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Dragon54

Dragon is one of the original four boats to race in the Atlantic Cup. Mike Hennessy has skippered Dragon since 2011. With a 2nd, two 6th places in 2011-13 respectively, Dragon came extremely close in 2014. Heading into the third leg tied for first, the team hit a rock in the first race of the day that forced them to pull out of the rest of racing. A huge disappointment to Mike and the Dragon team, however you can expect them to be back and ready to reclaim a podium spot in 2016.

When asked what he has been doing to prepare for 2016, Mike said, “We know we are going to have to bring our A game to win in in the 2016 edition.  The enhancements we made to Dragon brought her speed potential to the next level and that put us on the top of the leaderboard in 2014 going into the third leg of the event.  Our unfortunate introduction to the rock off Beavertail put paid to that effort, so we have something to prove in 2016.  The 6,000 ocean miles that we raced in 2015 has all been practice for the Atlantic Cup!”

  • Boat Name: Dragon
  • Port of Registry: Mystic, CT
  • Builder: Composite Creations
  • Designer: Owen Clarke Designs
  • Year Launched: 2008
  • Source of Energy Production: Hydrogenerator

Michael Hennessy

  • Age: 46
  • Hometown: Mystic, CT
  • Age Started Sailing: 4
  • Describe yourself in one word: Happy
  • What do you do to relax during your free time? Umm…sailing?
  • Career Highlights: 7th in 2014 Fastnet; 2nd in 2012 Newport-Bermuda;  2nd in 2011 Atlantic Cup

Merfyn Owen

  • Age: 53
  • Nationality: English
  • Where did you go to University: University of London
  • Describe sailing to you in one word: Passion
  • What is your favorite sports team? Wales Rugby
  • Career Highlights: Co-skipper 2010 Atlantic Cup; Won Bermuda Race DH Division in 2010; 2nd in 2005 Transat Jacques Vabres

Michael Hennessy

In one word describe the Atlantic Cup experience. One word is hardly adequate to describe the fast, competitive, challenging, fun Atlantic Cup experience.

Is the mental or physical aspect of the Atlantic Cup hardest? Keeping the focus for days on-end. With inshore racing you have a concentrated period where you are fully committed to the boat and the race. But with a race like the Atlantic Cup you need to keep on it for hour after hour.

What do you think about the change for Leg 2 and the new finish city of Portland? The introduction of Portland, Maine as the final stop-over for the Atlantic Cup is an awesome change.  It shakes up Leg 2, changing it from a flat out sprit to a longer and more strategic race.  Decisions about on-shore sea breeze versus off shore gradient will still come into play, but the shoals south of Nantucket add an entirely new element of risk and reward to the leg.  Not to mention the potential for lobster pots coming into Portland!    And the city itself is a perfect host for a bunch of hungry and thirsty sailors.  Vibrant, exciting, warm and welcoming… you would be hard pressed to find a better place to visit by land or sea.

What’s your first major tactical decision after the start in Charleston? The race through the harbor and down the channel to the open sea is a straight forward drag race, with boat-on-boat decisions.  The first major decision comes after clearing the channel, and is all about deciding where and how you are going to interact with the Gulf Stream. In New York? In New York, the first challenge is how to deal with the sometimes tricky winds that swirl forth from the concrete canyons of the city.  Then, the next major choice comes when you clear the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and need to decide how you get through the lower Harbor to the open ocean.  Wind and current conditions play a big role in that decision.

Is it true that if you sleep on the offshore legs you’ll lose? Sleep too little and you start making bad decisions.  Sleep too much and you start losing speed.  

Because of the limited number of sails you’re allowed to carry how does sail preservation and damage figure in your strategy? I would be a fool to say no!  The loss of the use of a sail can ruin your chances for the leg you are racing, but also can seriously hurt your prospects for future legs of the Atlantic Cup because of how little time you have to make repairs.

When you’re in the open ocean what is the biggest concern for the boat? Racing shorthanded on boats likes these, you don’t worry about one “big” thing but instead the accumulation of hundreds of smaller things. Whenever things go pear shaped, it is because there has been a cascade of errors that could have started with something as simple as not having done your morning check of the boat.

