EC 2010 with Jarhead & HonestJohn in Moon Shadow
We got a decent start by placing one roller under the bow and the rest out in front of the boat, and then used a controlled descent to the water to avoid plowing into the sand with the bow. Winds were light, more or less behind us out of the NE.
My confidence was shaken right away as we sailed slowly SSW while it seemed that all others sailed S, as if to take the inside route. Soon it became evident that Ridgerunner and Greybeard were angling S in the Core Sound 20 in order to use their mizzen staysail. That seemed to be a good tactic on their part, because when our paths converged out in the Gulf an hour or so later they had perhaps a half mile lead on us. When the staysail went up on Moon Shadow in increasing but still light winds, the gap slowly closed until we caught them. We all joked a bit and Moon Shadow pulled slowly ahead, possibly because of its relatively narrow beam and transom, and smaller wetted hull surface. By noon our lead on the CS20 seemed to be a mile or more.
The winds died, and Jonathan and I row-sailed for an hour or more. By 1400, however, a NW sea breeze began to build and our speed increased dramatically. We left the staysail up and angled offshore to keep it filled in what we guessed to be 12-14 mph winds, putting a visible strain on the mizzen mast. Ridgerunner and Greybeard overtook us as they sailed close to shore, taking advantage of the strong following winds in which the CS excels. Eventually we took down the staysail, but left full sail up otherwise. Jonathan was at the helm, sailing beautifully. We surfed frequently, hitting 11.5 kts at one point. A near capsize and green water over the gunwale caused us to reduce sail to 4/3. We still averaged around 7 kts, but a stalking Weta trimaran overtook us quickly at that point. By about 1700 we rode swells and waves into Stump Pass without difficulty as the CS 20, now out of sight, continued on down to Gasparilla Pass about 5 miles S.
The sail down Lemon Bay and the ICW to Placida was uneventful but pleasant. It was just getting dark when we signed in at 1855. At that point we were in 2nd place in the Class 4 division, about seven minutes behind the leaders, but we moved into first place a short time later by putting our masts back up without stopping, thereby passing Ridgerunner and Greybeard, who were still preparing for the night in Coral Creek. We turned S in Gasparilla Sound and headed for Charlotte Harbor and beyond.
Jonathan had eaten his sandwich already, so he took the helm while I put on warmer clothes, ate, and smoked a cigar. The wind was out of the NE and moving us along at 5-6 kts. Before 2100 we were at Boca Grande Pass and could see the anchor lights of boats in Pelican Bay. We scarcely considered going outside, preferring what we guessed to be smoother seas and a little more security in Pine Island Sound. Jonathan got his head down as the wind picked up, and we bombed down pine island sound, frequently hitting 7 kts. Though it was fun to be making good time, to me this was not a pleasant sail. The night was very cold, the boat oscillated and heeled quite a lot in gusts, making it impossible to get comfortable and relax. In addition, the night was very dark. The moon didn't come up until after 0100, and unlit channel markers gave me a shot of adrenalin every now and then.
I'm guessing it was near marker G "22" near York Island that I ran aground, probably by sailing outside of the channel to miss the unlit channel markers which were spooking me. I had to get out and push a while, and we lost about 15 minutes. Jonathan managed to get back to sleep until I woke him a little after midnight as we approached the Sanibel Bridge. Our agreement was for both to be awake during transitions such as this, but we sailed right through without difficulty.
The NE wind had dropped a little, but after sailing a while back out in the Gulf it picked up again. We were averaging over 6 kts, but the seas were rough, and I thought it would be safer and less stressful to forget the rhumb line to Cape Romano and get closer to shore. We did that, and the improved ride was most welcome. Even with the shore partially blocking the wind we averaged about 6 1Ú2 kts through the early hours of Sunday morning.
By daylight we were at Marco Island and able to spot Ridgerunner and Greybeard in front of us perhaps a mile or so! They had gone outside at Boca Grande and more than made up the few minutes they were behind leaving CP 1. To our surprise, they turned in toward Caxambas Pass rather than continue on to pass through Romano Shoals, which is believed to be slightly the faster route. They lost some time getting around an island and sandbar that blocked their approach to the marked northern entrance to the pass, while we slipped over the bar and into the unmarked southern entrance. That maneuver gave us the lead again, which, I think because of the moderate winds the rest of the way, we did not relinquish. It has been my (limited) experience that the CS 20 will outrun the SP 21 in a hard blow, especially downwind, but will have a tough time closing on a SP 21 in a light or moderate breeze. This issue is not settled or even fully developed; the boats are very competitive with each other overall.
