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From Saturday, December 10, 2011
To Sunday, December 11, 2011
Catamaran Sailor Magazine
2011 27th Annual Key Largo Steeplechase

Moss and JC do a RePeat of the 27th Annual Key Largo Steeplechase
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Brett Moss and John Casey once again teamed up on a Marstrom 20 to win all the honors, both line honors and handicap, of the 2011 and 27th Annual Key Largo Steeplechase Race for the second year in a row. They won the Olde Lawn Chair for first to finish, and the Rick White Perpetual Trophy for first on corrected time. The team was first to finish on both days, but were closely shadowed by Mike Krantz and Dave Lennard on a Nacra Carbon 20, as well as Mike Phillips and Kenny Pierce on another Marstrom 20.

The overall winners were Moss and Casey, with Phillip and Pierce taking second place on handicap, and Krantz/Lennard finishing in third.Just out of the podium was Dave and Bob Ingram, brothers who got back together after years of not sailing with each other. They took the fourth place spot, finishing just two minutes ahead of Jake Kohl and Frank Moore.

On Friday evening registration was held at the home of Rick White and Mary Wells, founders and organizers of this great event, with Frank Moore and his attorney firm throwing a Rum Party for the competitors. During the party White warned everyone the race would start right on time.

In the last 24 years there had never been a postponement. And that was when the boats had to wait for a bascule bridge to open at 8:30 AM, to get to the starting line a mile away through Jewfish Creek and into Barnes Sound. Two years ago a 65-foot span was built and the bascule was removed. For the last two years, only half the fleet showed up on time. White threatened everyone that if they were late, that was too bad – no pity on procrastinators. And they were all there on time.

The First Day of the Race
The start became a real thriller. Todd Riccardi and Brendon Scanlon had a problem. The container with their boat did not arrive on time, nor did any of their gear. So, the borrowed a N20 from Jay Sonnenklar, and borrowed the gear to race.

In winds of 12-15 mph and flat seas on the Bay Side of the Islands, Riccardi/Scanlon were right on the starboard mark, when Skip Kaub and Ian Lindahl tried to squeeze in. Riccardi assured them they should not quite loudly. Kaub then attempted to duck the stern of Riccardi, but the ARC22 has a lot of mainsheet purchase and the line doesn’t run out that freely. Consequently, the main was still trying to weathervane the big cat, while the rudders were trying to turn it down. What happened was the bows of the ARC22 dove deep, rudders coming up and out of the water and the bow sprit of the big boat lowered to about a foot off the water and then speared Riccardi’s starboard hull just behind the rear beam.

It appeared to penetrate about four feet. After the collision, it spun Riccardi’s boat around so both boats were heading right at the starting boat at a pretty good clip, since they were now reaching. White managed to back down the Hobie Skiff to narrowly miss being run over.

As if that was not enough excitement for the day, Eric Roberts and Dave Weir on the other ARC22 decided to go through Card Sound Bridge a few rungs close to shore than the 65-foot part of it, with their new carbon mast. Bang! They hit! And the mast came tumbling down. Eric is the son of the famous Bill Roberts who was shockingly watching from the bridge. The Roberts have been sailing this race and the Miami-Key Largo Race for well over 20 years – both events require going under this bridge. However, in this case, experience did not pay off.

There were other problems as the fleet headed down Hawk Channel on the ocean side toward the first day’s stop at Anne’s Beach on Lower Matecumbe Key, a total distance of 70 miles for the day.

Several of the boats broke spinnaker poles and others managed to do a couple of pitchpoles. One of the worst situations was when Peter Cullum and Daryl Moss pitchpole their Narca20 and Cullum got separated from the boat. Moss could not get back to pick the skipper up. The Coast Guard had to come to the rescue in this case. They managed to get together and get to the finish line.

One of the funniest of the goofs, was Mauricio Mendez and Keith Gebler on a Nacra 5.8 missed Angelfish Creek (the way you cross over the ocean side to head south) and kept going north. They knew they must be doing something wrong when the saw Miami (45 miles north of Key Largo). They returned to Gilberts for the weekend.

At the finish line at Anne’s Beach Moss and Casey crossed the line a mere One minute and thirteen seconds ahead of Krantz/Lennard, who in turn were only two seconds ahead of Phillips/Pierce. All three boats had held the lead at one time on the first day.

The Second Day of the Race
It was clean start off Anne’s Beach.., no collisions, capsizes, or anything. All the boats got through the Channel Five Bridge and were heading up the backside of the Keys with no mishaps and all pretty close together.

