sheet back in as the hull began to drop. Kenny (S-23) and Hans (H-20) were both still ahead of us, but we seemed to be gaining on them on this leg. Hans was pointing closer to the wind, and Kenny was footing off. We followed Kenny and kept our speed up. On this leg the Reynolds 33, Little Wing, had a mishap. Their leeward daggerboard sheared off at the bottom of the hull. The skipper, John Haste, said later that he suspects that excessive side loads caused the large fiberglass board to fail. The crew displayed the remnant of their daggerboard back at the Miami Yacht Club after the race.

Up ahead there were choices to make. The options were to reenter the bay through Government Cut or Norris Cut. Hans and Chris elected to take Government Cut. Kenny went for Norris Cut, and we followed Kenny. This is where the sailing got very tricky due to the wind shadows created by all the high-rise buildings on Miami Beach. One moment we would have the full 15 knots of wind, and the next the wind would drop to zero. The current was flooding back into the bay from the ocean. That added to the complexity of the sailing. Kenny had to go east along Dodge Island to go under the port bridge which afforded enough height for his tall mast. Richard and I circled around Fisher Island to connect back up with Hans and Chris who had come down Government Cut. We met them again near the Coast Guard Station on Government Cut. They were still slightly ahead of us. It was still anybody's race. They led under the MacArthur Causeway Bridge and by Monument Island. We closed the gap, but Hans and Chris were able to maintain a two minute lead on us all the way to the finish. Kenny and Dana had circled around Watson Island from the west to finish first back at the Miami Yacht Club. Rafael and Dave (H-20) corrected into fourth place. Claudia and Oscar (N-6.0) corrected into fifth place.

In the monohull class first place went to Wilfredo Paredes on Sun Quest. Second went to Becky Lyons on Osita. Third went to Brian Edenfield on My first Love. Fourth went to Jeffrey Schwartz on Mystiko. In the two boat multihull class first went to John Haste on his Reynolds 33, Little Wing. Michael Kennedy took second on his Corsair F-24 trimaran, Coyote Chew Racing.

Back at the Miami Yacht Club after the race we were treated to a taco bar buffet while we waited for the trophy presentation. While we ate and drank there was much lively discussion about the fun and challenging conditions during the race. Glass mugs and trophy hats were passed out to the sailors at the award presentation. Many thanks to Linda and Steve Evans for being the PROs for the race. Linda also arranged the trophies and tan regatta hats. John Sherry donated the the green trophy hats. Vice Commodore, Mike Powers, and John Sherry manned the big boat finish line out in the ocean. Elizabeth Barrows assisted on the start boat and beach cat finish line back at the yacht club. MYC Commodore, Rick Tobin, helped with the trophy presentation. All the sailors enjoyed an outstanding day of sailing. Many thanks to the good folks at the Miami Yacht Club for putting on this fun regatta. We will be back next year!

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