2015 Florida 300 Presented by Waves Surf Shop, Race Recap by Damon Linkous from TheBeachcats.com
The second running of the Florida 300 is concluded and the teams and support staff are either back home or on to their next adventure. For most of the 300+ miles of coastal racing, with surf starts and landings, the teams experienced excellent conditions for their powerful beachcats. No long distance beachcat race is without it's challenges and problems and this Florida 300 was no exception. There were gear failures such as teams Cat In The Hat and SSS Racing who both broke shrouds while racing, and boats capsizing in the rough surf including Team Lupe Tortilla capsizing and de-masting their new Flying Phantom foiling cat arriving at Vero Beach. See more below.
First, the winning team on corrected time for both the overall and open class win was team Key Sailing with Kirk Newkirk and Tom Whitehurst sailing a Nacra 20 Carbon. Kirk and Tom were defending their win from last year and promised to return. Team Royal Yellow with Steve Lohmeyer and Jay Sonnenklar won the I20 fleet and came in second overall. The Foiling Fleet was won by Team Rocket with John Casey, and Colin Page sailing the awesome Nacra 20 FCS
There are many stories from the beach over a four day endurance race like this but the big intrigues from this race was how the new foiling designes would handle launching and retrieving through the surf, and how fast would they really be over long distance compared to the non-foiling beachcats.
The second question had an interesting direct comparison available for reference since the Nacra 20 FCS sailed by Team Rocket and the Nacra 20 Carbon sailed by Key Sailing are virtually the same boat with the exception of the foils. Both boats share the same hulls and rig on a 20ft. x 10.5ft platform, so the speed increase provided by the ability to foil could be observed. The foiling FCS was first to finish every leg beating the non-foiling Nacra 20 Carbon by an average of around 30 minutes despite the foilers starting 5 to 10 minutes later. The shear speed was observed on the water with more than one team commenting on the amazing site of the foiling boats blazing past despite some rough conditions in the open Atlantic.
Some questions still remain about the viability of racing these beasts "off the beach" because after the first two legs of low surf conditions, Vero Beach produced large steep difficult surf. The problem for the foiling boats was the need to turn into the surf and get beach wheels under them before being pulled onto the beach. When the surf was low this was still diffucult as anyone who has stood in even knee-high surf knows how hard it is to maintain your position against the incoming waves. Holding onto a large beachcat and getting the beach wheels underneath while in the surf takes a lot of effort and coordination. It also means that the crew of the arriving foiler must perform a 180 degree turn as close the beach as possible so that the ground crew is in shallow enough water to maintain control.
At Vero Beach we got to see what can happen when the turn is completed a little to far from the beach. When Team Lupe Tortilla turned they ended up with the boat just out of reach of the waiting ground crew, this caused them to miss the opportunity to pull the boat back before the next large wave hit the Flying Phantom while boards and rudders were already pulled up. When the wave hit the boat was turned and immediately flipped first on it's side and then completely inverted, breaking the mast in several pieces in the process.
Other teams had hardships along the way and overcame them, Team Cat In The Hat was demasted during the 3rd leg when a shroud broke but with the help of Team Key Sailing was able to re-rig the boat and complete the final leg. There were bruises, cuts, scrapes, sunburns and "saddle sores" from long hours in the trapeze but thankfully no serious injuries and no boats lost, even the Flying Phantom will be back foiling soon since the main damage was the broken mast and they do have a replacement available.
That's it for the 2015 edition of the Florida 300 for now.
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2015 Florida 300 Presented by Waves Surf Shop, Report by TheBeachcats.com
It's been quite a journey working my way up the South Florida coast from Islamorada to now waking up at Vero Beach, Florida. The first two days were picture postcard "chamber of commerce" days and day 3 was much the same except for the small detail of much more wind and a storm cell that crossed the race path. The winds were mostly steady 17 to 20 but some isolated thunderstorms caused much higher winds and challenging conditions along the leg.
The Flying Phantom is out of the race after having an unsuccessful beach landing at the Vero Beach finish. John Tomko, skipper of Lupe Tortilla and many times winner of the Great Texas 300 and other endurance races, successfully rounded up into the heavy surf and was just moments away from landing safely as all the ground crews rushed to grab the boat. Unfortunately they were in just a bit too deep water for the help to get hold of the boat so they had to stay in the surf backing in "one wave too many" and that wave flipped the boat over in the surf snapping the mast. All the ground help wrestled the turtled Flying Phantom onto the beach, it's high tech foils and t-rudders sticking up in the air.
It took some hard work in the surf to get enough of the mast, sails, and rigging cut away from the boat so it could be dragged/carried out of the water. I've got a bunch of pictures in the Florida 300 photo albums showing the sequence. It's a shame photos can't show the height and steepness of the surf very well. We had been standing on the beach all day watching it build. Every third or fourth set of waves piled up into a steep 6-8 foot wall/roller and that's the kind that got them.
