Class 40 wins on PHRF and secures top prize for best overall performance in inaugural SORC Miami-Havana Race.

Nearly 60 years have passed since the Southern Ocean Racing Conference last visited Havana. With relations between the United States and Cuba improving steadily during the Obama presidency last week the Florida-based SORC wrote the next chapter in that rich history with the inaugural Miami to Havana Race. Forty six sailboats crewed by some 350 sailors from all over the world braved a strengthening breeze and the capricious Gulf Stream on the 220 mile adventure to Cuba’s famous Club Nautico Hemingway.
Two Owen Clarke Class 40s; #143 Longbow (2015) and #54 Dragon (2008) were taking part with designer Merfyn Owen sailing on Dragon. After a light wind start, Dragon led the Class 40s down towards Key West, just behind the fleet leaders; the 69’ mini-maxi Trebouchet (formerly the STP 65 MoneyPenny) and the Carkeek 40’ Decision.

Longbow, is a new Owen Clarke Design custom Class 40 racing sailboat built by Carbon Ocean Yachts in the USA and recently launched in Newport RI.
                                                                                                             Credit:Billy Black

As the pressure increased into the 10 to 12 kt range further down the course Dragon was unable to halt the advance of the newer fourth generation design Longbow as she 'steamed up’ from behind. As night fell the new American boat, built by Carbon Ocean Yachts in Rhode Island, held the lead. By morning Dragon had regained it however with the Akilaria RC3, #124 Amhas in second place. Dragon went on to finish first Class 40, first PHRF overall on corrected time and winner of the races' top prize for best overall performance.

                                                                                                                                     Credit:Billy Black

Mike Hennessy, Dragon’s skipper committed to a western strategy, and committed hard.  “Our weather updates convinced us to send it right down the Keys; not only did it keep us out of the current for the maximum amount of time possible, but it set us up for the lift and subsequent gybe,” said Hennessey.  While Hennessey did the lion’s share of the navigating, it was crew Ashley Perrin who called the layline to Havana from an incredible 57 miles out.  “With no one in sight at the finish, we knew we were either winning or losing badly, so we were pretty excited to find only one other boat on the dock after we cleared customs,” he said.  Hennessey’s strategy gave Dragon a massive one-hour advantage over Amhas a huge margin for this highly competitive class.

Dragon’s Western strategy was undoubtedly the move of the race, but Frank Kern found a little treasure of his own with the opposite strategy; the Michigan-based crew of the 52’ Carinthia worked the South hard, gybing onto starboard only when they found a secret lane of friendly Gulf Stream counter-current to bring them right into Havana.  “We saw over a knot of Easterly current over on the left hand [Southeast] side of the course, and we weren’t going to miss that,” said Kern, who adds a Miami to Havana class victory to Carinthia’s overflowing resume of ocean racing wins.

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