Everglades Challenge: Not your typical regatta

The Everglades Challenge is described as an unsupported, expedition style adventure race that is dangerous as defined by Florida law and common sense. So what are seemingly responsible guys like Lightning World Champion Jeff Linton and US Naval Academy offshore coach Jahn Tihansky doing as entrants in the 2014 edition? Amy Linton explains…

The Everglades Challenge sends a fleet of adventurous boating folks on a 300+ mile Florida voyage from Tampa Bay to Key Largo in March. We’ve been hard at work on a highly modified Flying Scot we’re calling Frankenscot (see in video above) that we hope to enter into the event.

A trip like this is not like gassing up the station wagon and hitting the highway.

The course includes three check-in points along the way. Between here and there, we have open water and the Gulf of Mexico, various rivers and marked channels, mangrove islands, the Intracoastal Waterway. Plus, in this race, there are no rules against — say — cutting a corner and yanking the boat over shallow spots on foot, if need be.

Plotting a 300-mile course along the left side of Florida and through the 10,000 islands of the Everglades means making provisions for alternate routes, and alternate-to-the-alternate routes, and third-option-alternate routes. Is it better, one might consider, to stay inside the barrier islands or in the Gulf if the wind is piping up?

It’s not just the volume of breeze, but the direction, the likelihood of the wind backing or clocking (changing direction, in sailor-parlance), and of course the sea-state. Plus the tide, the waves, the time of day (it’s good to avoid high-traffic Saturdays, for instance, along some of the stretches of water), etc. etc. etc.

As with so many human endeavors, it’s best to think about the options early: if it’s dark and stormy and something (knock wood) goes bang, it’s good to know already where to bolt to make repairs or take shelter.

Far better to have already figured out that Tin Can channel is not recommended in certain wind conditions than to try to figure it out in the middle of the night. With the wind in the unfavored quarter.

My pages of notes include things like this: “Hug the shore to the lights on Chokoloskee Bay. Head for the lights, not the dark.” And: “It’s very tough to tack in the channel on an Easterly. Here’s a thing to remember: if you are going to go aground, get stuck on the upwind side of the channel.”

The Everglades Challenge starts March 1st.

Click here for team updates.

Published on Jun 16, 2013, the video below by Warren Richey tracks participants in the 2013 Everglades Challenge. Eighty-eight boats entered, 62 reached the finish line.

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