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. 

Mighty Merloe :: SoCal 300

    Last week we did the new classic SoCal 300 race on the ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe. The race had a bit of everything: started in lovely Santa Barbara, light air tacking away from the coast, sailing between two huge uninhabited islands, dodging rocks, rounding a wild and remote bank 100 miles offshore, and then clawing through light air overnight back to San Diego. 

    We touched on nearly every sail combination we have, including our previously unused second reef and stormsail configuration. We do a lot of VMG sailing but don’t often reach, so it was nice to get a 100-mile dose of it down the backside of the course. 

    The race was a good shakedown for our next mission: Transpac. We’re looking forward to lining up against some other big trimarans for a battle to Hawaii in July.

Newport to Ensenada 2017

 H.L. Enloe and Loick Peyron aboard the ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe.

H.L. Enloe and Loick Peyron aboard the ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe.

    The man in the foreground of this picture is H.L. Enloe, owner of the ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe that competed in the Newport to Ensenada Race this past weekend. When I first met Enloe in 2012, I was considering quitting sailing. 

    Since childhood, sailing had been my ticket to adventure. In my early teens, I once tried to run away from my home on the coast of Georgia by stealing a Hobie 16 and trying to sail to the Florida Keys. The first night I beached the boat on an uninhabited island and slept in the dunes where wild horses roamed. Ultimately, I didn’t get too far past the Georgia-Florida border before the plan fell apart, but that feeling of waking up every day with no other task than sailing further into the unknown always stuck with me. 

    However, in my early twenties the adventure waned. The boats I sailed on seemed to get heavier and slower the older I got. Too often I found myself sailing with people who were doing it for their ego or the party or myriad other reasons besides a simple passion for sporting adventure. Sailing, to my great sadness, became boring. 

    Then I met Enloe.

    At the time, he was in the final years of campaigning another 60-foot trimaran, a refit movie prop called LoeReal. My first day sailing on the boat we hit 25 knots sailing out of San Diego Bay. It felt pretty hardcore.

    “This is nothing,” one of the crew told me. “One time, in the southern ocean, my hand froze to the mast and my mate had to pee on it to get it free.”

    Clearly this was a boat of madmen.

    And I felt right at home. 

    Enloe is now 80 years old, and he regularly competes in offshore races on his Mighty Merloe, one of the fastest ocean racing yachts in the world. His days of active crewing are past, but he still has a deep connection with his yacht and the people onboard. When I climb inside the boat after a watch, Enloe from his bunk can always tell me who is driving just by the feeling of the boat.

    And he still has the ability to bring onboard the greatest madmen from the fringes of the sport. This brings me to the second man, in the background of the picture, driving the boat: Loick Peyron. 

    Loick is legend, and sailing with him is like a yacht racing master class. His hair-raising stories are endless, from breaking round-the-world records to racing Ultim trimarans solo across oceans. My personal favorite: At the age of 19, Loick competed in the Mini Transat on a questionable boat rigged with a Soling mast. Near the finish he fell asleep, and a wind shift drove him aground on a rock. As the tiny boat battered on the rocks, he found a small cave in the cliff above. He shuttled all his gear into the cave and resided there until he was able to hail a passing fishing boat to help pull his boat off the rocks. The rudder had been torn off, but he was able to finish the race holding the rudder with his hands. 

    He had very fond memories of the experience. 

    Needless to say, he fit right in with Enloe’s band of merry maniacs. 

    The most exciting part of the race for us came about halfway down the course. We’d beaten Phaedo off the line and extended a bit, but then they’d reeled us in and passed us in building wind and seas. Historically, we’ve struggled to hang with MOD 70s in building breeze. But we kept trying, and with a bit of work we started to gain back. Soon enough we found ourselves coming right up behind Phaedo at pace, both boats pushing 30 knots, ripping down waves and popping middle hulls. We passed them so close to weather that I could see my friends’ faces on the other boat. 

    I felt like I was in one of those badass Phaedo videos I see on Sailing Anarchy all the time. 

    Ultimately, we both finished the 125-mile race in under six hours. Phaedo beat us to the finish by three minutes and 36 seconds. According to our ORCA handicap ratings, Phaedo owed us six minutes and 15 seconds, so we corrected out ahead. It’s nice to see our name at the top of the list, but when we race the MOD 70s we think of it as a boat on boat race. 

    If the past is any indication of the future, we’ll keep pushing. 


Cabo Race 2017

Cabo San Lucas. Bag packed. Early AM call to head back to San Diego on our boat, the ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe.

I just finished editing video which gave me a moment to think about the race. For those unfamiliar: It’s a classic West Coast 800-mile downwinder from Newport Beach to Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, hosted by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

This year’s edition saw predominately light wind down the course. The fleet slatted their way through Southern California waters and into Mexico. Rio 100 dropped out just south of the border and returned to San Diego for lack of wind, sparking epidemic retirement among the fleet. In the end, only six of the 22 boats entered would finish the race.

On our boat we had a fierce battle against the MOD 70 Phaedo. Ultimately, Phaedo took line honors in a time of 3d 0h 37m 43s to our 3d 2h 24m 08s. The finish was even more exciting than the delta might suggest. On the last morning we were chasing Phaedo on starboard toward the lay line, when our navigator came on deck with a proposal.

“Guys,” said Artie, “if we follow we might close the gap a bit, and maybe we’ll correct out ahead. But we won’t beat them to the line. If we jibe toward the beach, we might catch the afternoon thermal along the shore. It’s high risk, but it’s our only shot at finishing ahead.”

Of course we went for it.

We sailed on port toward shore dodging sea turtles until we could smell the tacos in Todos Santos. To our dismay the wind grew lighter, stuck stubbornly at 310, and we lost our shirts on the move.

Those of less whimsy might blame the failed shift on a lack of temperature differential to generate the thermal, but I think it might have had something to do with an episode from the night before.

We were cruising along at 18 knots across the silver moonlit water, full foil down, center rudder up, when suddenly there was violent thud and the boat began to swerve.

As we scrambled to lower the center rudder, I thought that the leeward rudder had broken off. Center rudder down, I shone my headlamp toward the leeward rudder. Intact. Next I swung my light toward the foil, where I found the problem: a shark was folded in half around the foil, dragging through the water. A quick lift and drop of the foil remedied the problem.

However, I think nature has a way of taking care of its own, so maybe our failed shift was the wind gods’ revenge for the death of a shark.

Congratulations and thanks to Phaedo for a great race. We’re looking forward to racing them again soon in the Newport to Ensenada Race and this summer in the Transpac.

We on Merloe often sit around scratching our heads wondering why don’t more people race these kinds of boats? Ask any of us from Merloe or Phaedo and you will quickly find out how much we love our boats.

In wind unbearably light for the majority of the fleet we had a great race. It’s not for everyone I guess, but we recommend it.