Friday, March 04, 2016

An article by Carla Byrnes in The County Compass newspaper

Great newspaper article by Carla Byrnes !
In the copy of Carla's wonderful and informative article below,  I did add just a very few words to give you a few more additional details about Graham's EC and  Alan's UFC.    Thanks for the great article, Carla ! 

Insanity helps in demanding 'Challenge' races:  
Two local men set to compete in Florida

Special to The County Compass

EVERGLADES FLORIDA  -- It is the first Saturday in March.  The sun is rising over the beach in Fort DeSoto [Park].  Stretching along the beach, as far as the eye can see, are about 100 watercraft: canoes kayaks, and small sailing craft of all types.  When the horn sounds, the air is filled with the sound of shouting, grunting, hoots of encouragement and good wishes as the competitors push, pull, shove, drage, roll and haul their boats into the water.  That will be the scene this year on March 5 for the launch of the Watertribe’s 300-mile Everglades Challenge (EC) and its continuation companion race, the 1200-mile Ultimate Florida Challenge (UFC)!

Among the pushing, shoving, dragging crews are two of pamlico County’s own.  Graham Byrnes (a.k.a. ‘Roo’ denoting his Australian heritage)  and Alan Stewart (a.k.a. ‘SOS’).  The two are partners in B&B Yacht Designs, based in Vandemere, NC.  Byrnes and Stewart have both competed in previous years’ Everglades Challenges and both have multiple wins in various classes of the annual competition. 

The EC and UFC are adventure races.   The term ‘challenge’ is no hyperbole.  The EC is a 300-mile long race which begins on the west coast of Florida in Tampa Bay and continues south and the east through Florida Bay to end at Key Largo on the east coast.  The UFC then continues up the east coast of Florida, west on the St. Marys River to a 40-mile portage across the isthmus for a total race of about 1200 miles!

As it the distances were not daunting enough, the race has many ‘filters’ which allow disparate craft to compete.  The boats must be able to be launched from the beach by their crew with no outside help.  There are three required check-in points between the start and Key Largo,  with bridges, narrow winding channels and strong tidal stream obstructions.  There are inner passages that favor the paddle craft as well as open waters which allow the sail boats to stretch their legs at full speed.

Everything you need must leave with you at the start.  Hence, the boats doing the UFC are also required to carry appropriate gear (wheels) for pulling or pushing the boats across 40 miles of land. 

Both boat designers built innovative new prototypes for this year’s race:  Byrnes will be racing a Core Sound 17 Mark 3 in the EC,   Stewart will be racing an Expedition Sailing Canoe in the UFC.

So he can ‘single hand’ in Class 4,  Byrnes invented a ‘wind vane self-steering’ as an addition, along with a bowsprit to assist in deploying a spinnaker!  Not to be outdone, Stewart will be carrying his folding bicycle which he modified to save weight and reduce the size for portaging his boat. 

Both designers are well-known for thinking and engineering ‘outside the box’ and their boats this year are no exception. 

B&B Yacht Design craft are found all over the world.  The Watertribe’s EC, UFC and similar adventure races provide a laboratory for testing designs, materials and hardware in real-life use and under extreme conditions. B&B only sells and markets designs that have been tested and used themselves. 

Visit B&B Yacht Designs website where you can find information on the home page with links to relates sites and even the video podcast of previous EC races.

It is rare for the general public to be able to follow an offshore distance sailboat race, but this is the exception.  Each boat carries a SPOT messenger device which transmits their position (via SPOT International) to the WaterTribe’s race tracking map every 10 minutes showing the location of each boat.  You can follow your favorites or watch the whole fleet.  Watertribe member – race participants have tribal names (as in Graham and Alan’s case,  ‘Roo’ and ‘SOS’).   Go to www. to follow the race.  There will be action around the clock, so you can check in anytime and see someone on the move.  Obviously. solo and paddle craft will have to stop and camp to rest, but many of the Class 4 and Class 5 boats with crews of 2 or 3 can run non-stop.

As you follow the race, you will note there is a large attrition rate (30% to 50% !)  This is not just about winning, it is about finishing!  It takes heart, guts, grit, and yes – probably just a little bit of insanity.  

Good luck and a safe trip to Graham and Alan. 

Roo (Graham Byrnes) will be sailing this Core Sound 17 Mark3 in the EC-2016.  (workshop photo by Alan Stewart)

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