We had the first of this year’s distance races on Sunday April 30th. The race started just outside of Redfish pass at the north tip of Captiva Island. All of the race boats managed to get up and on the water in time despite a great evening party as part of the San T’Weenie Cruise! Great Times.
But no one could have foreseen that this race was one of the most eventful that I have ever participated in. It actually started several days before the race when Wind Star officially withdrew from the race siting powertrain issues that left her immobile.
Then there was the weather Sunday morning. I never saw winds much higher than 18 knots, but just as the race is about to start the Coast Guard issued a securitee for the whole coast down to Bonita with a small craft advisory, 20 kts gusting to 30 kts. Again, we certainly did not see that kind of wind at during the race, but it added to the drama!
So, thank you to Steve Romaine who graciously brought his rib out from the South Seas Plantation Small Boat Regatta and started us off. There were 5 boats at the start.
Now for the next event. Fifteen minutes into the race Full Tilt’s Eric Milbrandt calls on the radio – they are withdrawing from the race due to chain plate and structural issues.
This was the point when Amy, my only team member unless you count Saylor my dog, felt we too should drop out and go home the easy way. As we were plowing into big waves on a close reach I persevered – this is sailing!
REAL DRAMA HITS
Then about 15 minutes later there was one brief piece of radio chatter. Diane Fowler from Windy City says to John Finnegan from Miss Cathleen, “Are you alright? Do you need help?” I look around! (side note – CALUSA was in first place at this point. Not bad considering I was basically a single hander! Just sayin’. LOL)
I see nothing but a black blob in the water. Miss Cathleen has dismasted! OMG! The next seconds were critical and John came back on the radio, “We are alright. We are going to clean up and tie off the gear and motor home.” And that’s just what they did. What an unbelievable display of seamanship to get the sails, the boom, the mast and lines all out of the water, tied off in rough seas, and then proceed down the intercostal back to their home port! See attached picture.
But then the next cool thing about this race. The three remaining boats, Windy City, Jazzy, and CALUSA would tack into a stiff southeast breeze for the next four hours, switching the lead, crossing each other on every tack. After five hours we had rounded SC and come back to markers 3 and 4 and finished the race. The total time between first and last was 11 minutes. The total corrected time between first and second was 90 seconds!!! Congratulations to Diane and Gary the skippers of Windy City and Jazzy on a terrific race! I will tell you that Diane made a strategic decision to cut within a hundred yards of the beach on Sanibel island at one point that put her in first, a position she did not relinquish back to Gary. Jazzy had been in first place for most of the crossings as we tacked back and forth around the big end of Sanibel Island.