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Nassau Cup Ocean Race

by J/44 Kenai 15 Dec 2018 06:47 PST 15-17 November 2018
Nassau Cup Ocean Race © Robert Dunkley

Coral Reef YC, Nassau YC and Storm Trysail Club hosted the Nassau Cup Ocean Race from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas being the first Islands in the Stream Series event for the 2018-19 season.

After free rum drinks and a regatta briefing at Coral Reef YC in Miami, we noticed interestingly that the fleet had consolidated entries in the last 10 days across IRC, ORC and PHRF to one 13-boat ORC fleet split between ORC1 and ORC2. This left a cruiser and then Argo the MOD70 trying for the course record.

Despite some races offering different handicap options, overall standings in the Islands in the Stream Series will be determined by ORC scoring. ORC 1 included three TP52's with Denali, Fox and Spookie, with Fox being a well-sailed west coast boat that is campaigning SORC.

STC member Steve Benjamin sailing Spookie was the scratch boat and STC member Chris Lewis was on his J/44 Kenai. A canting keel Shock 40 and a modified Farr 40 comprised the balance of the ORC 1 Class. ORC 2 Class included a range of boats from an Aerodyne 38 with STC member HL DeVore navigating to a Catalina 425 SD sailed by Russell Dunn, a former racing yacht owner.

The outlook during the week was for a 70-mile beat across the Gulf Stream into a blasting Northeaster. But, as race day came, the cold front was delayed and the fleet got off to a spinnaker start in a warm SE breeze. As predicted the wind dropped when yachts crossed the Gulf Stream making tactics interesting; 4.5 knots of boat speed and three knots of current! Boats that gybed early gambling not to benefit from a later port gybe header benefited with a better VMC to Great Isaac Lighthouse and the earliest pick up of the cool NW breeze that filled in across the course. Meanwhile, the scratch boats worked to maintain their lead through the stormy thermal cloud-induced wind variations.

Rounding Great Isaac Lighthouse and setting course to the Great Stirrup Cay, the NW breeze built from 8 to 22 knots over the balance of the race, veering to the NNE and providing fast reaching conditions during the night. Racing on the edge of control with shallow reefs to leeward the mid-fleet boats caught the TP52's. Kenai's navigator was surprised to be able to pick them up on AIS during the graveyard shift. The frontal passage was slow enough to frustrate Spookie, et al., as they gybed downwind hunting for angle and breeze.

On Kenai, we set the A3, Code Zero, A5 and finally the big A2 as we rounded Great Stirrup Cay. At one point an electronics short in our NEMA 2000 network took the boat dark and made for an exciting time steering by traditional compass binnacle until the offending backup GPS antenna was disconnected! You don't realize how dependent upon digital data at night you are until you lose it all!

As the sun came up, we were treated to an 18-24 knot port tack broad reach into the finish in building seas. Kenai hit 16 knots and left a broad flattened sea behind as her 23,000 pounds tried to defy the laws of physics for a displacement yacht. As we charged into Nassau Harbor, past the breakwater with our big red spinnaker, the focus was on dowsing the kite as we crossed the finish with very little sea room ahead of us (e.g. the beach)!

The overall results reflected the impact of the slow moving front. Our J/44 Kenai corrected to win in ORC 1 Class. And, Brad Stowers' J/92 Hillbilly was third in ORC 2 Class.

Nassau YC provided great hospitality, as they have forever and day over the course of this event! For those that missed it, we had a great J/22 Match Race Championship on Saturday at the Nassau Yacht Club. Congratulations to the team from the J/92 Hillbilly, the J/22 Match Race winners!

It's always a great pleasure to be in Nassau and have such gracious hosts. SORC is seriously fun and has great sailing conditions. Why anyone who could sail south, and make these events, and doesn't do it, beats us!! Why not plan on this next year?" Thanks for contribution from Chris and Karen Lewis, owners of J/44 Kenai.

Follow the SORC Islands In The Stream Series at facebook.com/sorcsailing

More SORC Islands in the Stream Series sailing information at sorcsailing.org

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