Pictures from the crash and the aftermath and all the other landings and events of the day are in the "Day 3" album in TheBeachcats.com photo albums.
The other drama of the day that was happening at the same time was that team Cat In The Hat with Larry Ferber and Jackson Smith de masted about 7 miles short of the finish when they broke a shroud. Luckily for them they weren't injured in the resulting mess and were able to make it to shore. Jackson was able to text the ground crew that they were alright and drifting towards shore, and the Kattack locator gave their position. Ground crew and volunteer helpers were able to locate them and retrieve the boat and the Key Sailing team provided parts and assistance repairing the boat. I wouldn't be surprised to see Cat In The Hat back on the line this morning.
Other than the problems found by Cat In The Hat and Lupe Tortilla all the other teams arrived safe and unbroken performing excellent surf landings. The most impressive sailing feet I witnessed was the incredible surf landing of team Rocket on their 20 foot foiling beachcat Nacra 20 FCS. With the large foils under the boat that cannot be pulled completely out like the non-foilers the boat needed to make a 180 degree turn into the surf right at the shoreline. Turning two far out by even a short distance would leave them exposed to the tall breaking waves and waiting too long would put them onto the beach. The skipper John Casey was able to execute a perfect turn as close to the shore as it was possible to float the boat, putting them in reach of the multiple ground crew that got the beach wheels under and pulled the boat up to safety with no damage.
Key Sailing leads the race after three legs with a 37 minute corrected time margin over the open class but only a 5 minute margin for overall victory lending some extra drama to the final leg from Vero Beach to Cocoa Beach. Be sure to watch live and track the race, links are at the end of this report.
There were many stories of pitch-poles and and very difficult conditions all along the course. Tom Whitehurst, crew for the leading team Key Sailing had a trap wire break and almost got separated from the boat but was able to hold on and get back on board with help from Kirk Newkirk. Before their bad luck at the finish team Lupe Tortilla told me that had pitchpoled the Flying Phantom at speed while on foils sending it flipping forward so hard that the mast hit the water ahead of the boat. It's a testament to the toughness of both the crew and the boat that they were able to continue to the finish after that.
Today the Florida 300 teams are joined by additional competitors racing the one-leg from Vero Beach to Cocoa Beach for the Dogfight. There are a mix of Hobie 16's and G-Cats with the notable entry of Hans Geissler, creator/builder of the G-Cats sailing the leg on his personal G-Cat 5.0 with squaretop.
Report by Damon Linkous of TheBeachcats.com
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2015 Florida 300 Presented by Waves Surf Shop - Day One - Islamorada to Key Biscayne, Florida - May 13, 2015
The big question from Day One involved the two foiling beachcats, the 20 foot Nacra 20 FCS of team Rocket and the 18 foot Flying Phantom of team Lupe Tortilla, would they be so much faster than the Florida 300 competitors that they would run away from the fleet?
Day one opened with a beautiful clear morning on the beach at the Islander Resort in Islamorada, Florida. The competitors were doing final prep and gearing up looking very focused and "in the zone", not a lot of talking as the experienced teams slid their high performance catamarans into the sea.
The start at Islamorada is unique in the four leg race, since the shoreline doesn't lend itself to a beach start the race committee setup a traditional upwind starting line offshore. The leg started in steady winds from the South South-West at 15 mph, clocking more Easterly during the day allowing for the shortest possible route to Key Biscayne. After the start most of the teams opted to hug the shore while three preceeded out a while before tacking. It wasn't long before the boats were pretty much lined up along the Upper Keys and it was a march to the finish with Rocket in the lead followed by Lupe Tortilla then team Key Sailing closely behind.
About 20 minutes after the start team Key Sailing had a tiller tendon come apart so they had to slow down and create a repair using what they had onboard. Sticky gauze tape from the first-aid kit was used for the repair and it held up all the way to the finish. The repair time slowed them down considerably and the defending champions found themselvs at the back of the fleet, not a position where they have spent a lot of time!
In the meantime, after the start all the team crews left Islamorada and started their own race to arrive at the finish line on the beach in Key Biscayn at the Silver Sands Beach Resort before their teams. Being able to live track the fleet using the Kattack tracking software that each boat carries helped take some of the stress away.
It wasn't long at all after the race committee arrived and setup the finish line before the first boat was in site. It was Rocket, and according to the Kattack tracker Lupe Tortilla was next along with Key Sailing a little behind.
In a little while team Rocket with John Casey and Colin Page finished in just 4 hours and 27 seconds followed by Lupe Tortilla in 4 hours, 33 minutes, and 35 seconds. With the tremendous amount of seaweed in the water it was a really fast time for Islamorada to Key Biscayne. Since the two foiling boats are sailing in their own class and not eligible for the overall Florida 300 win, the issue of who would win the first leg of the Florida 300 still remained.
