It all comes down to Daytona Beach
This week at the Florida 300 has seen it all, beautiful beaches, great weather, storms, capsizes, teams helping teams, and tight competition over all conditions.
The race is a true test of sailing skill and endurance, and not just the endurance of the team members sailing the boats but for the ground crew as well. Waking up at a new beach, getting the boat ready and underway each day for the 10:00am start, then getting themselves, trailers, and equipment up the coast to the next beach, putting the boat (and crew) to bed and doing it all again the next day.
The arrangement of the race stops along the coast in some very busy areas means that depending on wind conditions and traffic congestion it can be difficult for ground crew, after seeing their boat through the surf at the start, to finish packing, check out of their hotel, and drive a sometimes circuitous route to the next finish line before their boat arrives. No time to spare for eating or sight-seeing, it's all about the racing.
Ideally, in a team with a strong ground crew, the skipper and crew can focus during the week on just one thing, sailing the boat as fast as they are able.
This week also demonstrates that in the Florida 300, in the spirit of the Tybee and the Worrell before, there is a spirit of camaraderie and mutual effort that runs through the event. Everyone understands that no matter how well prepared or supported, no team makes it all the way to the finish without help from their fellow teams. From added muscle to get the boat on beach wheels and off the finish line to lending equipment to replace broken or damaged parts from a shackle or pin all the way to a complete mast.
The weather is always the big wildcard and this week had aces and jokers galore. After the first day from Islamorada to Key Biscayne in fairly perfect conditions the race had three days in a row of heavy afternoon thunderstorms that hammered the fleet. Every time the fastest boats at the front of the pack made it to the beach just before the storms and the middle and back of the fleet got pounded.
Two teams, Tavernier Creek Marina (Nacra 20 Carbon) and Dutch Rockerz (Nacra F18) suffered broken masts. The Dutch Rockerz were able to obtain a backup mast and missed one day of racing while rigging the replacement. Today they were back in the race and having a great time.
Today, like the previous two, after beautiful weather all morning the storm clouds started moving in and just as the lead teams Key Sailing and Buoy 44 approached a really nasty dark cloud appeared from the West moving directly over the finish area. Key Sailing arrived just ahead of the leading edge of the storm in near calm conditions while just a short while later Buoy 44 finished in high winds. Check out the change in conditions in these two videos. Video of Key Sailing Finish and Video of Buoy 44 Finish.
The rest of the fleet was stretched out down the coast but the next three boats were tight together and it was all three "Royal" teams with Yellow, then Orange, then White all finishing close together in the midst of a thunderstorm.
But check this out.