The annual Everglades Challenge adventure race starts from the beach at Fort Desoto Park at the mouth of Tampa Bay on Saturday, March 4 at 7:00 am. This year there are 104 boats registered for the ~300 mile "run-what-you-brung" race to Key Largo and another 15 racers in the ~60 mile Ultramarathon to first checkpoint at Cape Haze.
There are a few basic boat classes in the EC, ranging from canoes and kayaks to dinghies to multihulls. There are no handicaps and the fastest time wins the class. There are sub-classes for number of crew and male/female.
Class 1 are the canoes and kayaks. They can have a small >1m^2 downwind only sail assist, but they mostly paddle. There are 31 class 1 boats entered this year.
Class 2 are canoes and kayaks with no sail assist. Because class 2 is harder, there are fewer boats than class 1 at 14 for 2017. The teams I'm going to watch in class 2 this year are the veteran father-son team of IronBob/TheJuice (Robert and Druce Finlay) and world class adventure racers Piglet/AngryFatKid (Jason Magness & Daniel Staudigel). These teams know each other from the adventure race circuit (Eco-Challenge type stuff) and are racing hard to beat each other in a friendly competition.
Class 3 are the sailing canoe/kayaks with upwind rigs. Since the Hobie came out with the AI and TI kayaks came out the numbers of these boats has been dwindling, but a few still show up every year. Keep an eye out for Meade Gougeon in his very cool cedar strip sailing canoe.
Class 4, small monohull sailboats is my favorite class, mostly because it’s where I’ve been racing since 2011. This year finds a healthy group of 19 boats heading the KL. The overall win in Class 4 will likely be between TwoBeers/Moresailesed in their custom OH Rogers designed Tampa Bay 22 skiff and Skinnygenes/Skinnyjeans in their 50 year old turbo Thistle. You can’t count out the team of SOS/DanceswithSandybottom in their Core Sound 20 either. My favorite in the solo class is former winner and record-holder Roo Graham Byrnes in his Core Sound 17.3.
The multihull class 5 has some really strong teams this year, including absolute record holders Bumpy/Machoman (Jamie Livingston/Kenny Pierce) who finished the entire 300 mile course in 26 hours back in 2010. Sewsew (multi-hull legend Randy Smyth) is always one to watch in the solo class.
There are also a passle of Hobie AI/TI pedal-sail kayaks in this years event. Forumite ZeroTheHero and his wife are competing in a TI this year.
I'm sitting out for the first time since 2013, which is kind of a bummer, but I will be there as a volunteer on Friday and Saturday helping with registration and doing boat and gear inspections for newbies. If folks are in the area, come down to Ft. Desoto starting around 10 am Friday if you want to see the boats and meet the folks. I think you’ll find we’re pretty friendly crew. If you see me, be sure to introduce yourself. I’ll be in a green volunteer t-shirt with my ‘tribal’ name Mistermoon on the back.
I’ll post a few pictures and race updates along the way.