Thursday, March 14, 2013

2013 Everglades Challenge Trip Report: Launch to CP1

A Few EC's Under our Keel:

When my dad and I launched our Core Sound 20 'dawn patrol' in the 2008 EC we were still screwing on hardware at the campground the night before the race. It would be her maiden voyage and due to the pedigree of the design we knew she would be well found. Not only did she see us to the finish in '08 but also our large backup tent, 8 or so gallons of water, many many... many pounds of food and a repair kit that basically consisted of all the tools we used to build her. This year was our fourth year in the watertribe everglades challenge and unlike previous years...we were ready. 

Our biggest asset on the boat was the addition of a small cuddy cabin during the build which we modeled after the cabin of the EC-22 design. A dry place to sleep is an incredible luxury but absolutely necessary for meaningful rest. After the 09 race we added an asymmetrical spinnaker and bowsprit to our boat which has vastly increased its downwind reaching and running ability. This was also a feature of the EC22 and has served us well.

Fast forward to 2013 and we anticipated a great race knowing that a great rival was being born in the team of Phil Garland of hall spars and Dan Neri of north sails who had been putting together a Core Sound 17 kit for this years race. Not just any CS17, this one was reportedly put together with carbon fiber tape instead of fiberglass, tricked out with the latest north sails tech and a larger sailplan, a super stiff carbon fiber rig that boasted a trapeze off the mizzen mast and a huge asymmetrical spinnaker and bowsprit. Oh...and a jib for better upwind work. 

We met Phil and Dan on the beach before the race but they were busily assembling their boat and no time for chit chat. We helped them get their brand spanking new boat off their trailer with its glossy untarnished bottom and sparkling baby blue paint job. We tried to convince them that it would be good to wet-sand the hull prior to the race and that we should just drag it down the beach. They laughed. We helped them carry it.  

Launch to CP1:

The EC start is always a sight to behold. This is perhaps the first year we were actually able to witness it. That may seem strange but with just an hour or 2 from waking up in the campground (when the race really begins) you've got to pack up your tent, park your car in long term parking, get to the beach, hoist the sails, hit the head, load the boat with the last of your gear, pump up the boat rollers, attend roll call, pose for a group photo and oh yeah try to eat some breakfast. Also, its still dark during all of that so headlamps on. By the time the sun comes up its 10 minutes to launch and everyone is running around with headlamps on the beach like ghost crabs fiddling with gear and spectators are sleepily gathering behind to watch the spectacle. There has never been any 7am starting gun that I could hear, we just wait until we see the kayakers in the water and GO. 

It was a no wind launch and we didn't have any trouble getting the boat down the rollers and into the water. We gained an early lead on many of the class 4 boats (sailboats) thanks to our long oars expertly manned by my dad. The breeze soon filled in light from the NE and we didn't waste any time putting up the spinnaker. We were able to hold off Phil and Dan aka Sambasailor and Sailsalot in their 17 across Tampa bay as we played follow the leader through the narrow passage in the smoother water behind Passage key. There were many boats around us but we were in full race mode and it was the 17 in our rear view. With just their jib up we were holding them off downwind but it seemed like I turned my head just for a moment and when I looked back again they were flying what appeared to be the spinnaker off of an 18foot skiff. It was a massive sail and our hearts sank as we sized up the new threat. Dark clouds quickly rolled in and with them a cold drizzle added to mood.

The wind was now light from the NW as we entered the gulf and they came ever closer. We gybed leaving them behind but they soon caught us back up. The wind backed to the SE for a time and we found ourselves close hauled. We even flew our mizzen staysail off the bowsprit in an attempt to keep them in striking distance but they drifted ahead. We were hugging the coast but they had the inside and seemed in a better position. A line of far out breakers north of longboat pass was our next obstacle and following Phil and Dan about 50 yards back, we watched them sail through a few waves without incident. We changed course a bit to go farther around not giving the cresting rollers much more thought. While checking the GPS two rollers combined into a freak crest headed right for our starboard gunwale I had only enough time to say "hold on" as the small mountain of water lifted and then dropped our rail depositing about a foot of water in our cockpit and yawing the boat hard enough that I fell off my seat and landed first on the tiller extension, bending it in half, and then in the cockpit turned bathtub. It was an all around embarrassing event especially in the light air. We had the cockpit dry in a few minutes of bailing and I was able to bend our telescoping battle stick back into a functioning tolerance. "Don't do that again," my dad said as he retuned to navigating. I was kicking myself for not having the GoPro running. We got back underway and continued the chase.

Wing on wing now charging down the coast we finally received the steady NW winds around 10-15 that were forecast and we began to reel the 17 in slowly with our bigger sailplan. We had a great time surfing the swells down the coast lounging against the transom and playing with the gopro camera. we gave appropriate offing around Sarasota point and we were finally neck and neck taking back the inside about an hour north of Venice inlet and passed them before quickly being passed again. The boats were very closely matched for speed running in the 3-4 foot rollers. As we approached Venice inlet we speculated that they might take the chance to switch to flat water. We made the final mental commitment to stump pass a further 17nm south and of course the wind and swell picked up We were surfing more and the swell was shorter and steeper. As soon as we watched them make the turn into Venice we headed up and put the first reef in the main. Two more hours of fast surfing followed and we caught up to a Hobie Getaway sailed by Coastie and ClamCounter and passed them as we approached the much revered stump pass. We carefully lined up the entrance markers to the pass and gybed over onto a reach which became a beat as we approached the middle of the pass. At one point in the pass the breaking chop coming off the sandbar to the north swept over the channel and knocked us around a bit but nothing compared to our earlier encounter with the instant bathtub. We left 3 tacks in our wake and in we went. Inside I immediately looked north half expecting to see the 17 charging down the waterway but to our relief we appeared to have gained on them. The Getaway actually beat us into the pass using a unique tactic known as, "plow right over the sandbar and emerge unscathed on the other side," also known as a long shot. It worked out great for them and allowed them to avoid tacking through breaking swells. We were impressed.

Once in the waterway we did some housekeeping and lost some of our warm layers. The late afternoon sun dried off our jackets and we cruised the 3 miles down to the entrance to Cape Haze marina right behind the Getaway. The entrance to the new CP1 was very narrow but well marked and we proceeded to make an immediate right hand turn once inside the marina. Luckily someone was there to tell us we were going the wrong way as we proceeded past expensive boats to a dead end. We did an about face and with some help from the oars got around the dock to the correct dead end where a dock full of helpful friends waited for us. I held the boat and my dad hit the OK button on the SPOT tracker which would transmit our time to the watertribe website and register us as officially at the checkpoint. He signed the logbook and we didn't waste and time getting right back in the boat. Not more than 5 minutes and we were off again. Later we remembered there was hot soup at the CP and realized we had completely forgotten to fill our thermos. In hindsight we were focused on one thing only, moving down the coast.  

Pictures and Video forthcoming....
Stay tuned for part 2. 

Cool Kite Aerial Video ...
A video of the start this year...
Another start video and tail end of roll call...
A pre dawn Beach Walk....


Sundog said...

Riveting story. Very well written. Looking forward to part two.

Sundog said...

Riveting story. Very well written. Looking forward to part two.

Ileana Ghosh said...


I loved your blog style and its presentation. All are done beautifully. For those interested in the EC it was an epic year. The EC is an endurance race for small boats where attrition is the norm. This year was no exception. Thanks..For more information about Miami City Tour please visit our site:- Miami City Tour