Titan record stands
After a relatively mellow light-air start, George Sakellaris' Reichel Pugh Mini Maxi Shockwave eventually enjoyed double-digit wind speed reaching conditions to become first-to-finish, first in IRC division and first overall at the 31st biennial Pineapple Cup – Montego Bay Race Presented by Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum.
The annual 811 nautical mile ocean race started on Friday, 8 February at Florida’s Port Everglades, sending the 'MoBay' fleet of ten boats, sailing in IRC and PHRF divisions, on a challenging all-points-of-sail course to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Shockwave crossed the finish line on Sunday, 10 February with an elapsed time of two days, 11 hours, 23 minutes and two seconds, just short of the current race record that was set in 2005 by Titan 12.
Due to the favourable conditions, all of the boats had crossed the finish line by Tuesday evening, 12 February, two days earlier than expected.
“This was a true team effort for the Shockwave crew that George Sakellaris and his captain Reggie Cole have spent two years assembling,” said Shockwave’s tactician Robbie Doyle, adding that regular crew members Scot Gregory, Jason Carr, Peter Kingsbury and Reid Fleming deserved a great deal of credit. “Despite fresh and often changing conditions, sail handling went without a hitch, and the damage report was almost nil.”
Doyle said there were two different theories regarding the expected weather for the race. “One was that it would be light at the start but very solid the rest of the way to Jamaica. Knowing Shockwave’s capabilities, we definitely were thinking that beating the record set by Titan was a possibility. The other forecast was for a light and variable breeze to carry on for the first 12 hours of the race, and that proved to be the case. Nevertheless, we were able to recover from that and still had a good shot at the record but fell 58 minutes short.”
Doyle added that a conservative start on starboard tack at the pin end allowed them some southerly distance before jumping into the northerly heading Gulf Stream. They sailed until they ran out of counter current and jibed to cross the stream to leeward of all but IceFire, the well regarded TP52 entered by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation. “We had a nice lead, but we still had 800 miles to go!”
It was one long match race for IceFire and another TP52, Bryon Ehrhart’s Lucky, but IceFire prevailed, beating Lucky by a little over two hours and taking second place on corrected time in the IRC Division. (Lucky wound up in fourth place behind Stephen Murray’s Carkeek 40 Decision.)
“We were close to Lucky the entire time and it was great sailing because we were perfectly matched,” said IceFire crew member Jesse Fielding, adding that his team, headed by Ralf Steiz, President of the USMMA Sailing Foundation, was promoting All American Ocean Racing, a new program that prepares sailors, age 30 and under, for offshore racing. “We had a phenomenal young American crew that included Taylor Canfield, Mark Towill, Charlie Enright, Chris Welch and Chris Branning. After passing Cuba, we were faced with some gear failure, but we rallied, kept pushing and never stopped.”
Doyle also mentioned Cuba as a memorable waypoint for Shockwave. “Once around the tip, we set our largest, heavy air spinnaker. After a handful of rain squalls, the northeasterly breeze filled in nicely and we were off running at high speed. With former English Laser Champion Nick Bonner driving, we hit a high of 26.5 knots!”
Doyle added with a smile that while the ride on deck was exhilarating and very Caribbean (complete with a few flying fish joining them on deck), below decks was “more like Niagara Falls, and the competition was for one of the few remaining dry bunks.”
In PHRF division, Glenn Gault’s J/120 Rebecca won on corrected time. Tom Slade’s Santa Cruz 52 Renegade took second, while Michael Hennessy’s Class 40 Dragon finished third.
“This was a good race with calms, good breeze for much of the race and a personable sea state,” said Renegade crew member Dudley Baringer. “Events such as this weave a richness and fullness into the fabric of our lives. Recollections of these times will put a smile on this old man’s face for many years to come, God willing.”
The Pineapple Cup – Montego Bay Race presented by Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum is endorsed by the Jamaican Tourist Board and managed by the SORC. Sponsors include the Montego Bay Yacht Club, Storm Trysail Club, and Lauderdale Yacht Club. Immediately after the start, racers cross the Gulf Stream for the Northwest Providence Channel. The middle of the race offers a fetch down the eastern side of the Bahamas Island Chain toward the tip of Cuba. The final stretch is a sailor’s dream: a 240-mile downwind sleigh ride from Cuba’s eastern tip, known as the Windward Passage, to the finish at Montego Bay.
After this year’s finish, sailors were treated to a week of fun with cocktail parties every night, steel bands, limbo dancing and other memorable displays and competitions, ending with a dinner, dance and prize giving ceremony on Friday, 15 February.