2015 Key Largo Steeplechase Wrap Up
The 31st Key Largo Steeplechase was held December 12-13, this is a 110 mile race around the Northern Florida Keys. Typically this race brings ideal sailing conditions of 15-20 knots through spectacular blue water of the Florida Keys. However, it’s no cakewalk, to complete this course competitors must navigate around shoals, sandbars, mangrove channels and anything else that is thrown at them.
Teams began arriving Friday at Guy Harvey’s Islander Resort in Islamorada Florida, this is the resort’s second year acting as the race start thanks to Dennis Green of Islamorada Watersports. 6 F18s registered to race against other catamarans from 18-22’. On Friday evening it is tradition for race veterans to pass down their knowledge of the course, gps coordinates, and review charts for race new comers.
Saturday morning brought a perfect 15-18 knots for the 9AM Lemans style start. The fleet blasted off the beach on a close reach to get into deep water before sending it upwind for a very long 40 mile upwind beat to Angelfish Creek. Early on, Todd Riccardi and Tripp Burd on Team Fly Tradewind took a short tack into shore and upon coming back out crossed in the lead. Charles Tomeo and Dalton Tebo on Team Cattie were close on their heels followed by Laura Muma and Dave Ingram on Team Tiki Friday. Team Turtle Mojo, Team Enterprise, and Team Wildcat were also battling it out, distances opened and closed depending on who was the least distracted by the seemingly never ending upwind beat.
Cattie and Tradewind were in fierce 30 mile covering match until Cattie had health issues forcing them to turn back to the Islander. Thinking they could relax, Tradewind was soon surprised by Team Tiki Friday who caught up and nearly caught the leaders. The gap between the two would waver all the way until the very last push to be the first to make the turn into Anglefish Creek. Tradewind entered the creek first and didn’t look back. The last 20 miles of downwind was a nice change after 4 hours on the wire, but the upwind had left the fleet a bit weary. Several of the boats capsized leaving a nice cushion for Fly Tradewind to finish with a good lead on the fleet.
After racing Steve Lohmayer hosted his traditional and legendary dinner where sailors rejoiced over the trials and tribulations of the day.
Sunday morning’s 9AM start brought similar 15-18 knot conditions. Day two is really exciting as there are many options to navigate through the shallow backside of the keys. The race can be won or lost in one wrong navigational mistake.
An exciting downwind water start right off the dock at the Upper Keys Sailing Club saw the ARC 22 and Tradewind get an early jump. While the ARC 22 rocketed away from the smaller F18s, Turtle Mojo put the pedal down and caught Tradewind at the first mangrove cut and didn’t let off. The two F18s extended early from the rest of the fleet, the Kattack tracking is the only way to explain how tight the battle was between these two in a side by side battle that would last for miles. Turtle Mojo had superior speed and Tradewind was struggling to hold on. The two boats swapped for the lead for miles until an abrupt end when Fly Tradewind ran aground and capsized on a mudflat. Righting an F18 in shallow water and trying to walk in several feet of is much harder than it sounds, it took about 10 minutes to get going again. Turtle Mojo now had a nice lead but lost while navigating out of the shallows close to shore allowing Tiki Friday and the rest of the fleet to close in.
Approaching the Channel 5 bridge the current created some steep chop making for a wild ride, but that was just a preview. Once through the bridge and a quick reach to clear the shallows off of Anne’s Beach, the wind picked up to 20 knots with steep 3-4’ waves making for a really exciting last 10 miles of upwind. Dave Ingram sailing on Tiki Friday had a gear malfunction that sent him for a swim when his hook broke off his trapeze harness. Continuing on for the last 9 miles with only the skipper on the wire and despite the disadvantage, they finished only 3 minutes behind Turtle Mojo who had a great upwind beat to take F18 line honors for the day.
Tradewind finished 7 minutes from the lead boat but the cushion from the day before gave them the regatta win for the F18 class and Overall.
Taking 1st, 3rd, and 4th, all the F18s did well in the overall standings. The long upwind sailing in good breeze allowed the smaller boats to hang with the bigger boats and live up to the handicap rating.
Rick White presented the awards which made by Mary Wells were custom labeled with a photo of the old Jewfish Creek Bridge from several Steeplechases ago. As tradition dictates, all competitors that had endured and completed the race were awarded a well deserved bottle of champagne. Afterwards, many sailors stayed to relax with a drink and lunch at the Islander Resort bar, yet another perk of this venue!
- Team Fly Tradewind -Todd Riccardi / Tripp Burd 9:11:30
- Team Tiki Friday – Laura Muma / Dave Ingram 9:29:39
- Team Turtle Mojo – Dick Macdonald / Karl Langfeld 9:30:24
- Team Enterprise – Jacob Keilman / Grace Chen 12:06:10
- Team Wildcat – Weston / Mark Herendeen 12:44:34
- Team Cattier – Charles Tomeo / Dalton Tebo – DNF