With all but one of the Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race entrants having posted finish times, the 811-mile distance race from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Montego Bay, Jamaica, has officially concluded for 2007. Bob Towse’s R/P 66 Blue Yankee (Stamford, Conn.) won the seven-boat IRC Class A, while Michael Brennan’s Sjambok (Annapolis, Md.) won the seven-boat IRC Class B and took home the Silver Seahorse Trophy as top performing IRC boat in the fleet.
Frank Kern’s Carinthia (Detroit, Mich.), which won the seven-boat PHRF class, also had the best overall performance for PHRF to win the Silver Pineapple Cup Perpetual. Twenty boats signed up for the biennial classic, ranging from the 81-foot Bon Bon (ex. Carrera) to the 30-foot The Cone of Silence. In heavy winds, the yacht Captivity, a Langan 78 owned by Samuel Byrne of Hamilton, Mass., was dismasted in the first hours of the race. The crew reported no injuries but had to put in to Guantanamo Bay.
True to its form for the past two years, the event delivered a thrilling sleigh ride through the Bahamas and the Windward Passage to Jamaica. "It was the perfect weather for our sort of boat," said Brennan, who debuted Sjambok — his third boat with that name — at Key West Race Week in January. "It was a windy reach out of Ft. Lauderdale, and then the wind died, which was when we were working harder than any other time, going 12-14 hours under 10 knots. But by Saturday night, it picked up again, making for a great run down to Cuba. The eastern end of Cuba was breezy, with water over the deck: a wild sleigh ride in 40 knots."
Brennan added that his team was lucky to have the Transpac 52 Decision nearby for much of the first night. "We had a yardstick to measure our performance by, and we were working really hard to keep ahead of her. Then when the breeze kicked up, we were kind of like the pit bull yapping at the heels of big boats that were twice our length. We were less than an hour behind some of them."
By 6 p.m. on Monday, February 19th, eight boats had crossed the finish line in what was perhaps the most exciting finish the race has ever seen. In a rare sight, six spinnakers appeared over the horizon and approached the finish line in a close group. Titan 12, the course record holder from the 2005 race, took line honors (three days, 15 hours, 15 minutes and 58 seconds), but behind her Bon Bon and Blue Yankee raced neck and neck in an attempt for second place. Bon Bon won the battle by a mere 26 seconds and Harrier finished across the line only three minutes behind Blue Yankee.
Further back in the fleet, aboard the winning PHRF contender Carinthia, the crew worried only about maximizing speed and avoiding calamity in the high winds that had thus far destroyed three of their four spinnakers. "A hundred miles out from the finish we were on our last lighter-air spinnaker, going 16 knots at top speed and averaging 10-12 knots, trying to keep the spinnaker from blowing back into the mast when we were on top of a wave," said Frank Kern. "We knew a Santa Cruz 52 had finished, and we had to keep our time on her, so we even threw overboard our ice, water and food. Throughout the race, we switched helmsmen every half-hour or so, because the conditions were so extreme. The fastest we went was 19.9 knots but we might have gone faster — we just couldn’t see the instruments sometimes because of the waterfall of water on the cabin house."
This was Kern’s first Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race, and when he was safely back ashore at the Montego Bay Yacht Club, he was in awe seeing the photos of famous people and sailboats that he, as a winner, would now join on the club’s walls. "I don’t even know the right adjective for it, but I’m ecstatic…so happy you can’t believe it."
The Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race is jointly hosted by the Storm Trysail, Lauderdale and Montego Bay Yacht Clubs.
For race results and more information, visit www.montegobayrace.com
Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race
IRC Class A: Blue Yankee, R/P 66, Bob Towse, Stamford, Conn.
IRC Class B: Sjambok, R/P 45, Michael Brennan, Annapolis, Md
PHRF: Carinthia, J/120, Frank Kern, Detroit, Mich.
Overall Winner IRC
Sjambok, R/P 45, Michael Brennan, Annapolis, Md
Overall Winner PHRF
Carinthia, J/120, Frank Kern, Detroit, Mich.