Team Key Sailing had come into view earlier just trailing Lupe Tortilla but was able to pass them before the finish. After overcoming their early mechanical difficulties they finished leg one in first place in 4 hours, 29 minutes, 36 seconds.
So the answer to the big question of how fast will the foiling boats be in a race like this is probably still to be answered. While wind conditions were ideal for most of the race the heavy seaweed caused all the teams to constantly have to slow down and clean up their foils. This was particularly an issue with the inverted T shaped rudders on the foilers.
See full day one results
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Florida 300 Presented by Waves Surf Shop
The Florida 300 is a four day open ocean endurance race sailed on high performance beach catamarans 16 to 22 feet long up the South Florida Atlantic coastline. The race is managed by Sail Series Promotions.
Next week will mark the second running of the Florida 300, starting off in Islamorada, Florida on May 13th and ultimately finishing after four grueling days of sailing at Cocoa Beach, Florida on May 16th. The last leg will start at Vero Beach and include additional competitors on the shorter 50 mile leg dubbed the "Dogfight" race .
The Florida 300 will include last years overall winner, Key Sailing with Kirk Newkirk and Thomas Whitehurst sailing a Nacra 20 Carbon, hoping to fend off a strong field of returnees and newcomers. The competitive fleet will include a variety of catamarans in three classes F18, Nacra 20, and open class. Each class will compete among themselves for line honors and for overall winners based on the Portsmouth handicap system and overall quickest time.
In addition to the classes competing for the overall trophy, an exciting addition to the fleet this year will be two examples of the new generation of foiling beachcats, the Lupe Tortilla Flying Phantom with John Tomko and Ian Billings on board and Papa's Pilar Nacra 20 FCS (Flight Control System) with John Casey and Colin Page. These two boats will form their own "Foiling Class" and compete with each other for line honors, but too little is known about the performance characteristics of these brand new designs to assign them a fair rating to compete for the overall win.
At the Cocoa Beach finish the award ceremony for the classes and overall winner of the Florida 300 will also include the presentation of the awards for the 2014 Endurance Series. To compete for Endurance Series honors, competitors compete in four catamaran distance races, The Florida 300, Gilligan's Run, Hiram's Haul, and Steeplechase. Each day of racing in the multi day events counts toward overall series points.
Fans will be able to "watch" the race from anywhere in the world thanks to live tracking provided by Kattack tracking software. Each boats position will be transmitting in minute increments. Check the www.Florida300.com to follow all the action live.
Besides the live tracking, Damon Linkous from TheBeachcats.com will be providing on-the-scene updates, interviews, pictures, and a daily summary right from the beach. Fans will be able to get in on the action and play commentator by joining the discussion in the forum at www.TheBeachcats.com/forum. Questions posted on the forums will be relayed to the competitors.
Of course all this wouldn't be possible without the contributions of the race sponsors who supply the time, merchandise, and cash money to make it all work. Along with this years title sponsor, Waves Surf Shop, the race appreciates the support of Key Sailing, Kattack, Islander Watersports, Zhik, and Shark Bait Beach Rentals.
For more information on the Florida 300, please check out www.Florida300.com and "Like" www.Facebook.com/Florida300. For more information on Sail Series Promotions, please check out www.SailSeries.com.
See you on the beach!
Ft Walton Beach, Florida, September 27, 2014
The 2014 Round The Island Regatta saw plenty of breeze and moderate carnage.
Friday night's skippers meeting saw a few course changes and a Coor's Light keg sponsored by Mike Kelley's Beach Liquors.
Saturday morning was overcast with a pretty solid NE wind.
Front beam failures seemed to be the trend early in the day (within ten minutes of the start), and a sheared rudder pin dropped the field to three boats by noon. The Nacra Olympic 17 team (Sam Ingham & Casey Gilmore) only flipped a few times to take a pretty decent lead over Randy Smyth's Sizzor coming past Key Sailing. The sail east through the narrows was a beat with slightly dying breeze and a ton of incoming current, but the Nacra 17 and the Sizzor finished before 6:30.
"You can't complain about going downwind for 50 miles. 50 miles downwind. Even if you have to go back upwind after."
--- Sam Ingham, winner of 2014 RTI
Those who couldn't sail due to assorted boat failures spent the day either volunteering, rescuing sailors, telling stories about past years, and helping plan next years regatta.
Congratulations to first time racers Sam Ingham and Casey Gilmore for winning the 33rd Round The Island regatta, and thanks to the sailors that pushed to have the regatta and all of those that helped, especially Mike Kelley, Steve Dowell, Rundell Curtis, and Doug/Gwen Klem.
Ashley Sukalski (FWYC)