The Everglades Challenge— Small Craft Race 300 Miles from St. Petersburg to Key Largo By Ron Hoddinott Cover Photo: Miss Marie, a Hobie Getaway, crewed by Eddie Mack and Joshua Murphy, about an hour after the start as they head out of Tampa Bay into the Gulf for the trek south. Photo by Steve Morrell.
xcitement was running through the racers like wildfire on Fort De Soto’s East Beach on the southern tip of St. Petersburg, FL, at dawn on March 2. Leader of the WaterTribe, Steve Issac, who goes by his tribal name, Chief, read the roll call, the national anthem played, and at 7 a.m., 107 small craft pushed their boats from above the high tide line to the water to the sound of bagpipes. The sun was just breaking the horizon behind the main span of the Skyway Bridge. The Everglades Challenge had begun.
Some of the boats on the beach in St. Petersburg the afternoon before the Challenge. One hundred and seven small craft started the next morning at dawn. Photo by Steve Morrell. Randy Smythe’s Sizzor, a custom-made trimaran that Randy rebuilt this last year, after the boat was damaged in last year’s Challenge. Photo by Steve Morrell.
Just as he did in previous years, Randy Smyth’s trimaran, Sizzor, was the first sailboat into the surf, and the first to disappear in the distance. The other Class 5 boats were also launching to give him some competition. Guy deBoer entered a Hobie Magnum 18; Joe Frohock sailed his Prindle 19, solo. Hal Link was sailing a Mystere 4.3 cat, and there were 20 other multihulls in the race. The Hobie Adventure and Tandem Island boats were given their own class this year. With their mirage drive (flippers) to assist, they are always a strong threat in this adventure race where anything goes, as long as it is human- or windpowered. A Windrider 17 from Missouri was entered in a special class this year for solar/electric power to assist. The Class 4 boats usually take their time getting off the beach, but the Core Sound 20 of Alan Stewart made quick work of it, utilizing beach rollers. Two SeaPearl monohulls, and one SeaPearl Tri, were entered this year. The SeaPearl of Luke Lukowski and Bill Wright of JSI Island Nautical were first-timers, but very well-prepared. Bill Fite, tribal name, Jarhead, looked relaxed, but admitted he’s always keyed up at the start. Most impressive new boat in Class 4 was Phil Garland’s Core Sound 17 cat ketch. Phil was vice president of Hull Spars of Rhode Island. His new B&B design sported high-tech North Sails, carbon fiber Hull Spars, and a bowsprit for downwind sails. New to the Challenge this year was the husband and wife team of William and Amber Nye, sailing a Vanguard Nomad 17 sloop. Seventeen Class 4 boats made it to the water and headed out. Some took the inside route