While a lot of life has recently been about preparing to welcome our first little sailor, we did get a unique opportunity at the end of May to visit the only U.S. port of the Volvo Ocean Race in Miami.
Considered the Everest of sailing, the VOR is an intense 39,000 nautical mile, 9-month around the world sailing race with 10 port stopovers. And, the timing worked out ideally as we had already planned to be at a family reunion on the East Coast a week after the race events so we decided to make a “visit-as-many-friends-along-the-way-to-the-race/reunion” road trip of it.
With a goal of being in Miami for the in-port race and start of the next offshore leg to Lisbon, Portugal, we packed up the car and drove the 1300 miles to Ft. Lauderdale. We had two overnight stops on our route there and overall it was a relatively easy ride for the then 7-month pregnant admiral.
Once there, we connected with part of our cruising family, Ted and Mili of s/v Morning Glory, and made weekend plans that revolved around catching up and being at the center the race. First stop was the Race Village in Bicentennial Park, Downtown Miami. As we drove near, even with the multi-story America Airlines Arena clouding our view, we could see the tops of the 103 foot masts piercing the sky (for context, Kaleo’s mast was a mere 43 feet in comparison).
Walking up to see the six 70-foot long thoroughbreds of ocean racing was electrifying, at least for us sailors. These boats are made of advanced carbon and Kevlar skins, with canting keels (the fin on the bottom of the boat pivots laterally) and can often sail faster than the wind speed. And they are all equipped with exquisite paint jobs to match their prestige.
Naturally, we’re cheering for Puma, the American team in the race. And after having spent months watching Mar Mostro (the name of Puma’s boat) claw her way around the world via the Internet, we were elated to see her in person. There she was, tugging at her lines waiting to pounce back on the water, sporting signature black sails with the Puma logo jumping up as if from the ocean itself.
Then, as if the day couldn’t get any better, none other than Ken Read, a legendary sailing champion and the skipper of Mar Mostro, came strolling up the gangplank. It was all hands on deck as we grabbed the camera and scurried over to meet him. The picture hardly shows it but Matt was practically speechless.
Ted chatted up a security guard and soon enough we found ourselves down on the dock right within arms distance of the race boats. Matt and Ted talked with Rome Kirby, the youngest guy on the Puma team (and in the VOR) at 22. When asked how he got on board with the Volvo Race he replied, “gotta start small and win all the dinghy races.” Hmm, something for Matt to work toward.
After admiring the perfectly crafted lines of Mar Mostro’s hull and drooling over sailing equipment that alone is worth more than most boats, we sauntered around the rest of the village. Highlights included the 3D theater, the grinding competition (Matt completed it in 11.3 seconds, Volvo sailors do it in 9 flat), and seeing Iker Martinez, the skipper of a rival team, Telefonica.
With our fill of the village it was off to Morning Glory where we spent a gorgeous night anchored out under the glow of the Miami skyline. Swimming, dinghy rides, grilling and the gentle roll of being at anchor brought a flood of wonderful cruising memories back. To really make it more like cruising, we wrapped the night up with great friends and our traditional game of Mexican Train. After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we raised the anchor and headed past South Beach and off-shore to the race course. We knew it was the right direction as we followed the VOR boats out, all in a stately line as if they were horses parading before the queen’s court.
What started as a beautifully calm day, quickly turned tempestuous as a rollicking wind brought in storms. With waves crashing over the bows of Morning Glory, we spent the next few hours tracking around the race course as the VOR boats came ripping by, sometimes as fast as 20 knots. Again, for context, Kaleo sailed at an average of 5 to 6 knots. And after quite a few lead changes and a hard fought race, Puma came steaming by Camper in the last seconds of the race to take 3rd. Not the first place we were hoping for, but with a 39,000 mile race, it’s how you do in the long haul that truly matters.
The weather cleared as we returned to port with anticipation of the next day’s race, the start of the next offshore leg. After church on Sunday, the guys took Ted’s powerboat out to chase the racers into the Gulf Stream and given the limited amount of shade on board, the gals elected to relax by the pool.
In conditions opposite the previous day, virtually zero wind and a flat ocean, the guys zipped and zoomed around the course, at times within throwing distance of the race boats. The highlight of the day was following Puma out to sea as Read pointed the bow towards Lisbon, Portugal. They followed Mar Mostro out for about an hour waving them off with a holler as they crossed into the Gulf Stream to eventually take another 3rd place coming into Lisbon.
Not only was it great to see Ted and Mili but we can’t thank them enough for making it possible to get so close to the action in Miami.
One last note, Matt’s taking donations to purchase Mar Mostro, which is now for sale for a few million. If he receives enough to buy it, all those who donate are promised the ride of a lifetime!