2015 SORC Race Recap
Posted by on January 25, 2015
"Bill Bollin and crew on the Melges 32 Badfish scored a big win in the PHRF Fleet and PHRF A, fending off a big push from the turbocharged Melges 30,Peerless, and showing that there is another Great Lakes legend that heads south for the winter."
A race summary from JBs perspective is provided below:
As we were going through the pre-race strategy and safety review the morning of the race, it was found that the GPS had died! JB and Bill made an emergency trip to West Marine and picked up an upgraded color GPS for a replacement. Unfortunately, the two ran into traffic and took longer than desired. JB and Bill ran back to the boat and jumped on as it left the dock. The boat made it to the starting area with about 20 minutes to spare. Bill worked on getting the new GPS setup and course waypoints entered in on the way to and well into the race - great job!
Sr Chief soaked the boat down with the front hatch open by hitting some waves head-on on the way out to the start. This got the skipper fired up and crew adrenaline going. JB took the helm for the start and got a conservative start close to the line but not in the front row. Our strategy was to stay in touch with our main competition, Peerless, a modified Melges 30 with a Melges 32 rig and an 11 foot prod (the prod on Badfish is 9 feet) early in the race, staying within a few boat lengths.
On one of our jibes early in the race, the Badfish A3 spinnaker got caught up on the headstay and ripped a big hole in the middle of it. We took down the A3 spinnaker and put up the red R2 runner. At this point, Peerless got away from us with a pretty good lead.
As we neared the end of the 20 mile leg from the start to the Miami Sea Buoy, we worked inshore and took it to the beach to get away from the current (and have a look at the nice scenery on the beach along the way). We took the beach too far to the extreme (mesmerized by the bikinis) and overstood the Miami Sea Buoy, so we switched from the R2 runner kite to the Blue A1 reacher kite. After a while, we couldn't hold bearing to the Miami Sea Buoy with the A1 reacher so we jib reached to the turn.
At this point, the slower PHRF B boats that started 5 minutes behind us were getting close. We were well behind Peerless and the J145 Vortices in our class and we were not in a good position. This was our low point in the race. However, nobody gave up and everyone kept working hard. There was still a long race ahead.
During the first part of the leg from Miami to Fowey Rocks we were ripping and making big gains on the competition. We were likely hooked into a gulfstream eddy that was pushing us forward during this stretch. Eventually, we fell out of the eddy and were getting pushed back by the gulfstream. Bill asked "what are we doing out here, let's dig into the reef and get out of the stream". This was a great call. We jibed towards the reef and would work close to the reef (to stay out of the current) for the rest of the race. Staying close to the reef was our game plan going into the race, so this was a good reminder to execute our game plan.
For the next several hours we started grinding down boats starting with Hot Ticket, a King 40. We passed them on a port/starboard jibe. They were on port and panicked and needed to take our stern on a crossing while collapsing their spinnaker.
During this period we lost some time by trying to repair the Badfish A3 runner. Each time we would put it up the repair would not hold and we needed to take it down. We wanted to use the A3 because it was our biggest kite. After the 4th try we gave up on the A3 for the rest of the race. The repair simply would not hold. The foredeck team of Trey and Thac did an awesome job on all the spinnaker changes (25 in all).
We also lost time during this period by hooking into several crab pots, which wrapped around our keel or rudder. Some of these took a long time to clear and slowed us down while we were working on cutting the crab pot lines and clearing them from the boat's appendages.
Our next big move up in the race came about 8 hours into the race in the dark, when the wind shifted to the left from a downwind Northeast direction to more of a reaching North/Northwest direction. Until the shift, we were aggressively staying close to the reef, jibing frequently and not letting ourselves get more than 1/2 mile from the reef. As we would get out to about 1/2 mile from the reef, we would be in up to 2 knots of current against us. When we would jibe and get back to the reef we would get out of the current completely. We made sure to stay on the proper course side of the reef the whole time.
Bill made a great call just before the shift happened by having the team continue to hug the reef a bit longer before jibing back out. This turned out to be a great call, as just then, the wind shifted and turned into a reach and let us point straight at the next mark without needing to jibe! This is when we really started to make our move to the front.
First we flew by a Swan 56 that started before us. We had the Code 0 up and were easily doing 2 knots faster when we passed to weather of them. Next, we passed the J145 Vortices from Detroit which is a 48 foot boat and owes us 35 seconds per mile. We knew we were really moving
At this point, about half way through the race, we were just drawing even with our main competition Peerless, we were holding a higher line closer to the reef and they were keeping a lower line more in the stream. At times Peerless would work up to near our line in by the reef, but then they would work back down into the stream.
At around 2am, 13 hours into the race, Badfish took control from Peerless with a final pass and lead that we would not relinquish! Peerless tried to pick up additional wind by heading into the stream from the 2am timeframe into the Key West Sea Buoy. However, their move didn't pay off and they fell further and further behind.