Winds were around 15 + mph out of the NE. Forecasts were for the wind to be easterly, which would have made a very quick second day. But, they stayed NNE and it was 35 mile upwind beat.
Again, the first across the line was Moss/Casey in just under four hours. Krantz/Lennard were second across the line, followed by Phillip/Lohmayer, Riccardi/Scanlon. Kohl/Moore, Ingrams and Karl Langefeld/Tripp Burd.

2011 Steeplechase “Incidents”
This year’s Key Largo Steeplechase may go down in the annals of Steeplechase history for the most number of “interesting” incidents. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in any of them; but there are lessons to be learned from most of them.

And when you read these, keep in mind that these were very pleasant sailing conditions, warm wind out of the northeast at about 12 knots.

Right at the start on Saturday, there was a collision between two boats. An ARC 22, skippered by Skip Kaub, was coming in from the right and didn’t have room, so he tried to bear off but didn’t quite make it. His bows dove, and his spinnaker pole (like a jousting lance) put a substantial hole in the outside starboard hull of a Nacra 20 (skippered by Todd Riccardi). They were kind of hooked together for several seconds, spinning the Nacra around toward the start boat (Rick and Coby (our dog) on the Hobie Skiff). Fortunately, Rick wasn’t anchored, and he backed off quickly, avoiding a secondary collision.

The Nacra 20 retired and sailed back to Gilbert’s. Riccardi was sailing a borrowed boat, and he ended up driving to Fort Lauderdale to borrow another boat, so he could race the Sunday leg. True dedication. And the ARC 22 continued on. No word yet on whether their spinnaker pole was damaged in the incident.

Eric Roberts on another ARC 22 has been sailing this race for many years with his father Bill Roberts, who designed the boat. Eric used to crew for his dad, but then Bill started crewing for Eric. And the last couple of years Bill has been ground crew for Eric. This year Bill was up on the top of the Card Sound Bridge watching the boats approach and go under the bridge on their way north to Angelfish Creek.

For some reason Eric decided to pass through the bridge under a lower part instead of at the center. His mast hit the bridge, and his boat was dismasted. Another bridge bystander said Bill’s chin just dropped to his chest. The boat was towed back to Gilbert’s (I don’t know by whom, but this was a busy day for the Sea Tow type people).

Scott Rathburn’s F-18. Soon after Scott had gone through Angelfish Creek to the ocean side to head south in Hawk Channel, his spinnaker split in half. Since it was a spinnaker run from there to Anne’s Beach, he ended up getting in almost at dark.

Peter Cullum and Daryl Moss were on a Nacra 20, going down the ocean side of Key Largo with spinnaker up, when they capsized. They righted the boat and Daryl got back on, but the boat started sailing pretty fast again when it righted, and Peter couldn’t get on, so he let himself go to the back of the boat so he could grab the rudder and turn the boat into the wind and stop it. But the rudder slipped out of his hands, so he grabbed the tiller extension that was dragging in the water behind the boat. Well, the extension broke off from the tiller cross bar. He was now separated from the boat, about 2 miles offshore.

So then the boat capsized again with Daryl on it, and it was drifting away from Peter. According to Daryl’s GPS, the boat was drifting at 1.8 knots and Peter was swimming at 1 knot. So Daryl called the Coast Guard, and meanwhile Peter was swimming to shore. He swam for an hour and a half and says he was within maybe 15 minutes of shore when a Sea Tow boat plucked him from the water and put him back on his boat. He and Daryl righted the boat and continued on to Anne’s Beach. No problem!

Interesting detail is that Peter was swimming to shore all that time still holding his tiller extension.

Mauricio Mendez on a Nacra 5.8 did not have a GPS, and apparently their charts got lost overboard. Their plan was to follow the boats ahead of them. Well, after they went under Card Sound Bridge, they didn’t see any boats ahead of them – only behind them. So they kept sailing north, looking for Angelfish Creek. They didn’t see it. And when they looked back, they didn’t see any boats behind them. So they kept sailing north.

Finally they got to Elliott Key, and they crossed over to the ocean side on the north side of the key and headed south. They hit their daggerboard on a reef or something and were taking on water. They ended up being towed back to the inside and back to Gilbert’s by a Sea Tow.

Interestingly, the crew said later that he thought they were sailing south all that time and then he checked with the sun and realized they were sailing north.

Race Results >>>