Peet Must : A PAC52 Cinderella Story

34 year old Peet Must from Tom’s River New Jersey never suspected he would be a last minute driver in the PAC 52 Fleet much less win the regatta. But that is exactly what occurred during Leg 2 of the PAC52 Class West Coast Tour.

Peet currently works at oldest operating nuclear plant in the country as licensed senior engineer operator, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Facility at Barnegat Bay in New Jersey Barnegat Bay.

An amateur racer who sails for fun, quite often on his home waters of Barnegat Bay in the Barnegat Bay A-Cat fleet against Interlodge’s owners, Austin and Gwen Fragomen. If you don’t know much about these 28’ long 11wide, shallow drafted cat boats, you are not alone, but a bit of learning can be done :

Peet was a national champion in the Optimist and Flying Scots in his younger days and attended Kings Point Naval Academy where he obtained some big boat experience including a Farr 40 World Championship. He made an Olympic team run in the 49ers with Carl Harrocks in 2012, finishing as the 2nd rank team in the US. He still volunteers for the Academy’s big boat program as an advisor as well as a coach for the Torch Performance Team, instructing youths 7 to 18 on the WASP foiling dinghy.

Peet had been invited to come sail aboard Interlodge earlier in the year and jumped at the opportunity. Have never stepped foot on a TP52 before, it was a bit of a dream come true, one he can’t thank the owners enough for.

Peets position was supposed to be runner/strategist.  He had flown out to Marina Del Rey the Wednesday before the PAC 52 Class’s 3 Day, 8 race event at The California Yacht Club, The Cal Cup. When Interlodge owner Austin unexpectedly fell Ill, he was appointed alternative helmsman position, even though he had not been on a big boat since Kings Point Academy Days. He was confirmed at owners meeting that night that he was clear to be alt helmsman.

“I couldn’t sleep that night, I was so excited” Peet says “The pressure was there, but I just did what I normally do when steering a boat and knowing the professional caliber of the crew that was onboard allowed me to feel more comfortable” Peet says “Morgan Larson sitting right next to me calling tactics and is a very cool, calm personality, and patiently guided me through maneuvers. I was able to follow well enough to keep him happy. The crew work was flawless and the boat handled like a dream, well above my expectations.”

With one day to practice and get a feel of the boat, Peet was pretty much thrown to the lions. Sink or swim if you will. No pressure. Really. It’s going to be okay! Just one caveat. You can’t win… The PAC52 Class has an owner driver rule, but will allow an alternate driver if said driver is approved by other owners prior to an event, is NOT a professional and the team must accept a 1 point penalty for each race  in which the alternate driver takes the helm. There will be no 1’s on your scorecard. The best you can get is a 2.

Tough odds. Very tough odds, even if the replacement skipper is a well-seasoned 52’ sailor and knows the venue. The deck was stacked. Time to play the cards that were dealt.

Team Interlodge came out swinging surprising the fleet with 2 bullets in the 1st two races:

Day 1 1st bullets: “I was very nervous going in, but in light air, everything seemed very manageable. We had an issue with the kite during one of the legs and the string drop patch ripped off." Peet recalls “We had to sail with a less desirable kite in race 3, and shortly after the 1st set, the head started to rip off. The crew did an amazing job of getting a new kite up before the head ripped off completely. All I had to do was drive while they worked their magic through the fire drill!"

Interlodge would end the day with 10 points after finishing last in race 3 With Frank Slootman’s Invisible Hand in 1st with 7 points, Tom Holthus’s BadPak in 2nd with 9 points, David Teams’s Vesper also with 10 points and Manouch Moshayedi’s RIO in 5th with 12 points.

The pixie dust seemed to have worn off the next day as they never quite got it together in the 1st race. “I had a bad start and arrived late, was forced to tack out early. We finished 4th but we protested BadPak and won so ended up moving up to 3rd.” Pete recalls” Races 5 & 6 saw Interlodge avoid conflict and lead around the course to rack up 2 additional bullets, thanks to flawless crew work, good luck and picking the correct side of the course.

