Everglades Challenge Training Trip

180 miles in a sailing ‘yak amongst the barrier islands of Georgia: simultaneously a training run for the upcoming Everglades Challenge and the realization of a childhood dream. Having recently met my newly minted nephew Graham, I was reminded of the way that infants can swing from the heights of joy to the depths of human sorrow and back. This trip felt that way—an emotional roller coaster.

On March 2, I depart with 90-something fellow competitor/wingnuts on an even longer journey from Tampa Bay to Key Largo. You can track our progress or lack thereof at this website:

Little Ensenada Race :: Cabrón :: Botin 80


Steve Meheen’s Misfits Racing program took line honors in the 55th Little Ensenada Race this past weekend, the inaugural race for the team’s new boat, Cabrón. The elapsed time for Cabrón was 3hr 49m 42s.

Little Ensenada is a classic SoCal coastal race from San Diego to Ensenada, Mexico--a benchmark 57-mile passage. This year’s edition delivered beautiful conditions: air so clear it felt like we could touch the islands and a building thermal breeze leading to VMG running in 15-20 knots of breeze down the Mexican coast and into Ensenada Bay.

For the crew of Cabrón, this first race was a chance to let the boat loose.

“We’ve had a big year refitting the boat after Steve purchased it,” said boat captain Josh Whittaker. “We got on the water as a whole new team. It’s a difficult boat to sail, so we’ve put in a lot of training. I think it’s come to fruition. Friday’s race went off smoothly. I was really impressed with how the team gelled. Everyone put in and we sailed pretty faultlessly.”

Cabrón is an 80-foot Botin-designed canting keel race boat. It was built in 2013 to contend for line honors in the Sydney Hobart race against the iconic 100-footers. For Meheen and the Misfits Racing team, it is an upgrade from the RP 63 Aszhou, which the team campaigned for several years.

“It’s similar to Comanche,” says Whittaker. “Wide, lots of righting moment, very light. It’s like an eighty-foot version of that, in a way.”

Owner Steve Meheen has put together a mixed crew of amateurs and professionals, ranging from seasoned maxi yacht legends to Steve’s two young daughters (that’s Piper, age 10, helming at 20+ knots of boatspeed in the picture). Several of the core crew are drawn from US Patriot Sailing, a volunteer non-profit that seeks to support veterans by integrating them into sailing teams.

“A lot of my good friends are active Navy special forces,” says Meheen. “Through them I met the US Patriot Sailing guys. I try to keep them involved in everything we do. They’re great guys and provide a great service to the country. We need to do what we can to give back.”

Mike Rose is a core crew for Cabrón and the lead of the San Diego chapter of US Patriot Sailing. He sees many parallels between sailing and the military. In both endeavors, effective communication, trust, and situational awareness are essential to achieving the goal of winning. Cabrón, because of her extreme design, large crew, and complex operation, provides a particularly apt platform for the US Patriot sailors.

“Sailing Cabrón is amazing,” says Rose. “It’s not your grandpa’s boat. It’s a carbon fiber machine built to win races. It will sail faster than the wind. It’s a wet and wild ride. There will be rough times, but we’ll get through it as a team, as a unit. And we’ll have fun doing it because we have our brothers there to lean on.”

Because of the nature of their jobs, the US Patriot sailors excel onboard.

“They’re very focused,” says Whittaker. “Methodical. You can see their military training shine through. They plan out, assess, evaluate risk. They’re very professional in what they do, and it shows when they get out on the water.”

Going forward, the team plans on an active west coast racing and training schedule.

“We’re going to try to sail the boat as much as we can,” says Meheen. “We’re planning to get a few more guys from the US Patriot group involved as we go forward. And we’ll continue learning how to sail the boat fast and safe.

Puerto Vallarta Record :: Mighty Merloe

A great article about our record-breaking San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race onboard Mighty Merloe:

Crewmember Will Suto did his homework and showed off his skills. During the last day of the race, Enloe described Suto steering the 60-footer with only the leeward ama in the water and carving a course through the swells while keeping the boat speed at 30-plus knots.

”He smiles when the speedo shows 35 knots,” Enloe added.
— Sailing World

PV Race Update 2

Another San Diego to Puerto Vallarta race on the books for Mighty Merloe. We finished the race yesterday afternoon in a time of 2d:3h:51m, breaking the course record set by the MOD70 Orion in 2014. We remember that race well, as we finished behind Orion after suffering our first major structural failure on the boat: a broken foil. Luckily owner H.L. Enloe has plenty of experience with complicated engineering and boatbuilding projects after a few decades of owning extreme boats. Over the past four years we've gradually strengthened the boat and the team, so it was a special moment having this benchmark to measure progress.

