2018 Rick White Steeplechase
Big thanks to Warren Green and the Upper Keys Sailing Club for making the 2018 Steeplechase possible. While not an epic year it was some great sailing and new faces joined the ranks. The course was on the bay side both days. First day UKSC NE to Card Sound Bridge and back (30 miles). Wind is ESE at 12 increasing to 18 in Card Sound. Beam reach both ways. Sunny skies, 80 degrees. Second day is UKSC WSW to Marker 91 and back (38) miles. Wind is SSW at 16-18 shifting right and decreasing through the day to 12 WSW.
The big news are the records set by Larry Ferber the skipper of “Woman and Children First”. First boat to complete the Steeplechase with a (3) woman crew, (The Harem). First boat to complete the Steeplechase with a 7 year old crew member (Levi). Levi Ferber is probably the youngest crewman to complete the race at only 7 years old. All smiles before and after, and tried real hard to stay awake for the whole thing. *Napping on a Hobie 21 in the keys is very acceptable, I believe.
Before anyone gets excited about safety, in addition to Larry’s wife and son on the boat was mine and Ding’s wives who are both experienced distance cat sailors, great swimmers and wearing appropriate gear. Ding and I also kept them in sight both days ready to give assistance if required. The Tiger team actually had a chase boat along, so help really was close by. According to my wife Linda, Larry deserves the gold medal of parental patience for answering all of Levi’s inquisitive questions about sailing, the universe and many other things, all while navigating and sailing a Hobie 21 on a beam reach.
Just a quick report of each boat.
Please read this with limited seriousness, like you’re in the keys, wearing flip flops and drinking beer, frozen fruity drinks or martinis with Jake.
These guys jumped into this last minute just to get enough boats to start the race. That’s honorable, thanks guys. The boat is not new, it leaks a little bit, and the crew are a little heavy for an H16. So, half way through the first day they turned back and sailed a half sunken boat back into the Club. Being from the Keys they knew their way around and were never far from the beach. (That safety thing). They get the “Duct Tape” award.
With wings of course! These guys are the ones who convinced the H16 guys to enter the race to keep it going. Nice work boys, we’re going to need your recruiting skills and efforts next year. Bring ‘em, bring ‘em ALL! They finished the first day but somewhere during the second day they got too close to home. I think the beer in the fridge, the barbecue or the hot shower called them to retire. It was good to have them and hope to see them again next year.
Sooner or later this race will be held with a Wave class. I just have a feeling. Brett… are you listening?
What happens when you put 2 monohull sailors, a guy who builds America’s Cup boats and a 30 something female attorney from NY City on a Hobie Tiger? They’re just friends, so stop. Well they asked lots of questions, watched videos, and looked worried. They did not, fly a hull. They did not, flip the boat. They did not, kill each other. And they did not get lost. But they did sail the boat very well and finished in very respectable time. Remember, they sailed through the creeks, under bridges and over flats. Well done. As for new faces I hope we see them and more like them at future Steeplechase races.
What else can I say? Larry borrowed this boat to race and we all helped get it rigged up and ready. He sailed a course that many recreational sailors would not and he did it with 3 gals and his 7 year old son. He must really like sailing! They all did a great job and made a focal point for the whole race. Larry is a driving force to keep the race going and is a shining example of personal endurance and keeping your cool. My hat is off to the skipper and the entire crew of Women and Children First.
Being the only modern boat in the fleet, and the only team that has sailed this race many times, and the only team that has sailed together many times. We should easily be able to finally get our names on the coveted plaque with all those great sailors. That’s the problem. What if we do something stupid and don’t win? How will we face our peers? We’ll never live it down! Aarrgh… pressure! Such is our dilemma.
We realize and appreciate that the success of the weekend depends on everyone having a good time and going home to tell their friends what a good time they had. So we both helped out where we could with rigging boats and sharing our ideas of sailing the flats and creeks. We sailed fast but stayed in sight of the H21 for safety and kept teasing the Tiger to sheet in. Being an attorney probably means she's smart, smart enough to not listen to us.
Card Sound had good breeze on the beam so we had to go fast across that. Great fun! The dog leg channel before the bridge was a broad reach so it was even faster with lots of spray. We made sure the H21 and Tiger got through ok and then went screaming back toward Gilbert's and all the way to UKSC. Finished first day, didn’t do anything stupid.
Did you ever have a little thing on the boat that you should have fixed but didn’t because there’s a work around that normally works? After helping everyone else get there mains hooked and pushed off the beach, we couldn’t get our main hooked. “I know why, I got this”. By the time we pushed off the beach we were 15 minutes behind the fleet. We knew we could catch everyone but both wondered if that was the “stupid thing”.
Having previously volunteered to lead the way across the flats we caught up and started doing just that. Went really well until we sailed double trapped into knee deep water. Boat stopped, we slid forward to the bows and stood up on the bottom. Ding calmly declared, “there goes our credibility”.
The three boats played follow the leader to Mark 91 and turned to head back. Wind was easing and shifting right, it was all downwind from here. We played high flying spin run and sailed twice the distance the Tiger did by going really deep like a big boat. The 21 also ran deep with sails wing n wing. Not very often you can just run down wind for a couple hours in flat water and only set the hull down to jibe. And, I had the whole place to myself! Miles of open water, blue and flat, sunshine, good breeze, and a sailing club with cold beer at the end. I personally believe that I have my priorities straight.
With only a few miles and one more cut to go, that nagging conversation came up again. “Let’s not do anything stupid”! We did not, do anything stupid, we finished in great form under spinnaker and flying a hull. We, are now part of those elite sailors who have their names proudly displayed on that varnished piece of wood. Of course next year some of those guys will return and put us back in our place.
Awards ceremony was perfect, on the porch with some pizza and cold beer from the bar. All that’s left is to thank everyone for showing up, including Jake and Kenny and Dana who all promised to race next year. Thanks again Joel / UKSC, Warren, Toni, Damen from SSPUSA for posting pics and stories, John for being the chase boat, and anyone else who helped, watched or saw us go by and said “hey that looks cool”!
Thanks for reading and please support your local Steeplechase Sailors.