Scores after 6 races: Vesper 16, IH 16. INT 18, BP22, RIO 25

Things looked near impossible. Interlodge would have to witness some sort of divine intervention, and hope against hope that the cards fell in their favor.

Day 3 : With 2 races scheduled for final day, Interlodge entered the day trailing by IH and Vesper by 2 points and would require a magic 2 bullets score and help to win the regatta.

“We came in unsure of how things might come down in the event of a tie. With the one point penalty for alternative helmsman, we were not sure we could even win” Peet indicates “Our strategy going in was to sail as well as we could, and hope that the boats we needed to did not finish well.  We were still dumbfounded after getting another bullet in race 7, on whether we could pull off this crazy thing”

Vesper would come in 4th in race 7 and Invisible Hand would remain in control by finishing 2nd.

The scores going into the final race: IH 18, INT 18 Vesper 20, BP 25 and RIO 30. Interlodge would have to take another bullet and hope that Invisible Hand and Vesper finished down the track.

Final Race: Course 5 Wind 245 degrees 12 -15 knots

The final gun fires and nerves seem frayed, Interlodge takes the pin end with the Hand, Rio and Vesper just aft, bit BadPaK crosses the line on port nearly hooking the committee boat’s anchor line in the process. BadPak would stay to right with the others going offshore. At the 1st weather mark, Interlodge rounds 5 seconds ahead of Vesper, BP and Rio next and the Hand in unfamiliar territory of 5th. With no clear lane for passing, the Hand’s downhill speed would serve them no good following the pack down the right side so they gybe to the left on a flyer in hopes of regaining position. At the bottom mark, Interlodge maintain their lead with Vesper and BadPak between them and the Hand.

BP and Rio head for the beach with Int and Vesper taking the middle of the road and the Hand looking for opportunity on the outside on leg 3. When they arrive at the final weather mark, Interlodge has maintained the lead with BP leading a tight pack of Vesper, RIO and then the Hand. The 4 front boats would keep their order down the right side forcing the Hand to go left again in search of clear air and a passing lane. As they neared the finish Interlodge would take their 6th bullet, 39 seconds ahead of 2nd place BadPak, with Vesper in 3rd 9 seconds later, and Rio 4 second after and the Hand 7 second after them.

Interlodge would hold on to win their 1st PAC52 regatta, despite absorbing 6 points in penalties for alternate helmsman, one Pete Must, who before this event had never crewed on the boat before, and never driven a 52 before. David Team’s crew on Vesper would take the tiebreaker and the 2nd place overall regatta finish in their 1st PAC 52 event. Invisible Hand would have to settle for 3rd, yet still remain in 1st for overall season title. With 3 more events pending, including Long Beach Race Week in just over two weeks’ time, there is plenty of time to shuffle the cards again…

Peet on the wildly successful, improbable, Cinderella story come  true, rookie win in his 1st PAC 52 Regatta:

“My job was to focus on driving, paying close attention to the heel and boat speed, never really looking around. I supposed a more experienced driver to take a look around more, but I didn’t have that luxury. I just had to trust the crew and pay attention and stay focused on my job.”

“After crossing the line in 1st, we all took a look around to see the other boats finishing and the order. We scribbled down the numbers and then it finally sunk in. We had won the regatta! And it was a pretty big celebration on board, because everyone had worked so very hard, never giving an inch or giving in. The team was comprised of quite a few new amateur guys that were brought on board to meet the class rules, and we spent a lot of time after races getting them up to speed. We had our coaches engaged every night at the debriefs going over our boat handling issues. It makes a hug difference!”

“At this time, I still don’t know how to thank the team on and off the water. I just can’t praise everyone enough! And of course the Fragomen’s  for this opportunity. It really was a dream come true.”

The PAC 52’s reconvene June 22-24 At the Alamitos Bay YC’s Long Beach Race week this week to round out the Southern California  portion of the 2018 West Coast Grand Prix Tour!