After my last update, we had a fairly painless crossing through the lee of Baja, with a few hours of light wind but never parking. We knew this would be a crucial transition, so we spent time before the race analyzing previous weather models with Peter Isler and Chris Bedford to come up with some strategy bullet points for getting through. Navigator Artie Means put us in the right spot when the time came, we caught the right shift and building breeze in the gulf, and enjoyed a glorious day of deep reaching all the way to Banderas Bay. We averaged 30 knots for several hours and had some beautiful sustained rips in the mid-30s.  

Now the boat and crew have all had a rinse and a few good meals in Puerto Vallarta and are happily awaiting the arrival of our friends on the other boats.

Thanks to the folks from San Diego Yacht Club for hosting a great regatta and meeting us in the customs harbor with burritos. 

Transpac 2017

Transpac 2017. ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe. Night one. We are in the gauntlet of beam reaching, racing away from California toward the trade winds. The boat is hurtling through the darkness at speeds up to 35 knots. We are hunkered behind the beams, clutching sheets, soaking wet in our survival suits and spray goggles. The boat rips relentlessly through the cross sea, immersing us in a world of salt spray. Somewhere out there in the darkness Phaedo and Maserati are pushing as hard as we are. If something were to go wrong, odds are that it would happen now, and it would happen fast. 

It’s a moment years in the making, years that we’ve spent rebuilding this boat and forming our team, assembling this giant thousand-piece puzzle so that we can push this boat to the limit and ask her to fly. 

Days later, we crossed the finish line in Hawaii, winning line honors and setting a new race record of 4 days 6 hours 33 minutes and 30 seconds, ahead of some of the fiercest competitors on the face of the planet. As we sailed down the Molokai channel, helicopters and powerboats in pursuit, owner H.L. Enloe stood on deck, grinning ear to ear. 

Enloe is 81 years young. He has always been a man of the sea, but not always a sailor. For many years, he chased game fish in Mexico, but eventually that thrill wore off.

“Once you’ve caught a thousand Marlin, it doesn’t make a difference if you catch one more,” he said. “So I gave myself a sixtieth birthday present and started sailing right then.”

Enloe has always sailed multihulls. 

“If I was going to stay associated with the water, I wanted it to be exciting and fast,” he says. “A slow boat to China did not appeal to me.”

Enloe’s program started with Corsair trimarans and evolved upward. In the early 2000’s, he bought a 60-foot trimaran that had been a prop in the movie Waterworld and a rig from France and set up his first ORMA 60, Loereal. (Fortuitously, some adventurous Australians recently bought Loereal and competed in this Transpac along with some legendary California locals, besting the boat’s previous time from the 2007 Transpac.)

Eventually, the ambition of the program exceeded what was possible with a fiberglass movie prop. 

Enter Mighty Merloe. 

In 2013, Enloe bought the legendary ORMA 60 Groupama 2 and brought her to California. 

“What’s so unique about this boat is that it’s basically the boat that shut the class down,” explains trimmer and sail designer Steve Calder. “It was so far advanced. Even today, 14 years later, this boat is cutting edge.”

The training wheels were off. 

“Enloe does not want to sail a slow boat,” says navigator Artie Means. “He wants to have the latest, greatest, best thing you can have on the planet, and that’s what he brought us.”

Many of the biggest names in the sport have sailed with Enloe’s team, and the roster is always evolving. 

“My idea is that if we can take young people who have good potential and give them to a program that is growing, we can grow these people and the boat program will advance as these young people become more accomplished,” explains Enloe.

As the youngest sailor on the team currently, I can attest to this. Complacency is anathema to Enloe, and he’s not afraid to stir the pot.

With the combination of a legendary boat and a highly vetted crew, Enloe has found himself with a fast horse. But Enloe doesn’t just want a horse in the race, he wants to ride the horse. In the five years that I have sailed with Enloe, he has never not been onboard for a race. 

Life at sea on Mighty Merloe is not easy. We live in a spartan carbon fiber tunnel that can quickly resemble a sewer. We eat freeze dried food, if we’re lucky. We’re too hot or too cold, usually wet. All on a platform that bucks around like a rally car for days on end. 

And Enloe is always right there with us. 

“This race was tough on the best of us,” says Steve Calder, “and he gutted it out. Never complained. It’s really cool to see his passion and enthusiasm.”

“It makes it more than just a race,” says skipper Jacques Vincent.

“It’s a really nice share to sail with a person like this,” agrees helmsman Franck Proffit.

“I’m impressed,” said Loick Peyron. "I don’t know any other owners at that age on earth able to do that. He’s the only one. Hats off to Mr. Enloe.”

By birth or conversion, everyone that sails with Enloe is a multihuller, so this Transpac was a special event for us. It seems to me the fulfillment of a longstanding vision that Enloe has had: a bunch of the wildest multihull boats and crews convening here on the west coast from all corners of the earth to sail this historic race. Here’s to more like it.