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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.