The crew of My Cherie Amour at the finish at 4am

Fountaine Pajot Wins ARC!

Congratulations to the crew of My Cherie Amour on winning the 2015 ARC race! In their letter below they tell of the fun and excitement of leading the regatta and recording the 4th fastest  crossing time for all catamarans over the last 7 years! 

Dear Family and Friends:

A large parasail
The parasail used on My Cherie Amour

My Cherie Amour and its crew (Forrest Frantz, Jim Foerstner, Ramon and Cici Pielfort) have safely arrived in St Lucia after a 3,200 mile race across the Atlantic.  There were 200 sailboats in this, the 30th year of this race from the Canaries to the Caribbean, 21 of which were in our multi-hull class.  Our crossing time was 14 days 21 hours, an average speed of about 9 miles per hour.  We finished, handicap adjusted, in first place by about 7 hours.  After applying our engine penalty we beat the second place boats by 4 minutes and the third place boat by 1 hour……the closest 1st-3rd place finish in the 30 year history of this race.  The 2nd and 3rd place boats were both crewed by paid professional crew with such toys as tactical computers and large sail complements.  We, however, had something no other boat had………Jim Frantz in Arizona as our ground based tactician and weather/wind guru.  While we had satellite communications and e-mail/text capabilities, we had no website viewing or download capabilities.  Jim did, and updated us 2-4 times daily with e-mails, texts, and sat phone calls.  Forrest took Jim’s information and shoved it into his self made manually input “excel” tactical program.  Doing so gave us a slight tactical edge over the professionals.  At the end of the race, one of the top 3 finishers said that they eventually learned to trust where we were going more than their own high powered weather modeling and tactical computers!  But there are also other reasons too why we did so well:

1.   We overpowered My Cherie Amour with a very large parasailer spinnaker (2,600 sq feet or about the size of a house).  Overpowering a sailboat is like driving a Volkswagen bug with a 400 hp engine.  The danger was that we could break our mast, our rigging, or “round up” the boat (very dangerous in high seas).  But if we were to win, we had to take risks and manage those risks successfully.  We did.  I have attached a photo of our parasail so you can see the sail we flew for 7/8 of the race.  Our top speed with it was 28 miles per hour, a new record for our boat type, a 48 foot Fountaine Pajot Salina 48.  The prior speed record was held by the factory manager in France at 22.6 knots or 26 mph.  The record was set while surfing down 10-12 foot waves.  For all of those adrenaline junkies out there, this is for you!  For us, however, it was sheer terror, for as our speed increased past 15 mph, our ability to control My Cherie Amour decreased greatly.  Coming straight down a tall wave could have been catastrophic if just one time (out of the 1,000 big waves we surfed) the boat had turned sideways to the wave.  To avoid doing so took split second adjustments in the helm from our incredible crew.

2.  Our crew “did not know it could be done”.  Not one of us expected this outcome,  So, when everyone woke up the first day and discovered we were in the lead, that euphoria never went away and kept the crew sharp, motivated and alert for the entire passage Yet, our competition expected to win and were somewhat complacent in attitude until it was too late.  Simply put, it was like the “little engine that could”………we think we can………we think we can.

3.  We had a lot more fun than our competition.  Our crew was wonderful.  Everyday was spent laughing with our Spanish friends about such stupid things like “overboard”, which was our mantra of casting off unnecessary weight, “what happens” which was our mantra about how we were doing in general, “hmmm….good” which was our food mantra, “Oh-oh” which was the crews response to any idea the captain had, and “bullshit” which was our mantra about our competition not reporting their engine hours.  To add to the fun, we did charades, pirate quiz’s, and made up a 6th crew person named “Margarita” who was a real stacked and packed topless Halloween costume.  The My Cherie Amour reputation while at the dock in the Canaries or in St Lucia was the same……..this is the fun boat.  Everyone wished that their crew was as much fun.  All of that laughing washed away all of our rope burns, no sleep, being thrown all over the boat, being drenched with salt water all the time, hit in the face by flying fish, etc.  Riding on My Cherie Amour was more violent than a roller coaster, and instead of screaming, we were laughing.

4.  The weather was in our favor.  We could have only been competitive with high winds during the crossing.  Our boat was twice as heavy as the 2nd place boat.  Added weight = slower speeds.  The only time our added weight was mitigated was in very high winds.  During the 14 day crossing, we had 10 days of winds 22-32 knots, 2 days of 16-20 knots, and 2 days of 10-15 knot winds.  On the 10 days with high winds, we were gaining 10-20 miles on our competition, and on the light wind days were loosing 20-30 miles.  There were more gains than losses……..and hence the result.  And who got us into those high winds?  You guessed it……..Jim Frantz and an on-line program called Predict Wind and others.

5.  Our boat did not break.  While our spinnaker got a large hole in it from the sharp wings of a flying fish, the rivets holding the eye that holds up the spinnaker exploded, broken shackles and clip failures, auto helm near failures, near steering loss failures, many line failures, etc, any one of which could have easily ended our race.  But, due to quick action by our crew, the catastrophes were managed and repaired quickly, with little lost time overall.  Awesome crew!!

How do I feel about all of this?  Well, somewhat overwhelmed emotionally and physically.  It surprisingly feels a lot like finishing the first Bridges to Prosperity bridge on the Nile River in Ethiopia.  I know that we did something significant, but simply cannot put it all into perspective.  That will take time.  So, what next?  This kind of racing is now permanently off of my bucket list (unless of course another sailboat makes the mistake of trying to pass us).  The 260 mile days on the Atlantic will be replaced by Cheri and our typical 30 miles per day.  So please join us in 2016-2019 in the Caribbean and the Pacific as the journey continues!

Ken Frantz
Captain, My Cherie Amour