Report by Beverley Simmons: The 7th Leg of the Worrell 1000 2022 started from Folly Beach, a new checkpoint to the event, and although the racers were not pleased to be so close to a pier that was under construction, the Race Committee moved the start Line well South to take it out of play. With the morning, Southerly breeze of about 8 knots, the teams were able to easily navigate through the surf with 2 pushers, and the start went off smoothly, without incident.
Our Facebook Live broadcast this morning was from the air with Pilot (and distance catamaran sailor) Trey Brown at the controls, we were able to skim a mere 500 feet above the sailors, watching them all launch their colorful spinnakers within minutes of the start. We stayed with them until they reached the first obstacle to avoid in this leg: The Charleston Harbor Jetty, a long, obtrusive & stoney finger pointing out to sea, constructed more than a century ago to stabilizing the entrance channel into Charleston Harbor. But today, the steadily building winds would prove to be the bigger concern.
By the time the fleet reached the halfway point of the journey (roughly 40 miles out), the winds had increased to 18 knots. The fleet started to spread out, with Team The Clean Sailors (Chris Green and Mathieu Marfaing) leading the pack. They would remain there and eventually win their 1st leg of this event coming in 16 minutes and 24 seconds ahead of Team Rudee’s, enduring winds at 24 knots with gusts – both teams stating the long spinnaker reach tossed them around with Mathieu, laughing & reporting about a capsize during a Jibe. They could put it behind them now—they won the leg—others were not so jovial.
Each team that finished reported either a flip or a near flip within the last 10 miles of the leg. Nine boats would all finish in the next 2 hours, many within minutes of each other. It appeared as though we would have another great day of all boats making it home in time for a civilized dinner. Then the Race Committee received word the last 2 boats had flipped, and that one of those boats was adrift without it’s sailors. Tense minutes went by until it was confirmed that it was Team The Netherlands. The Race Committee coordinated with the team manager, Scott Hubel (a Worrell Veteran himself) to immediately contact the Coast Guard and local Law Enforcement/Rescue; the search for the sailors was on. Someone shouted “I see a boat!” – It was the German Team, Way of Life (Stefan Rumpf and Andre Hauschke). Boat 11 would make it home – all attention turned to Netherlands.
Coast Guard Wilmington made an area-wide hail to all vessels to keep a sharp eye along the coast. The Race Committee provided the Coast Guard the coordinates of the capsize and tracking info for the drifting boat, which was expected to land along the sandy shore 4 or 5 miles south of the finish. Another reason to be thankful for GPS trackers. The team’s Ground Crew began driving south along the coast road, but it was Fire & Rescue that found the two sailors (Gerard Loos and Fred Serafin) and delivered them to their boat that had indeed, washed ashore just 4 miles from the finish, bringing the tense hour we all awaited word, to a positive close and relief to the fleet & followers of the race.
Gerard, still in a sandy wet suit, strode into the Hotel Bar to the cheers of his fellow competitors and began joyfully telling his tale of “woe”. He said that as they passed the final point along the shoreline, the rudder pintles failed, causing them to flip. When they righted the boat, the position of the rudder prevented them from turning the boat into the wind. Without this control, Gerard and Fred were dragged along beneath the boat for as long as they could hold on. Ultimately, unable to gain control, the sailors released the boat, which again capsized, and drifted towards shore. To him, this all seemed an adventure! He informed the Race Committee that the boat (and his crew) sustained little damage and that they would be on the street line the next day. What a Worrell it has been…
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