Melges MC Scows Are Not Just For Floating Around The Bouys On Sunday

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17 October 2011

THREE MC’S FROM THE BEAUFORT, SC FLEET #68 RACE OTHER ASSORTED CRAFT IN 20 NM RACE IN 15-25 KTS.

Wow, what a ride!

Three MC’s from Fleet 68, Beaufort, SC left the Beaufort Yacht & Sailing Club at 9am on Monday, April 4 to race the 20.2 nm to the Dataw Marina for the final leg of Beaufort Race Week.  This was in conjunction with 3 Sunfish and 10 other craft, mostly keelboats ranging from 16-24’, which had started up the river a couple of miles.   Conditions were 13-15 kts out of the southwest at the start-a favorable direction so that we would have mostly a reach or run.   

The race was north up the Beaufort River (1/4-1/2 mile wide) for 10 miles, past Pigeon Point and the Brickyards, out into the Coosaw River (2 miles wide) and east for 6.5 miles, down Parrot Creek and back west on the Morgan River. 

With the winds gusting over 18+ we all flew up the Beaufort River toward Pigeon Point.  I don’t know how fast an MC can go but we were at max speed to the point that I thought my mast was going-it was bending so bad I just knew it was about to invert and go over the bow.   I tried to adjust the main to lessen the load and just hang on.  Now I realize why they don’t recommend you sail an MC directly downwind in high winds.

Going up the Beaufort River from Pigeon Point to the Brickyards was fairly mild and we passed all but one of the 6 or 7 PHRF and Classic Boats ahead of us by the time we hit the Brickyard.  Out in the Coosaw River  (2 miles wide leading to the Atlantic Ocean) it was incredible sailing.   The waves were not high due to the wind coming off the near south side shore to our right and was averaging 18 with gusts hitting 20-25.  It was almost a constant plane for 6.5 miles to Parrot Creek.   When the dark water approached every 15 seconds or so between extended puffs you knew to get ready for another wild ride which could last minutes.   The MC’s sailed always within 50 yards of each other the whole ride with each taking the lead at some point.   The boat to windward got the puff first and it was impossible to pass to leeward.

When we hit Parrot Creek it was time to beat south the 2 miles to Morgan River against an outgoing tide and 18-20 kts (probably more, I couldn’t tell).   It was very lumpy-similar to the chop of Charleston Harbor.  Nasty!

We rounded navigational aid R6 and headed west up the Morgan River toward the Dataw Marina for 2 miles against the current in 15-18 kt winds on a long port tack beat and finally crossed the finish line in an elapsed time of 2hrs, 48 minutes with all three MC’s finishing within one minute, well ahead of any other boats.   Based on a 20 nm course, the MC’s covered the distance in 2.8 hrs or an average speed of 7.18 kts (that’s 8.2 mph).   Now, that’s moving in a sailboat and it was a blast! 

We are all planning to do this again next year but it is always weather dependent.  I don’t think I’d want a 6.5 mile beat (east wind) against the ebb current in the Coosaw River.