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 2009. Roger Sturgeon’s STP65 Rosebud/Team DYT (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) took line honors with an elapsed time of 2 days, 11hours, 28 minutes, and 35seconds, just one hour shy of the race record set in 2005, and won IRC A class. Daniel Woolery’s King 40 Soozal (Alamo, Calif.) won the four-boat IRC B class, while Jack Desmond’s Swan 48 Affinity won the three-boat PHRF class. Ron O’Hanley’s Privateer took the overall title for the 29th running of this ocean racing classic, and collected the silver Pineapple Cup. The Pineapple Cup is awarded based on a PHRF conversion in order to combine both fleets.
“If you think of the great races around the world, this would have to be in the top five,” said Ron O’Hanley (Boston, Mass.) after returning home. “The conditions you get and the water you cover, as you wind through the Bahamas and then past Cuba—and the whole forbidden nature of that – is incredible. If you think of the boats that have done it before us, they’re the who’s who of racing. If anyone thinks of themselves as an ocean racer, I would urge them to do this race. That [Montego Bay Yacht Club] is an extraordinary club down there. Not only do they organize the race and the reception of boats very well, they are all very friendly. It’s a very storied yacht club and I really wanted to stay longer.”
Privateer finished on Monday (Feb. 9) morning. “In all honesty we didn’t think we were in contention when we got in,” said O’Hanley. “The race was very challenging and we felt we sailed a good race, but we also knew the breeze was heavy behind us. PHRF ratings are very wide and historically it’s been mid-size boats that have won.”
Twelve boats started the biennial race, ranging from the 70-foot Denali to the 36-foot SpiderGlide. Toward the end of the race, in 30-knot winds, Thin Ice, an Aerodyne 38 owned by Stuart Hebb (Coral Gables, Fla.) lost its rudder 30 miles from the finish line, and was later towed to Discovery Bay by the Jamaica Defense Force Coast Guard. No injuries were reported and all crew joined the official festivities in Montego Bay.
“We found out officially yesterday that we had won the overall title,” explained O”Hanley. “Everyone was doing the math, so at least math-wise we thought we had won on Tuesday night. We knew how close we were to Infinity. Infinity knew they had missed us by 4-5 minutes when they got in, and mathematically there were still boats that could still win such as Spider Glide.
“The forecast was heavy and favorable,” continued O’Hanley. “It was more upwind at beginning, while we expected a tight reach. Given that we won by only 4 minutes, it’s probably because we did that first leg by one tack. That helped a lot. Once we cracked off it was power reaching down, no kite, the course was fast, but not as fast as the initial forecast.
“Once we rounded the corner at Cuba, that was some of the best sailing I’ve done,” said O’Hanley. “I have never gone that fast for that long, probably six to seven hours of 16 knots of boat speed. We never got to rest; the conditions were such that it was uncomfortable to rest, so we were on our game the entire time.”
O’Hanley praised his crew, which has been together, for the most part, since 2003 when he had his previous Privateer, a Swan 48. “We like the distance races,” he said. “It was really fun for us. This boat was built in New Zealand and designed for heavy-air reaching, and in the two years that I’ve owned it and raced it, we haven’t had these kind of conditions. We’ve gotten better at better at keeping the boat moving and that paid off. We had a few little things break, but nothing catastrophic, nothing that slowed us down for very long. One of our crew members did break a rib — probably 18 hours into the race late at night – when we fell off a wave. We were prepared to put him in, but he is also our medical officer and self-diagnosed. He was a real trooper. He spent watches on rail, spent off watch down below, and was a full contributor.” Crew member Bill Winthrop (Newport, R.I.), a former paramedic and fire fighter, is recovering at home.
True to the legend of this race, which began in 1961, conditions for the two-day-plus race were mixed with winds consistently in the 20-knot range, although slightly different in direction than typically expected. “We had plenty of wind,” said Sturgeon, whose Rosebud/Team DYT was greeted at the finish line with the traditional case of Jamaica’s finest Red Stripe beer. “But it was more on our nose and not typical for this race, not in those proportions.
“Our strategy starting out had us going almost close-hauled,” he said. “From the start we tried to be on the rail as much as possible, but eventually sleep came and we got into a routine, a watch system. For the first part of the race we were beating upwind, except we didn’t tack. We did take one five-minute tack just past Great Isaacs, that’s one of the rocks to get around, actually two tacks. We were on port almost the whole time, but needed to flush the head. We were healed over too far in those conditions to flush. After that, it was slow changes of direction as we went past the Northern Bahamian island of Eluethra.”
Three boats did not start the race: Vincitore, the R/P 52 skippered by Jim Mitchell (Zurich, SUI), Fair Do’s VII, the Ker 46 owned by Marc Glimcher (New York, N.Y.), and IMP, the Ron Holland 39 owned by George Radley (Cork, IRL).
“Vincitore lost its rudder in the delivery to the start, IMP’s electronics failed and Fair Do lost its rigging on way to Fort Lauderdale,” said Felix Hunter, Montego Bay Race Coordinator. “The owners of both Vincitore and IMP, along with some of the crew, came in by air and are here enjoying the time with us in Montego Bay.”
For Sturgeon, whose Rosebud/Team DYT has won many of the world’s great ocean races including the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race as well as last month’s Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race, taking line honors and winning IRC A was a great personal achievement and one he shared with his wife Isobel. “Isobel did very well, she was a trooper,” said Sturgeon of his wife’s second ocean race (her first was the Key West Race). “It’s a great accomplishment. We’re tickled to be here and we think we had a fantastic race. We weren’t after the record, although we did show some respect and at least tried to beat it. Jamaica is beautiful and it feels great to be here.”
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