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29th Annual Key Largo Steeplechase
December 14-15, 2013
The twenty ninth running of the Key Largo Steeplechase was blessed with temperatures in the lower 80s and winds averaging 15 mph and more. One could not ask for any more than that. One could ask for more boats to participate, as this was the lowest turnout since the very first time the event was run.
Back then seven boats did the race from what is now called CABB (Catamaran Association of Biscayne Bay).., just to see if it could be done. There were six Hobie 18s and one Tornado with a spinnaker. And it was howling. Rick White won in 8 hours and 6 minutes with a Hobie 18, beating out the Tornado just before the finish in Blackwater Sound. That record stood for quite a few years, despite the fact that most of the boats after that were spinnaker equipped.
There were no trophies or anything, and no entry fee. While at the first stop on Saturday one of the ground crew ladies wandered into the woods to take care of business. While there found this discarded and dilapidated old lawn chair.
As a joke she presented this to Rick White as a trophy for winning the race. White rejoiced and proclaimed this would be the Perpetual Trophy for the event.., and it stuck. The race is now on its second Olde Lawn Chair Perpetual, and on them is a complete record of the sailors, the boat, and their elapsed time for the 110-mile trek around the Key Largo area.
It was a hot reaching start and the Supercat 22 showed it was the fastest
boat as it stretched out a lead across Barnes Sound on the way to the
first underpass – the Card Sound Bridge. After that the fleet has
another few miles before heading through a mangrove creek (Angelfish
Creek) that empties out on the Atlantic side of the Keys. Then it is
a drag race down Hawk Channel, which is a deep water area between the
chain of islands to the west and the coral reefs to the east.
The first stop is Anne’s Beach on Lower Metecumbe Key. First in was Eric Roberts and Dave Wier on the Supercat. Eleven minutes behind them Steve Lohmayer and Terry Greene in a Nacra 20 finished.
The rest of the fleet was made up of F18s and the first one in was Dick MacDonald and Mark Herendeen. They hit the beach only 3 minutes behind the N20, which put them in the lead overall on correct time by 3 minutes over Todd Riccardi and Brendon Scanlon.
Fifth into the beach was Karl Langefeld and Jeff Dusek, then Dave Ingram and Laura Muma, then Scott Rathburn and Bill Dolan.
Steve Lohmayer for years has thrown a party at his house about 10 miles north of the first day’s finish area. This year the sailors were treated to Turkey and Lasagna. And it was an early finish this year, so everyone got to relax and enjoy. Some of the races in the past have been light air and it was often hard to get anyone to party late particularly after long hours on the water.
And here is where the Men are separated from the Boys. And why the race is called a Steeplechase. Back in Merry Old England a Steeplechase was a race from a given start to a Church Steeple. Obviously roads and lanes could be used to get there, but the brave at heart and those not afraid of a challenge head straight for the Steeple, jumping fences and creeks.
Well, this Steeplechase is similar. There is the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, with marked channels that you could follow. But, that would be pretty long and slow way to go. The option is pull up the boards and rudders and skim across mud/sand banks, kicking up a muddy rooster tail far behind you, knocking down upcoming mangrove sprouts, thus keeping up high speed and taking a much shorter route.
There are several trick place along the inside part of the Keys and if the wind is just right and the conditions are just so, they can pay big dividends. Two boats found a very narrow mangrove channel that leads from Florida Bay to the last body of water – Blackwater Sound. The channel is called the Bogeys.
Roberts and Wier tried it and it payed off big time, finishing 28 minutes
ahead of the next boat. By the way, Lohmayer/Greene also took that shortcut
and were second across the line.
They won the Olde Lawn Chair for fastest time and the Rick White Perpetual for the first place on corrected time. They had a load full of trophies to take home.
Meanwhile, Karl Langefeld and Jeff Dusek were the first F18, finishing substantially ahead of the next boat, Ingram/Muma. In doing so, they took second place overall on corrected and again won the trophy for the fastest F18.
At the awards every finisher is awarded a bottle of champagne.., everyone wins. Here are the results:
2013 Key Largo Steeplechase
Great Distance Race