Boats at the finish in Key Largo. In the foreground is Roger Mann’s red trimaran, which took first in Class 3. Roger (WaterTribe name Jolly Roger) designed and built the boat specifically for the Challenge. At the dock in the background is Bill Fite’s Moon Shadow, a SeaPearl 21. Fite set a record for doing the challenge solo, arriving after 2 days, 23 hours, and 45 minutes. Photo by Bruce Matlack.
down the Intracoastal due to the high wind forecast for the afternoon. Most of the multihulls and a few of the monohulls headed out into the Gulf. The kayak and canoe classes walked their craft into the water and hopped aboard. A hundred paddle blades flashed and sparkled in the sun as they worked their way across Tampa Bay. Among them was Meade Gougeon of West System Epoxy fame, back for his fourth try at the Everglades Challenge. His beautiful decked sea canoe, Woodwind, sported amas and akas (floats), which placed him in Class 3, along with some very unique and innovative craft. Some of these boats utilized the Hobie Mirage drives in their hulls. Roger Mann, tribal name Jolly Roger, told me he had two, in case one broke on the way. He said it was “easier to just replace it than fix it during the race.” After the start, everyone on the beach hurried home to log on to computers to follow the race on the tracking map of the WaterTribe website. Each boat has a required SPOT device that tracks them and reports to the tracking map. Every 20 minutes, we could see updated positions of the competitors.
Three Checkpoints on the Route There are three checkpoints along the course. Each boat must check in but does not have to stay. The first checkpoint is at Cape Haze Marina in Englewood, near Stump Pass, about 62 miles south of the start (depending on your route). The second checkpoint is at Chokoloskee, about 174 miles from the start (depending on your route), near Everglades City. Once past checkpoint two, you’re in Everglades National Park. Many kayaks and sea canoes choose the hundred-mile Wilderness Waterway to earn the coveted “alligator tooth” award. The third and final checkpoint is Flamingo Ranger Station, east of Cape Sable. From
News & Views for Southern Sailors
Flamingo it’s 35 miles to Key Largo, through the shallow winding channels of Florida Bay. The finish is at the Bay Cove Motel in Key Largo. There is a time limit for each checkpoint, and a time limit for the entire course of eight days. The fastest boats finish in two to three days, while most paddlers take the better part of a week to complete the journey. The early leaders in the sailboat classes took the outside route as the northwest winds began to pick up. Phil Garland’s Core Sound 17, and Alan and Paul Stewart’s Core Sound 20, set the pace in Class 4, monohulls. Core Sounds are flat-bottomed cat ketch skiffs from the drawing board of Graham Byrnes of B&B Yachts in Vandemere, NC. They have powerful planing hulls with centerboards, and can carry a cloud of sail, including spinnakers and mizzen staysails. The venerable Lightning of Per Lorentzen was also surfing down the waves. Meade Gougeon took the Gulf route in his 15-foot Sea Canoe, but it turned out to be a bad mistake. By late afternoon he was on the beach down by Osprey (a little north of Englewood and checkpoint one), and unable to punch through the surf to get going again. Meanwhile, Randy Smythe was being chased to the first checkpoint by Joe Frohock‘s Prindle 19, Hal Link’s Mystere 4.3, Aras Karaitis’ Hobie 16, and Roy Edwards’ Sailbird Tri (24 feet). Inside the ICW, Roger Mann, tribal name, Jolly Roger, was leading Class 3 in his self-designed boat, purposely built for the Challenge. The two SeaPearls were doing well, also opting for the inside route. Reports of high-speed surfing finally led to the first casualty in the fleet. Joe Frohock tangled with a crab trap and capsized his Prindle. The boat sank, taking with it all the expensive equipment he had purchased for the event. Luckily, Joe was wearing a dry suit, and his required PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) was on his life jacket. It worked, and the Coast Guard rescued him off Venice. By 1:15 p.m., Randy Smythe had surfed into Stump Pass and was into and out of the first checkpoint by 1:30 p.m. Aras Karaitis’ Hobie 16 careened into the checkpoint about 90 minutes later, followed two minutes later by Guy deBoer in his Hobie 18 Magnum. The faster Class 4 boats weren’t far behind, as the Core Sounds of Alan Stewart and then Phil Garland arrived at checkpoint one, two hours behind the first multihulls. The serious sailors, who were after line honors, or intent on beating their personal best times, just signed in and left. Surfing down the Gulf Coast off Sanibel Island was Randy SOUTHWINDS April 2013