Belafonte first to reach Havana in 2015 Andrews Institute Pensacola a la Habana Race

From the Pensacola Yacht Club: The Corsair 31R trimaran, ‘Bellafonte’, was the first overall to finish in the 2015 Andrews Institute Pensacola a la Habana Race. ‘Bellafonte’ led the Multihull Division out of Pensacola Bay on Saturday October 31st and completed the 511 nautical mile (nm) rhumb-line course at 2:06:41 AM on Wednesday morning November 4th. She finished after almost four days, and she actually sailed some 650nm tacking most of the way to Marina Hemingway.

‘Bellafonte’, sailing not so close to the wind… as multihulls do, had a long wet ride. The little tri— sailed by Pensacola skipper Mike Patterson and crew PeeWee Chason, David Johnson and Andrew McMillan— went from Pensacola to near Tampa Bay before catching wind shifts that enabled them to take some long Cuba-friendly tacks south to cross first on elapsed time. With a -30 seconds-per-mile handicap in their division, how they will do on corrected time is another matter.

Megan McMillan talked to her husband Andrew. She reported he said, “I’m glad it is all over. The best part was Tuesday night sailing at over 18kts across the Gulf Stream. The worst part was the first two nights with waves entering the bow hatch. We cut one of the water jugs to bail out water from the main hull and used a nalgene [bottle] to bail out the amas [multihull for pontoons].”

“I ended up duct taping the bow hatch closed,” Said McMillan, “to stop or at least slow the water.”

Megan McMillan said the ‘Bellafonte’ crew were bruised and tired, but happy to be in Cuba.

‘Bene Vita’— the second multihull to finish— has a 177 seconds-per-mile handicap in that division. She finished at 12:28:08 PM Wednesday. Apparently she used her engine through the light air on Tuesday to help get to Cuba quicker. Engine use is allowed in this race, but incurs a stiff handicap-based penalty… adjusting the handicap time allowance by a correction factor and by the amount of time the engine runs in gear.

The first monohull to finish was the scratch boat in that division, ‘Lesson #1’ a J130 from New Orleans, LA sailed by co-skippers Guy Williams and Mike Finn and their crew of Troy Gilbert, Morgan Mayberry, Anthony Bartlett, Bryan Whited, Randall Richmond, and Claire Miller. Despite a broken alternator and a blown out mainsail (repaired and nicknamed ‘frankensail’), they finished as the first monohull at 8:05:50 AM Wednesday. ‘Lesson’ did not use her engine except to charge her battery… until the alternator went out and there was no need. They charged with a solar panel from there.

‘Libra’, a Tripp 57 from Orange Beach, AL, was the second monohull. She followed 15 minutes behind ‘Lesson #1’. Her handicap is 177 vs. +30 for ‘Lesson’. With that finish time, ‘Libra’ would normally beat ‘Lesson’ by many hours on corrected time, but apparently, like the cat ‘Bene Vita’, she used her engine for propulsion and will have to accept a penalty.

Several of the boats that have finished— and many still on the course— have used their engines for propulsion. Calculating the adjusted corrected times of all the boats will be complex.

One boat, the handmade catamaran ‘Surf Rider’, returned to Pensacola Bay and must have motored much of the way east through the Intracoastal Waterway to re-enter the Gulf at Apalachicola. She then headed south continuing her route to Cuba.

According to reports from family member ashore, ‘Surf Rider’ claims to be racing still. There are no rules against this as long as the vessel sails the proper course for the race, including leaving the course marks #14 and #12 at the mouth of Pensacola Bay to the proper side both exiting and re-entering the bay. Deciding the proper side is governed by the definition of a proper course in the Racing Rules of Sailing.

By mid-afternoon ‘Learning to Fly’, ‘Odalisque’, ‘XTC’ and ‘Serengeti’ had finished. ‘Legacy’ is next in line with a 10:00PM ETA. That will leave seven boats on the course racing and three that have retired but are on the course heading for Cuba, too.

Listed are approximate finishing times according to Pensacola Past Commodore Larry Bowyer—
Legacy – 10:00 pm EST
Chanty – 12:00 midnight EST
NaZadrvi – 4:00 am EST, 05/11/15
Tif Blue – 5:00 am EST, 05/11/15
Acadia – 5:00 am EST, 05/11/15
Deja Vu – 10:00 am EST, 05/11/15

The usual trade winds have built back across the southern part of the course to Cuba on Wednesday. Those winds will be from the east and will be going directly against the Gulf Stream that flows through the Florida Straights, between the Florida Keys and Cuba. By late afternoon winds on the southern part of the course where most of the boats are had built to 15-20kts from the east.

Muscle and metal both get tired. Some of the boats and crew are fatigued from the hard, windy sail the first two days. Their strength and stamina will be tested in the final hours.