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The Comeback of Back Off By James Marvin

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t 12 miles from the crews of four. We strugnorth coast of Cuba, gled to keep Back Off sailBack Off, the Soverel 33 I ing in light winds south was crewing aboard this through the Gulf of past February, had taken Mexico, making frequent the lead over five out of six sail changes searching for other boats sailing in the the best sail plan to keep Spinnaker B division in the us moving. St. Pete to Havana Race. Sailing past the Dry From the start we were Tortugas late on the secunlikely contenders. Now, ond evening of the race, we were in sight of three Back Off and most of the boats who owed us time at fleet was besieged by the finish. Only one boat calms. During the long remained, the Tripp 38, night, we sat our weary Warrior, along with her talbodies to the leeward side ented Capt. Grant, who to heel the boat in the still could steal away the prize air as the jib flogged limply for first place. Their wherein our faces. abouts in the Straits of On the morning of Florida were a mystery. the third day, we had a Over the VHF, our caplight southeast breeze— tain made the call for entry, but it was wind! We sailed “Marina Hemingway, this The Back Off crew selfie. Brian Davies (foreground, left), Tony Barrett (boat Back Off gently to windis Back Off. Requesting per- owner, red hat and sunglasses behind Davies), Brian Kennalley (black and ward, nursing her through mission to enter Cuban white hat), Kim Stininger (red hat), Larry Hogan (sitting, tan hat, long puffs and lulls further into waters.” sleeve white shirt), Katherine Tyriver (white hat), Jim Marvin (red hat on the Gulf Current. At noon, For 10 years, the racing Katherine’s left) and Brian Kaczor (navy blue shirt & yellow hat). we took our first drink of crew of Back Off, led by the race, passing around a prepare the boat. On the morning of owner Capt. Tony, have laughed about handle of Captain Morgan. Everyone the start, we ran lines, secured rigging, telling race committees, bridge tenders saluted their chosen wind spirit and stowed equipment and had even and even the Coast Guard to “Back took a swig. I paid honor to the marworked out the minor issue of the off!” Her transom sports a graphic of a riage of two atoms of hydrogen and mainsail not hoisting completely up gun-slinging Yosemite Sam. This time one of oxygen, and to all that chemical the mast! it sounded like we demanded the bond has brought us. The race itself would not be withCuban government keep its distance By mid-afternoon, our rum toast out its own challenges. Although Back from us, then give us approval to come began working! The wind veered to Off enjoyed an advantageous start and ashore. I hoped Cuban customs offithe north and we made way downkept pace with the fleet upwind, a lull cials had a sense of irony, figuring that wind with full spinnaker. We spotted in breeze and a strong flooding current since we were on the entry list, there the chutes of competitors on the horiat the Sunshine Skyway Bridge put the wouldn't be an issue. zon ahead and astern, identifying three brakes on her and every boat in the The list of issues we did boats in our class who we would beat. division. Our attempts to pass under encounter, however, was long. We The wind piped up after sunset and the bridge south of the main channel had a crew of eight aboard, many of the swell rolled upon us from astern. were blocked by a cruiser at anchor, whom would be sailing together for Back Off surfed down the following then by a Frers 64 who cut us off to the first time. Three of our crew were waves making 7-8 knots, but without a windward. lake racers visiting from Chicago, all satellite receiver, we were in the dark During an attempted headsail of them named Brian. Our regular about the location of any of our comchange we discovered the jib luff was crew would be offering them advice petition, who we could not see nearby. jammed in the foil. While we focused on coastal sailing during the race, The lights of Havana grew larger on this malfunction, the wind filled in calling them by their last names. on the horizon as we continued our for our competitors on the north side We would also be sailing this parrun towards the coast. We heard spoof the channel. We enviously watched ticular vessel for the first time. Several radic calls from other racers crossing four boats glide under the bridge and months before the race, Capt. Tony the 12-mile mark, but no word of our slip away from us towards Egmont purchased the Soverel 33 to replace his friend Grant on Warrior. I told the capKey before we tacked beneath the 26 footer of the same name. Despite his tain that he was probably at the marina bridge, beating upwind in pursuit. best efforts, the boat wasn't ready the bar by now on his fourth mojito. That evening and through the folday before the race. The captain and lowing day, we rotated watches in crew put in an incredible final effort to See BACK OFF continued on page 60

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June 2017

SOUTHWINDS

www.southwindsmagazine.com

Southwinds June 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...

Southwinds June 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...