Now we had a break that Ron Hoddinott and I did not have in 2008: Jonathan and I were able to sail E without tacking. By a little after 0800 we were through Caxambas Pass and heading straight for Indian Key Pass less than 12 miles away, making better than 6 kts most of the way. Once in the pass we did have to tack up to G "7", where the pass narrows. I rowed to Chokoloskee while Jonathan kept the boat close-hauled to take advantage of any lift we could find in the light, swirly headwinds. We were well aware of the fact that the requirement to row was to our advantage over most Class 4 boats. We checked into CP 2 at 1328, about 16 minutes behind Izatarock in his Tridarka Raider, a Matt Layden-designed trimaran built by Chief several years ago, and significantly modified with much greater sail area by the new owner.
Rowing out we saw Ridgerunner and Greybeard entering Chokoloskee Bay from Indian Key Pass. We soon passed Izatarock, who appeared to be about to row out Chokoloskee Pass. We told him to follow us, as Rabbit Key Pass is a much faster exit for those heading S. Just before reaching the pass he developed a steering problem, and we rowed on. It felt odd to be in broad daylight with a super time at the exact spot where I more or less fell apart at 0200 in my solo run last year.
By about 1545 we were back in the Gulf, but the wind was dying. The boat wallowed around spilling air from the sails, and we tried the mizzen staysail. I believe that was just after dark. It worked well for a while, but eventually to keep the sail filled we had to steer W so much that our dropping velocity made good (VMG) to E Cape showed us it was time to take the sail down. Izatarock caught and passed us, and we watched his stern light grow increasingly distant for most of the rest of the night.
I had not been feeling well, so Jonathan took the helm around 2100. I tried eating, which I had not done much of since a bowl of cereal that morning, but food didn't help right away. I told Jonathan it burned to pee, and his diagnosis was dehydration, which I believe was correct. I had only one beer left (of two), so I cleverly improvised and drank water. Dr. Jonathan also prescribed sleep, which I'm not sure I had done yet. I crashed in place until waking on my own before midnight, a new man!
I told Jonathan to get some sleep, which he did right away. Unfortunately for him, the wind died and at 0030 our speed had dropped to 1.4 kts. I thought about how lame it would be to explain that we lost the Class 4 lead again because I didn't want to awaken my partner, and therefore couldn't row. Of course I did wake him up, and I rowed until we reached East Cape at around 0330. Conversation between us was very, very spare in that interval.
Rounding E Cape gave us better wind. Jonathan was able to get back to sleep and I enjoyed a wonderful beat in smooth water, averaging better than 5 kts to Flamingo. Here I tried to cut the corner to the channel too much and ran aground, which cost us about 20 minutes. We checked in at 0615, about an hour behind Izatarock, whom we saw leaving as we were rowing in.
By dawn we were on our way again, almost unable to believe that the NNE breeze was allowing us to sail as high as 85 degrees, good enough to get through Tin Can Channel. As it got light we spotted Izatarock, and I could see that he was taking the way S of Palm Key. This will surprise some, but I have actually explored that area, and I doubted he could get through. Eventually he doubted it too, because he turned back and began to follow us. Suddenly we had a several mile lead on him. The Tridarka Raider is definitely faster than a SeaPearl, but a two-mile lead is something to work with. We had never slacked off, but now we were even more intensely trying to increase our speed.
The short of it is we lost the race across Florida Bay by one minute. The tacking duel for the last few miles was something to behold, and I would love to see a SeaPearl go faster in those conditions than Moon Shadow did in the losing effort. Izatarock was a super opponent, and the WaterTribe awarded the three of us the "Sir Earnest Shackleton Award" for relentless persistence against the elements or something like that. If you've ever read of Shackleton's exploits you'd know how tongue-in-cheek our little recognition was, but we appreciated it nonetheless.
All in all this was a most satisfying EC. Both Jonathan and I screwed up some, to be sure. I'd say our screw-ups cost us a good two hours. I don't think I want to explain them publicly, but I'm happy that all of them were the result of aggressiveness. I'm not counting staying inside at Boca Grande and moving over to the coast as screw-ups, because they were simply calculated decisions. Anyway, I believe our time of 2 days, 10 hours, and 28 minutes is the second best monohull time in the ten-year history of the race. Of course, comparison of times in different race years is nearly meaningless, but we definitely took advantage of the good conditions. I have described our challenge execution as relentless. It helped us some, I believe, that Ridgerunner had his SPOT in his pocket, and it did not signal well. After Chokoloskee we were never sure where the CS 20 was, so we battled all night and were able to increase our lead.
Got boat? I think they're going to stage another one of these things next year. You can train up and rehearse using the North Carolina Challenge in late Sep. It's only 100 miles.