What is your biggest fear being alone on deck? Being alone on deck is something to embrace, not fear.

What does carbon neutrality mean to you? Leaving no trace as we slide across the globe, other than the wake that fades behind us.

Did you go to University? Yes, Yale

Did you or do you play any other competitive sports? Rowed Crew in college

How did you get into competitive sailing? As an adult, entering my C+C 35 III in the Around Long Island Race.

Describe sailing to you in one word. Happiness

In what way are you superstitious before a race? No particular superstitions.

Number of transatlantic crossings under sail: Two

What is one of your goals for your sailing career? I am living my goals.

What are your sailing strengths? Organization, preparation, navigation, determination.

What do you like most about being offshore? What do you like least? I like everything about being offshore. The solitude, the beauty, the challenge…its all great. There is really nothing about it that I don’t enjoy.

What is your favorite sports team? I am more about the short handed sailors. Mich, Thomas, Francois.

What is your favorite type of music? Anything. Shuffle is an awesome feature.

What’s your favorite thing to eat when you’re offshore? Least favorite? A few slices of sausage and a hunk of Parmesan cheese helps alleviate the boredom of freeze dried.

Do you have any hidden talents? I keep my talents at procrastination well hidden.

Merfyn Owen

How did you get into competitive sailing? By chance. I answered an advert in UKs Yachts and Yachting magazine for crew and started racing a trimaran at university. I won Young Yachtsman of the year that year. That got me onto a bigger 60’ trimaran as the competition winner. At 22 I was a navigator on an 85’ catamaran in the Round Europe Race.

Did you or do you play any other competitive sports?  Rugby Union.

Number of transatlantic crossings under sail: Seven and two Cape Horns.

What is your 2016 racing schedule? Miami to Havana, and then the Atlantic Cup. Finally the Round Ireland Race.

What is one of your goals for your sailing career? Single-handed around the world – East to West, non stop.

In what way are you superstitious before a race? I’m not.

What are your sailing strengths? Dogged determination, focus, helming, trimming and an in-depth technical knowledge of some of the boat types I race on.

How did you meet your co-skipper? My company designed his boat and I’ve done some trial sailing with him.

What are the strengths of your co-skipper?  Research, organization, passion, focus and working hard enough to fund the whole thing!

What makes you and your co-skipper a good team? We’ve become great friends and we trust an know each other very well.

How do you rate your chances in the Atlantic Cup? Who do you think is the favorite? It depends on wind strength. If it’s sub 12 kts for a lot of the time, that’s good. If it’s sub ten kts for a lot of the time…even better.

Because of the limited number of sails you’re allowed to carry how does sail preservation and damage figure in your strategy?  I know the last running of the race was effected greatly by a storm offshore, but my view is that sail damage shouldn’t be an issue, except you would be screwed if you broke your A2. That should not happen. However sail-pan design/inventory choice prior to the race is a very important. The relatively short legs make it difficult to recover from any damage or poor nav decisions because the fleet is very competitive and you will be punished for it.

What do you think about the new leg from New York to Portland? I love the prospect of sailing further and in waters which will make for a more interesting tactical leg. I’m also looking forward to being in Portland again. It’s one of the best places that I’ve ever lived/spent time in.

What do you like most about being offshore? What do you like least? I like being on watch on my own. I dislike arriving back to land.

What is your biggest fear of being alone on deck? I don’t think I have one.

Is it true that if you sleep on the offshore legs you’ll lose? No it’s not and I would guess I probably sleep as little as the best of them. I tend to push myself very very hard. But, if you don’t get some sleep in 48 hours you increase your chances of making errors when it comes to complex decision making. I’ve always been a fan and follower of Claudio Stampi.

If you had to convince someone to do their part in protecting our oceans, what would you say to them?  Use ecological detergents and don’t put anything in the oceans that you either haven’t eaten first or wouldn’t be happy to have hanging around on your kitchen counter for a couple of weeks.

What do you do to relax during your free time? I like to read.

What’s your favorite thing to eat when you’re offshore? Least favorite?  My favorite is Alpine Aire freeze dried food. My least favorite is Pot Noodle, but no one has tried to feed me that offshore for a long time.

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you want to meet?  Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

 

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