There was one exciting part of the race in the middle of the night when Badfish hooked into a crab pot with its leeward spinnaker sheet which was skimming across the top of the water. A very low chance of something like this happening but it did! Unfortunately, Nels (the Warrior) was trimming the spinnaker at this point and fell victim to this scenario. Once the leeward spinnaker sheet caught the crab pot, and all the slack was taken out, the spinnaker sheet was wrapped around Nels leg and hit his leg with a large shock load from the force of Badfish pulling the lobster pot. The lobster pot could be seen skiing about 30 yards behind the boat, jumping waves. Each time the lobster pot would hit the wave, it would pull hard on the sheet and send a shock wave and pain into Nels wrapped leg. Also, Nels hand/finger was pulled into the spinnaker turning block and dinged up, but not broken. Bill made a great move by freeing the spinnaker sheet from Nels leg in the slack period in between lobster pot wave hits. JB was carrying an awesome boat knife (loaner from Robert) and was able to cut away this and several other crab pot lines during the night. The crab pot lines that weren't cut by the boat knife were able to be cut by the keel kelp cutter. Nels showed his toughness by continuing to trim the spinnaker after the incident, in true Warrior fashion.
During the night, there was also one incident where the red kite was packed into the blue kite bag, which was communicated when packed. However, in the haste of making one of the many spinnaker changes, the blue kite bag was grabbed thinking it was blue, and up went the red kite. The foredeck team again did a great job getting red down and blue up quickly.
Thac did a great job throughout the night monitoring his iPhone maps and helping to keep Badfish out of trouble with unlit objects and other navigational hazards. JB spent much of the night focusing on keeping Badfish on a narrow optimal track between the reef and the current. He was also diligent in recommending the optimal spinnaker selection for the different wind conditions encountered during the night.
Approaching the Key West Sea buoy, we knew we were in great shape and knew that Peerless was many miles behind. The final 5 mile leg from the Key West Sea buoy to the finish was very enjoyable for the team and was a nice upwind leg in around 12-15 knots of breeze. The crew was savoring the last leg of the race where they had made the right moves and put the hammer down during the night when many crews lose focus. The Badfish crew worked harder than ever and was now enjoying the rewards.
Along the last leg, the Badfish crew was joined by a pack of dolphins jumping the wake as well as huge sea turtle that surfaced near the boat. According to Sr Chief, sea turtles are good luck, and it is hard to disagree with this logic. Also, at the dock in Fort Lauderdale, 2 coconuts floated up to Badfish at the dock and picked up by Sr Chief, and put in the truck to Key West waiting for the boat's arrival. According to Sr Chief, coconuts are good luck, and again it is hard to disagree.
The 2015 Team Badfish crew consisted of Bill Bollin (Skipper), John Bollin (Gilligan), Tom Morgan (Sr Chief), Bradley D'Arcangelo, John Nelson (the Warrior), Thac Nguyen, Trey Rose, and Rick Rothenbuhler.
The team frequently rotated positions, keeping drivers and trimmers fresh. This kept the boat fast throughout the night. The Badfish team is lucky to have such a deep talent pool in its crew base. The crew work and boat handling during the race was simply outstanding; every time a sail change call was made it was executed quickly and efficiently.
As noted above, Badfish made a few mistakes during the race, but the crew was determined and overcame all obstacles coming from behind against a strong competitor which makes this win even sweeter than a wire to wire victory.
The Badfish team had a great time in Fort Lauderdale prior to the race and in Key West after the race. The Badfish team also won the party. Brad, Thac, and Trey went out on Thursday night in Key West and had some crazy times/pictures. On Friday night at Key West Badfish benefitted from a free case of cold beers bought by the Holy Toledo crew for the Badfish crew at the Green Parrot bar. Badfish had won the bet with Holy Toledo on who would win. Also on Friday night, Trey could be found at the Green Parrot blowing the Conch that Badfish won as an award, which attracted him much attention from curious females.
The strength of the Badfish Team is in its generous owner who sets the boat up with fast sails from Dieball Sailing and keeps the boat in meticulous condition, as well as the extremely talented and dedicated crew who sails Badfish to its maximum capacity. The team always pushes the boat for the extra speed. Also, as Thac noted in Key West after the race, the Badfish program is special because there are many boats you can be a part of that do well, but to find a boat that both does well and is fun to sail on is special. Team Badfish has that special mix of success and fun. I am very fortunate to be able to participate in the program, and consider each of you my friends.
This victory goes out to the whole Badfish Team. Whether or not you were on the boat for the race, YOU are the Badfish crew and this victory belongs to YOU!
Team Badfish - please respond with your own special stories and pictures to be shared from the 2015 Fort Lauderdale to Key West race!