Report from Beverley Simmons: The Worrell Teams scattered the beach at Daytona, with sailors and ground crew busy prepping their boats with a noticeably, more energetic cadence. All were feeling the positive affects of having the last leg (Cocoa to Daytona) cancelled, and the social event’s frivolity from the previous evening elevated everyone’s disposition.
However, looking down on them from the 3rd floor balcony, something was off. I counted 12 masts pointing to the sky. Ah, there it was. One boat was completely upside down, and the steady hum of a hand-held sander could be heard even from this vantage point. Team Restream, Mike Beurlein and Philippe Bettler, would not be racing today. After the last few legs, they noticed a crack in the bottom of their port hull. No worries. They brought a spare boat. All seemed well until, when pulling down the spare, they noticed a crack in it’s hull as well! With the large swell, high winds and the washboard surf still looming over the race course they decided to stay back and do some boat repair. Our fleet of 13 would be just 12 for the leg.
The usual skipper’s meeting had a twist this day because only 4 boats completed the last leg, the remaining 9 were all scored DNF and tied for 5th. As the boats for the start are lined up in the order that they finished, cards had to be drawn to determine places 5-13. Team Rudee’s was up first. They drew 12th position. Cackles from the group abound, and one (jokingly, of course) commented “See what you get for going 1st?” It proved not to matter at all. At the sounding horn, 10 of the 12 boats made it through the extended, Jensen-like surf with relative ease – Rudee’s being one of them, and as I watched Randy Smyth took off like a rocket, was the first to tack north, and rolled the approaching fleet, all still on the tack out to sea. There’s a reason why he is a six-time Worrell champ.
The leg would prove much kinder for the racers, as the winds slowly eased throughout the day, and the swells were lower and less frequent. Although the wind was still coming from the undesirable North, boats started finishing a more civilized 8.5 hours later, with groupings of boats finishing within 10 to 20 minutes of each other. By 20 minutes to 8 p.m., 7 of the 12 had finished, the next 2 coming in at 8:30 and 8:36. That left just 3 boats to go. The Race Committee was starting to realize they wouldn’t be on the beach until midnight. Small joys!
When Team Cat in the Hat, Larry Ferber and Brett White (Zack Panetti retired from the race due to illness and was replaced by Australia Team Manager, Brett White), it became clear why the trackers had shown them lagging the last 30 miles: Their port hull was completely full of water. So much so that water was flowing out from the port hole like a rushing waterfall for several minutes with no indication of slowing down. Another half hour went by.
It was now 10 p.m. and the wind was dying, and it was overcast and very dark. The trackers showed Team Recreational 8 should be at the pier, with Team The Netherlands just a few miles behind. Relying on the trackers, the Race Committee moved closer to the water, flashlights lighting the finish line flags from below. Craig VanEaton and his 14-year-old son Adam appeared just 30 yards from shore, seemingly out of black fog. With a smooth-as-silk glide through the finish line, they had enough velocity to slide almost to the tide line, needing just a short trip to their place in line for the following day.
Adam, gifted with the energy of youth, said he was excited and had a great time after over 12 hours of an entirely upwind leg! His dad echoed the same with maybe just a smidge less exuberance. Gerard Loos and Fred Sarafin would be the last to finish, 33 minutes later at 10:40pm. The Netherlands Team had shown they were consistently behind the pack the entire leg, and Gerard explained that he had chosen to reef the main from the start, and would hoist it the remainder of the way at sea when conditions eased. As fate would have it, the main did not cooperate, and they had to sail the entire leg with the reefed main. Although the team was frustrated with this reality, they were happy to be “home”.
The day however, did not end without some injury to both boat and body: Sam Ingham was tossed over the front beam when Team Fast Forward Composites stuffed a wave, getting his foot caught in the jib sheets, and twisted it badly trying to get back on the boat. X-rays were done, he would be fine, and said he was looking forward to the next leg. Trey Garrison, Team Manager for The Clean Sailors, fell hard on the port rudder of the team’s Cirrus 901 while pushing the team through the surf at the start and received a nasty gash on his chest that needed 12 staples. Team Sonnenklar broke a rudder, The Clean Sailors had to sail the last 40 miles without a jib (Chris Green was launched into at at one point) and Cat in the Hat of course, had a cracked hull. Even with these realities – all accepted the Race Committee’s decision for an earlier start the next morning for the leg to Tybee.
With it being the longest leg of the race (128 miles), they were grateful for at least the smaller possibility of arriving in the dark. Off to food, showers, sleep and contemplation…
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